The Vertical Cinema Odissey


We just reached Rotterdam International Film Festival in order to explore an unique cinematic spectacle : Vertical Cinema – a collection of 10 sensory architectural experiences, screened on a gigantic vertical screen, centered in Arminium, a Dutch ex-church.

Matching and even expanding their catalogue description, the filmic kaleidoscope blends “abstract cinema, structural experiments, found footage remixes, chemical film explorations and live laser action. Their artists offer their view of “vertical axis art” and the results of this challenging commission are fascinating.”


vertical cinema


CHROME | 7′ 40 ” | directed by Esther Urlus 

The curator’s introduction into Chrome is underlining the background of the process: “Chrome is inspired by the autochrome process, a coloring technique for black-and-white photographs invented by the Lumiere brothers in 1903. [...] the images created by this process are “amplified”, as if they are viewed through a microscope: a constantly moving noise of grains that forms shapes and outlines.”

We witness a fluid dispersion of microscopic grains of color. Esthetically-wise, the abstract cinematic experience resembles a digital rain.  The sound is a pulse of organic fragmentization. Oscillating between a genuine genesis and a tender apocalypse, the particles evolve on the screen as if they would design a new, almost tactile language.

# 43 | 10′ 30” | directed by Joost Rekveld 

The descriptive statement of #43 is captivatingly revealing the creation process: “The images in the film #43 are generated by systems in which the pixels are agents that are, in some respects, comparable to organic cells. [...] This film is part of a long-running exploration of algorithms that are based on propagation and local interactions.”

The feeling is one of controlled randomness. The rhythm of the vertical film seems a repetitive, being invaded by an automatic breath, a pulse that evolves into more acid forms of sound. Philosophically-wise, “#43″  seems to explore the immersive connection between wholeness and atoms. The microscopic forms collide, forming frames. Extrapolating the process, it can be perceived as well as an introspective essay about the “frame” that cinema imposes unconsciously when surprising reality. And, taking this frame into a wider dimension, it might be see also as a human perception: the way we frame reality, dreams and other psycho-environments. This mesmerizing set of dynamic frames is melting cybernetics, cinema, biology and graphic art into a highly provocative dimension.

LOUVER | 6′ 00” | Bjorn Kammerer 

Louver seems initially a labyrinthic set of leitmotivic light squares. The squares, resembling micro-screens are moving horizontally, driven by an inner form of logic. They are hypnotic, gradual and electric.  They possess an dichotomic rhythm – a rhythm of movement and a rhythm of color. The whites, alternated with greys and blacks recreate an organic radiography of time, space and spirit. Their tender-brutal movement becomes an interrupted, yet catchy choreography. We witness a digital swing for the odyssey of thoughts, for the questions, for the answers one might have. The sensation is one of continuous dramatic evolution and still, the ending doesn’t reveal a fixed algorithm, but rather an exploration of light and darkness, of rationality and spirituality, of self and non-self.

Mirna Belina underlined very nicely the challenges of Louver: “Connoisseurs of Kammerer’s work are aware that we are possibly witnessing a perceptual illusion caused by the mysterious hypnotic “two-dimensional” movements of a light-object. [...] we might try and seek structure, some mathematical point where the movements are conducted, so they can reveal the meaning of the image. But it soon becomes apparent that the subject is Time itself.”


V | 9’20” | Manuel Knapp 

“V” is an architectural poem, exploring the expansion and extinction of shapes. The film adheres to a rather noir style, by connecting forms with a super-imposed soundtrack. The feeling generated by the constantly moving lines is one of a vibrant earthquake. The shapes are rooted in a centered epicenter, which seems the generative force of the entire abstract construction.

As Marc Ries states: “Our perceptions are challenged by an immense diversity of forms that arise without following the evolutionary logic of a genesis, but continuously recreate themselves in a sublime flow of force through extinction; lines and surfaces appear and expand according to invisible rules, they vibrantly blend into landscapes, disappear and develop new formations.”

BRING ME THE HEAD OF HENRI CHRETIEN | 8’17” | Billy Roisz, Dieter Kovacic

This short sensorial essay “explores the world of cinematic formats based on the genre that experimented with the width of the screen to display spectacular landscapes: Western movies and their wide span of (male) heroism between life and death.”

The premise is a horizontal film still that expands into a vertical cinemascope. The content is rephrased into another shape of abstract morphs, however, without losing its historic tracks. The soundtrack amplifies the attempt. This micro-reconfiguration seems to speak about a morph of perspectives and how.  From a monochromatic set of filmic particles, the films evolves into a vertigo of retro colors that invaded the western films. A powerful resume of the history and future morphs perception into an infinite combination of layers, becoming a touching, personal exploration, and as well an objective statement regarding the way time and evolution preserves substance.

LUNAR STORM | 4’15” | Rosa Menkman (NL)

Lunar storm” is an landscape-portrait of the Moon, exploring its textures’ fragile tenderness as an indisputable genesis. With a sense of isolationism, we transgress dust fountains, craters, grey seas, meteors and glowing particles  -  sensory materials that seem to belong to a surreal reality.  Menkman’s concept has also a very strong phenomenological layer: “At dawn, when the first sunlight is about to illuminate the Moon, the energy inherent to solar ultraviolet and X-Ray radiation bumps electrons out of the unstable lunar dust; the opposite process occurs at dusk (lunar sunset). These electrostatic changes cause lunar storms.”

DEORBIT | 17’30” | Makino Takashi (JP) & Telecosystems (NL)

Having as a conceptual background the myth of Icarus, whose waxed feather wings melted away because he flew too close to the sun, “Deorbit” abstractizes movements, oscillations and choices of cosmic impact. For someone who doesn’t have an inner fetish for avant-garde works, “Deorbit” might overwhelmingly long. However, it’s cosmic believes are electric, profound and insouciant.  The cosmic observation is renewed by the ubicuity of the augmented soundtrack. The shades of Deorbit adhere to an eclectic, highly dynamic rhythm:  centrifugal and centripetal. “Deorbit” is a creative vacuum, where shades and constructs are emphasizing a monochromatic effect of dematerialization.

Its curators emphasize the experiment as “an observation mission with a mind of its own [...] a rebellious entity -with a mission to reconstruct knowledge retrieved from space-objects orbiting planets in faraway systems.

COLTERRAIN | 10’20” – Tina Frank (AT)

Colterrain utterly maps soundscapes: what you see is a continuum and a simultaneous effect of what you hear. A multi-layered cause-effect intensifies your senses. Although it might resemble at the beginning the feeling of a broken television screen, “Colterrain” evolved into complex color gradings, letting its viewers ask themselves what is the generative force : the sound or the image? Technically-wise, “the audio was transmitted through a Synchronator device, that translates audio frequencies into RGB video frequencies. With this method, the image is actually the music turned into colour.”

PYRAMID FLARE | 5’30” | Johann Lurf (AT)

The 5-minute work signed by Lurf leaves behind one of the most memorable traces of the “Vertical Cinema” selection.  Being the only experiment that deals with real footage, “Pyramid flare” recreates authenticity through a game of perspectives.  For the first time, the vertical screen seems to modify in a radical manner the way we comprehend the context: the centered object becomes a protagonist and the story doesn’t move right-left, but up and down, connecting the ephemeral with the infinite. Due to its vertical axis, the pyramid is repositioned both conceptually-wise and esthetically-wise.

“Pyramid Flare” was shot in Prague with a 35 mm camera turned on its side, portraying a building that is now used as a musical theatre. It emphasizes the eschatology of pyramids in modern times, while launching an open invitation toward rethinking the role of ex-architectural fetishes.

The frames follow a chronological order, capturing their “character” in different moments from a 24-hours-continuum. The impact of constantly changing light and time brings an almost seismic change to the static protagonist. “Pyramid Flare” functions as well as a puzzle of perspectives: the points of view seem quintessential aspects of perceiving an object. Although the frames don’t surprise human presence, we can feel it beyond every detail surprised in the frame. Even the  white plane traces that transgress the sky, seem to resemble a warm, familiar, comfortable artistic habitat.

This simple, yet highly well-crafted experiment excites the public into carrying the experiment even further – by framing silhouettes. How would that change our own sensorial perception? How would that transform the philosophy of the ex-horizontal homo valens?

WALZKORPERSPERRE | 11’11”  |  Gert-Jan Prins (NL) & Martijn Van Boven (NL)

The short experiment recreates a wall ossified by asymptomatic lines, light scratches, hysterical spirals.  Trying to portray the wall from the Second World War, the two Dutch artists design an dynamic, insatiable game of resistance. It’s an essay portraying memory as much as it’s an essay portraying present-ness. The inconstant lines resemble a collection of ghosts. It’s an oneiric, but as well a hermetic world. A portal characterized by a labyrinthine audacity.

*You may follow the Vertical Cinema Philosophy  here.



Photo credits: Sascha Osaka | Kontraste 2013 (+ Lightroom manipulation)

Article written by Ioana Mischie | Correspondent Rotterdam International Film Festival