German Film Set Massacre

Although theater artists like Robert Wilson, Christoph Schlingensief and René Pollesch have only recently started using gallery spaces as an extension of their productions and set designs, visual artists like Edward Kienholz, John Bock and Christoph Draeger have been energizing exhibition spaces with their theatrical performances and set designs. It is in this tradition that Alaska-native Reynold Reynolds also works.

Rediscovery of an unfinished German film from the 1930s

The Lost Film Performances is based on recently rediscovered footage of a German film from the early 1930s that was never completed. Although the work is reminiscent of directors like F.W. Murnau and Fritz Lang, the name of the creator of these images remains a mystery. The film’s cinematographer is said to have taken everything – all the 35mm film reels, the screenplay, set photos and props – to Russia in the early 1930s, in hopes of finishing the film at some later point in time. This material, believed lost, was just recently tracked down by a German film historian in Russia. The fragments of footage were digitized and assembled with the help of the script.

Deer antlers and German beer

Reynold Reynolds works with all of these artifacts and adds his own filmed scenes (based on the screenplay) to the found fragments. So-called “Setting Lives” are situated in lavish settings admittedly more reminiscent of the obligatory American cliché of German-ness, with Bavarian beer and bellowing stags, than of German film sets from the early 1930s. In Jägermeister beer bars and other trashy settings covered with countless objects, scenes performed by actors and dancers in front of a live audience are filmed in 16mm stop-motion and later added to the installation in the gallery space. The “plot” of the images is ultimately secondary – rather, the lavish, obsessively detailed sets and props overwhelm every other impression. Even though the artist has made use of the unknown filmmaker’s ample resources, the end result of his meticulous overkill is more of a long, uninspired yawn.

  • Galerie Zink, “Reynold, Reynolds. The Lost Film Performances”, November 26th – January 12th 2012, Tuesday – Saturday 1 – 6pm, next performance: January the 12th (closing)