Electronic Sound in a Shifting Landscape

JULY 18 - SEPTEMBER 13, 2014
5455, avenue De Gaspé

Curated by Steve Bates in association with INDEX and sixpackfilm.


Image: Guy L'Heureux. Installation view. Siegfried A. Fruhauf, Mountain Trip

Hans Scheugl, Kurt Kren, Peter Weibel, Leo Schatzl, Elke Groen, Michaela Grill, Lotte Schreiber, Sigfried A. Fruhauf, Dietmar Offenhuber, Annja Krautgasser, Johann Lurf, Billy Roisz, Michaela Schwentner, and Dariusz Kowalski.

Le Révélateur (July 18) and Total Life with Karl Lemieux (September 13).

Michaela Grill accompanied by Steve Bates: on September 4 at 7 p.m.



Image: Guy L'Heureux. Installation view. Peter Weibel "Intervale". Michaela Grill "Hello Again"

Text: Steve Bates (français)


Austriaʼs take on experimental film and video is unique in many regards; from the structuralist and full bodied approaches of the early days to bit crunching contemporary artists blending sound, video and performance. Electronic Sound in a Shifting Landscape attempts to connect some of the migrations between these two historical moments.

In all of these films, landscape and sound play critical roles and it this arc that this program traverses. This landscape is broad in consideration; from the systematized nature scenes of Kurt Krenʼs early films to the formal film study of the city in Han Scheuglʼs Wien 17, Schumanngasse to the urban grid in later pixelated landscapes of the younger generations represented here.

Image: Guy L'Heureux. Installation view. Michaela Schwentner "JET"

This film and video program is book-ended by performances by, Le Révélateur (Roger Tellier-Craig and Sabrina Ratté) and Total Life (Kevin Doria) with Karl Lemieux. Both of these groups work visuals and music into a wide, organic experience that possess links to Austriaʼs work ethic in its approach to a whole-bodied experience.

Image: Guy L'Heureux. Installation view. Dariusz Kowalski "Luukkaankangas - updated, revisited"

Beginning with Hans Scheugl’s, Wien 17, Schumanngasse, we see an early structuralist work where the filmmaker drives a car the length of Schumann Street taking the same time to expose a single roll of 16 mm film stock. The 30 meter length of the film stock taking 2 and a quarter minutes at 24 frames per second. Here the speed of the camera determines the velocity of the car through the city.

Wien 17, Schumanngasse is one of two films in this exhibition which do not have sound. But does this mean there is no soundtrack? In Wien 17, Schumanngasse we can almost hear the bouncing of the car through Vienna’s rough street. The car’s engine accelerating and decelerating as Scheugl carefully administers speed to reach his destination on time. Upon knowing the method of this film, it is as if we can hear a stop-watch counting down, or the camera teeth chewing through the film sprockets, adding an otherwise unknown tension to an otherwise innocuous film.

Photo: Sara A. Tremblay

In Kurt Kren’s time-lapse study, (37/78) Tree Again (1978) there is also no sound. But there is a musicality in the movement of images captured across a summer on special, infra-red film creating a pastoralism not often associated with the artist’s work. Not only are there the implied sounds of the passing season but flashes of events pass through the image; condensation trails from a passing airplane, gusts of wind across tree branches and leaves, and grazing animals. All of these sonic elements considered by the viewer.

If we consider the collected soundtracks of all the films playing in the gallery as a whole, a sort of accumulated new sound work, (37/78) Tree Again provides a necessary pause in the composition, an interval, a space in between. In melodic theory, the interval is what allows our brains to determine melody; again demonstrating sound requires the spaces between it’s own noise to be whole.

Image: Guy L'Heureux. Le Révélateur live.

In Kren’s 3/60 Bäume im Herbst (Trees in Autumn) (1960), a structuralist study of flickering tree branches, one may misinterpret the sound as a sort of lo-fi rumble of damaged optical film sound but Kren actually painted the soundtrack onto the filmstrip with India ink. The resulting low-pitched rumble is beautiful in its simplicity and timbre. Here the soundtrack aids our ability to meld the images into a whole, repairing the fast-paced visual ruptures of each frame. The soundtrack’s legato (bound) helping to smooth the film’s staccato (detached).

Peter Weibel’s Abbildung ist ein Verbrechen (Depiction is a Crime) (1970) and Intervalle (1971) are conjoined works that investigate telecommunication’s structural transfer where the sender receives “his message back in reverse form”. Standing in the park grounds of Vienna’s Schönbrunn Castle, former seat of the Austrian emperor, a narrator (Weibel himself) describes the transfer process between mediums while the ambient sound of the park can be heard in the background. The narrator turns a Polaroid camera on the film crew and snaps a photo of them. In Intervalle, this image is broadcast on a television installed in the same immaculately detailed formal garden while a sine wave test tone, typically used in television tests and calibrations, fades in volume as the television disappears into the horizontal (hold) perspective line. Interesting here is the overlap of the ‘man-made’ formalism of the garden and the sine wave, a sound which cannot occur in nature. This overlay of image and sound supports another reading on landscape, man’s own image of nature back onto himself in the symmetry of the park design and management and control of the ‘natural’.


A number of works in this collection employ time-lapse to exaggerate the landscape’s spatial relationship to time. The formerly mentioned Kren film, (37/78) Tree Again, and also his 46/90 Falter 2 (1990), originally an advertisement film for the city newspaper, Falter. Like the seemingly endless stream of trains in 46/90 Falter 2, Leo Schatzl’s Tabu Zone #2 (1998) depicts a “taboo zone” cordoned off, fenced in as the seasons endlessly pass over it. Its relentless soundtrack feeling like small grinding motors acting as the mechanics of time itself. The looping, repetitive sounds giving the fenced off landscape a sort of absurdist protective wrapping. But from what? Or who?

Elke Groen’s NightStill (2008) contrasts the apparent stationary element of the Austrian Alps with time-lapse footage revealing endless movement in everything. The electronic soundtrack changes rapidly to highlight these dramatic elements of a nature ‘sped up’. The occasional human figure in the landscape remains relatively motionless while the universe spins smoothly around them.

Photo: Sara A. Tremblay

Dariusz Kowalski’s Luukkaankangas – updated, revisited (2005), utilizes webcam footage of the Finnish Road Administration of roadways throughout the countryside. With a soundtrack by Radian’s Stefan Németh, the lo-fi footage of snowy country highways takes on a melancholic tone while a winter passes. Snow and shadow obscuring the unnatural road lines to an almost romantic soundtrack.

Lotte Schreiber’s Borgate (2008), studies the urban landscape of the modernist Don Bosco housing project in Rome with dramatic symphonic soundtrack by Bernhard Lang. Borgate uses slow panning shots and quotes by Pasolini, Fellini, and Antonioni to investigate architecturally and acoustically this failed utopia.

Film: Karl Lemieux Image: Sara A Tremblay

Film: Karl Lemieux Image: Sara A Tremblay

In Siegfried A. Fruhauf’s Höhenrausch (Mountain Trip) (1999) scrolling images of postcards of the iconic Austrian Alps flow by. Their undulating, inverted mountain tops taking on a surreal, warped graphic representation of a sine wave here playing off the distorted out-of-tune Alpine folk music. With Höhenrausch, sound and image invite us to question nationalist stereotypes of landscapes and culture and their often awkward and embarrassing representations.

Dietmar Offenhuber’s paths of g (2006) is another surreal representation of landscape. Here Offenhuber retains the original soundtrack from Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory, but processes the image digitally into a fragmented, pixelated landscape perhaps best representing the surreal landscape of World War I trench warfare. With most of the original image removed, replaced only by coloured blocks minimally indicating the trench contours, the soundtrack reveals the absurdity of the situation the troops find themselves in. A once coherent, whole landscape now shattered beyond recognition.

Photo: Sara A. Tremblay

This identification of the pixel brings us to a body of work developed over the 1990’s and into the 2000’s by Austria’s younger generation of video makers employing computers and electronic music traditions in their digital investigations of sound and landscape. Often the work of this generation crosses between cinema, nightclub and concert settings not particularly showing allegiance to any one venue. This has also infused the work with a questioning of the boundaries between art and music video. These boundaries are stretched and rendered unclear. There is an anti-art approach to much of this work that questions the relationship between high/bourgeois art and everyday experience in the street and in clubs. Many from this younger generation grew up through the politics of punk and the DIY organization of early techno and it’s political ramifications. This questioning also relates to similar challenges put forward by Vienna’s Aktionist movement and the films that emerged from that group.

Annja Krautgasser, Billy Roisz, and Michaela Grill come from this younger generation and their work, while very different from each other, share some of the same approaches. One such approach is the idea that image and sound share the same weight in their work. The sound does not serve the image but meets it on equal footing. Some of these works credit the musicians equally to the video-maker.


This makes sense also when one considers that Grill and Roisz also perform live alongside musicians and employ software that allows for a total interpenetration of sound and image where visual elements provide control data for sonic parameters and vice versa lending an organic relationship between sound and image to much of this work.

The works frame (2002, Annja Krautgasser), NOT STILL (2008, Billy Roisz), cityscapes (2007) and Hello Again (2006) (Michaela Grill), all have a resolute literalness to them while appearing often wholly abstract. Krautgasser and Grill’s processed city images and Roisz’s extreme close-up of the landscape of a vinyl record all grounded in a literal vision abstracted through scale, overlay, colour saturation, and grain along with a highly composed soundtrack of electronic music.

This film and video program is book-ended by performances by two groups, Le Révélateur (Roger Tellier-Craig and Sabrina Ratté) and Total Life (Kevin Doria) with Karl Lemieux. Both of these groups work visuals and music into a wide, organic experience that possess links to Austria’s work ethic in its approach to a whole-bodied, audio-visual experience.

Vienna’s sixpackfilm is a respected distributor of Austrian experimental film and video. Index DVD is sixpackfilm’s publishing house consisting of video and film collections and artist’s works. Index has kindly agreed to make available their catalogue to Dazibao for this exhibition.

Poster design and printing by Jason Cantoro

+ + + + + + + + + +

Le Révélateur started in 2008 as a solo venture for Montreal-based electronic musician Roger Tellier-Craig. It has since then expanded into an audio-visual duo with the inclusion of video artist Sabrina Ratté in 2010. Together they explore a common fascination for the combination of electronic image and sound, using a varying array of digital and analogue technologies.

Total Life is the solo project of Kevin Doria, founding member of the band Growing. Doria has participated in a number of collaborations with David Bryant (GY!BE), Jonathan Parant (Fly Pan Am), as well as filmmaker, Karl Lemieux. As Total Life, Doria has released several records with Animal Disguise Records, Brownsounds, Debacle Records, and, most recently, Important Records. He has also performed all over North America and Europe.

Photo: Sara A. Tremblay

In his performances, Karl Lemieux uses up to eight 16mm projectors to transform looped film while it is being projected. He creates successive superimpositions of images that he paints, bleaches, scratches, burns and slices with a razor blade. In his hands, celluloid is literally destroyed before the viewer’s eyes, releasing incandescent images. While Lemieux’s work may be inspired by the dialogue that occurs between film and sound art, it focuses on a process that involves inner sensations.

Dazibao thanks Steve Bates, the artists, sixpackfilm and Index DVD for their generous collaboration as well as its members for their support. Dazibao receives financial support from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Conseil des arts de Montréal and the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications.