With special thanks to the Austrian Cultural Forum
This exhibition originated in the archives of Berlin’s Deutsche Kinemathek, an institution which, like TIFF, holds and preserves tens of thousands of film reels. The “unseen” here refers to the physical medium of film, the 3.5cm strips of celluloid that served as the physical substrate of cinematic images for over a hundred years, and which are becoming increasingly rarified artifacts. Unlike other forms of visual art, in which the physical support is of prime importance, film remains materially invisible, a medium to project through, and its photographic rendering is both uncommon and uncanny.
Riedler photographed films from the archive—from von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel (1930) to Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) to Kieślowski’s Blue (1993)—passing light through them in an unconventional way, through the edges of negatives and positive prints coiled around the cores and reels that are used to store them. The photographs are titled after the films they represent, condensing each cinematic work into a single, unfamiliar image and eliciting new, unexpected comparisons: the backlit reel of Kieślowski’s Blue, for example, resembles a staring eye, while others resemble vinyl LPs or op-art abstractions. These enigmatic “portraits” of a dying medium emphasize the materiality and transience of analog film, serving both as historical documentation and evocations of the immaterial.
Presented as part of the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival.
Photography by Tom Arban