Kurt Ralske: Deconstructing Visual Reality

Moving on from his music making days fronting indie new wave band Ultra Vivid Scene, Kurt Ralske has evolved into a visual artist, using computer software that he wrote himself, he’s been able to capture multiple exposures, merging various images together, producing new forms and introducing motion and time for otherwise traditional ‘cultural artifacts’, (films, photos, books) creating a new, hi-tech cubist expression.

His artistry, is in being able to modify the software to do different things to an existing film or image for a different effect. In Motion Extractions (2007-2009) he sorts each frame of an old film, a cinematic relic, into different categories, in the case of the 1968 Stanley Kubrick’s 2001:A Space Odyssey, the ones with motion, and merges them together to create a single photographic print.

2001 A Space Odyssey2-1968
2001 A Space Odyssey (1968)
2001 A Space Odyssey1-1968
2001 A Space Odyssey (1968)
2001 A Space Odyssey-Motion Extracted (2009) Kurt Ralske
2001 A Space Odyssey-Motion Extracted (2009) Kurt Ralske

In the black and white Japanese movie Tokyo Story (1953), Kurt Ralske chose the 33 brightess scenes and merged them together to create a 4 minute video called 33 Brightess Tokyo Story. In it, the original scenes from the film are ‘degaussed’; images are flattened, objects are merged, stretched and blurred into horizontal streaks of white and greys, all previous signification and narrative are removed. What’s left is a new expression of a series of abstract geometrically rectangular images arranged in ‘screens’ that change in brightness and have light or dark streaks move across each screen, the timing of which is now programmed according to the software program, producing a feeling similar to the experience of Nathan’s computer controlled house in the movie Ex Machina (2015).

Tokyo Story1953
Tokyo Story (1953)
Tokyo Story2-1953
Tokyo Story (1953)
Still From 33 Brightest Tokyo Story Kurt Ralske
Still From 33 Brightest Tokyo Story Kurt Ralske
Tokyo Story1953Motion Extracted
Tokyo Story (1953) Motion Extracted

In  2009, Ralske discovered in a German archive, an unlabelled film reel of Eugen Schüfftan, who was special effects creator for director Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927). Schufftan had invented a process using mirrors to project footage of large sets onto footage of actors, merging the 2 together to create the illusion of scenes with huge buildings as backdrops without actually building full-size back drops. With this mirror technology, he created filmatic abstractions in his spare-time, taking scenes from metropolis and merging them together, creating studies in motion and form, reminicient of Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending A Staircase (1912) and other futurist paintings of the era.

Metropolis1927 Original Film Still
Metropolis (1927) Original Film Still
Eugen Schüfftan-s Metropolis Experimental Film
Eugen Schüfftan’s Metropolis Experimental Film
States Of Mind III-1911-Umberto Boccioni
States Of Mind III (1911) Umberto Boccioni
Metropolis - Motion Extracted
Metropolis – Motion Extracted

In Rediscovering German Futurism (2009) Ralske uses scenes from classic, modernist films, relics such as Metropolis (1927) and Pabst’s Pandoras Box (1929), with different scenes merged together; the motion of the subjects are captured and repeated, while the subjects themselves are blurred somewhat, producing a new video expression that pays homage to the futurist paintings and film of the early modern era, a kind of deconstruction of futurism.

Metropolis-Motion Extracted
Metropolis-Motion Extracted
Pandora's Box-Motion Extracted
Pandora’s Box-Motion Extracted

In Times Square Time Share (2006) the notions of stasis and motion are subverted; a 2-minute video shot at the corner of 42nd and broadway is processed; space is flattened and everything that was originally in motion appears stationary, and everything stationary appears in motion. Thus as time and space are inverted they have been deconstructed, using a most postmodern method, an algorithm, in creating a new type of space.

Times Square Timeshare2006
Times Square Timeshare (2006)
Times Square Timeshare2-2006
Times Square Timeshare (2006)
Times Square Timeshare-Source Photo
Times Square Timeshare-Source Photo