The Short Films
With Eva Sangiorgi

1 October 2021, 6.30 pm

This is the first screening organized in the framework of the exhibition Songs of Experience, a focus on the work of Friedl Kubelka vom Gröller, where the research of the Austrian photographer and filmmaker is reflected and expanded through juxtaposition with artworks by Sophie Thun, Seiichi Furuya, Talia Chetrit, and Philipp Fleischmann.

Beside Kubelka’s photographic works, which are on display in the space of the POLYPHONY column, the exhibition includes in its programme two evenings of projections with a selection of short films the artist made under her filmmaker pseudonym, vom Gröller, from the end of the 1960s to the 2000s. The artist’s filmography unfolds over a fragmented time span, from the first shorts of 1968 to the meeting with her first husband, Peter Kubelka, and other avant-garde filmmakers, including Jonas Mekas; from the new films of the 1980s and 90s, to the founding of the School for Independent Cinema in Vienna in 2006, up to her most recent works. Made strictly on film, mostly in black and white, without sound and lasting a single 16mm reel, vom Gröller’s shorts films are almost an extension of her life and of her encounters. “When filming”, the artist confesses, “I am precisely at the point where I am afraid that my consciousness will slip in all the time”.  


The screening will be introduced by Eva Sangiorgi, artistic director of VIENNALE, the Vienna International Film Festival, member of international film juries, and coordinator of the Film Curating Studies Department at Elías Querejeta Zine Eskola (EQZE), San Sebastián, Spain.


The second screening is scheduled on 8 October 2021, and will be introduced by the artist herself, Friedl Kubelka vom Gröller.


The screenings will take place in the Auditorium.
Free entrance until capacity is reached.





6.30 pm:

Introduction by Eva Sangiorgi

To follow, a selection of short films by Friedl Kubelka vom Gröller:



Erwin, Toni, Ilse, 1969
16mm film, 9′


Erwin, Toni, Ilse was filmed by Friedl Kubelka vom Gröller at the end of her studies at the School of Graphic Arts in Vienna, at a time when she was deeply influenced by the Nouvelle vague. Although Kubelka had previously taken portraits of her friend Erwin and of her brother Toni, it was while taking Ilse’s portrait—a friend who had recently tried to commit suicide—that the artist discovered a different kind of emotion possible in film. In a similar manner to her photographic approach, she begins to shoot from a distance and gets increasingly closer to the subjects. The setting for the three portraits is the Danube Canal and River, in which the nature and actions in a shop or on the bank of the river become somewhat of a subplot. There is no audio and the editing can be seen as happening with the camera itself, where the rough and rocky elements are part of the film’s overall quality.



Graf Zokan (Franz West), 1969
16mm film, 3′


The film shifts between short cuts capturing the place where the footage was shot and the portrait’s subject, Austrian artist Franz West (1947–2012), also a close friend to Kubelka. West sits at a table. As he plays with the camera, aware of being observed, the film brings forward what normally is not visible—an uncertainty when being filmed.



Peter Kubelka and Jonas Mekas, 1994
16mm film, 2’30”


Peter Kubelka and Jonas Mekas exemplifies how Friedl Kubelka interacted directly with the subject in her movies of the 1990s. The artist found ways to surprise or playfully attack her subjects in order to explore people and their psyches. The result is a documentation of the spontaneous, unexpected reactions of the subjects, and simultaneously the artist’s relationship with them. In this film we see her kiss her then-husband, after an unseen fight preceding the film, whom she had not spoken to for the past three days. Kubelka describes the moment this way: “That was actually quite cold-blooded because Peter always felt that he had to induce the reconcilement and that I never did—what he was quite right about that. So I thought let’s do a reconcilement in front of the camera. One can see how he straightens up and becomes quite pleased during the film”.



Untitled, 1981–2000
16mm film, 5′


This film was shot in 1981 but first edited (assisted by Henny Fischer) in 2000, and brings together two different settings in documentary style: 186 portraits of men taken by the artist whilst standing in front of an escalator at the Frankfurt train station, followed by a sex scene between a man and a masked woman in the Hotel Orient, a notorious hot-sheet hotel.



Vue Tactile-Louvre, 2001
16mm film, 3′


The film follows the blind photographer Evgen Bavčar walking through the Louvre on an afternoon. More specifically, in a sculpture park which hosts duplicates of artworks to be experienced haptically.



Psychoanalyses without Ethics, 2005
16mm film, 3′


In 1997, Friedl Kubelka completed a degree in psychoanalysis, an area of work which she explores in films (which she prefers to not show in Austria) such as Secret Identities of a Psychanalyst (1995–2005), My Psychoanalytic Notes (2012), and Psychoanalyses without Ethics (2005), presented today. Set in the studio the artist used for the School of Independent Film, remodelled for practicing psychoanalysis, this movie presents the relationship between psychoanalyst and client, where the filmmaker takes on the role of the analyst.



Vue Tactile (Four Women), 2006
16mm film, 3′


The film shows the blind photographer Evgen Bavčar as he examines the bodies of four women: what is significant are the expressions, and gestures, of the women has he does so.



Photo session, 2010
16mm film, 3′


Photo session shows a trademark of Kubelka’s work: intimacy, spontaneity, and personability. A man and a woman, Friedl Kubelka, are in an indoor setting. A third figure appears in the background photographing the pair while the 16mm camera records them. The film shows from the photographer’s perspective the pair, following them as they move from the couch to an old Viennese balcony, and inside a room. In the first scene, the woman surprises the man with a kiss, eliciting a roguish smile from him. She catches him off-guard once again in the second scene. In the third scene a man sits in a room, the camera filming from behind his head.



La Cigarette, 2011
16mm film, 3′


Four people sit around a white table with a young woman on it. A hand reaches out from behind the camera to light up a cigarette for the girl, which she briefly examines, smokes, and passes to the people sitting around her. They take turns in smelling and examining it. The girl lies down on the table with her eyes closed—the four people around the table look at her and speak amongst themselves. The girl is the medium for the viewer’s projections of the stories and biographies that are imagined about her, setting off a narrative around the film where ideas and associations are mirrored in the gazes of the group.



16mm film, 3′


NEC SPE, NEC METU is the third movie, after Gutes Ende (Bliss), 2011, and Ich auch, auch, ich auch (Me too, too, me too), 2012, which documents Kubelka’s visits to a nursing home to see her mother. Each movie was released within one year’s time—mapping the mother’s declining health condition. The film exemplifies the artist’s view of the cinematic experience as an expansion of life itself, a rejection of identification as a filmmaker in which she presented more personal events or attitudes, in this case the imminent death of her mother.



May 2012, 2014
16mm film, 3′


May 2012 is a brief and powerful film composed of three visual elements. In the momentary opening shot the camera spies on riverside joggers from the Donaumarina U-Bahn station, cutting to a scene inside a care home where two elderly women are eating. One of these women is the artist’s mother, staring into the camera where a loving hand reaches out to caress her face. Finally, we see a Christmas pudding decorated and surrounded by burning candles. The most distinctive aspect of May 2012—besides the act of joining shots from different locations and time periods—is that it has a soundtrack, a rare occurrence for a filmmaker known for her single-event and silent films. A loud warning siren rings throughout, filling the film with a sense of anxiety or dread.



Poetry for Sale, 2013
16mm film, 4′


In various films Friedl Kubelka uses elements from her life to form loose, cinematic plot outlines. In this case, the element is poetry (or rather her passion for poetry)—which she also explores in another film, The Paris Poetry Circle (2013). Shifting from a scene of a poet writing to him trying to sell his texts in the middle of the Paris Métro—and simultaneously shifting from silence to the voice of the poet promoting his poems—the film brings together the intimacy of the act of writing and the publicity and difficulty of material survival for poets. Since selling and filming are forbidden in the subway, a double breaking of the rules on which the film is based exposes both acts as being criminal, reflecting upon the status of poets and filmmakers.



Lisa, 2001
16mm film, 3′


Like Peter Kubelka and Jonas Mekas (1994) and Photo session (2010), the film Lisa becomes a pretext in which to explore, expand upon, and investigate closely relationships and connections. In the film, Friedl Kubelka kisses her friend Lisa—the camera becomes a vehicle to capture the feeling appearing on the subject in the portrait, further emphasising the significance of the “portrait” in Kubelka’s work, whether in films or in photographs.



Silence on the Screen, 2014
16mm film, 1’30”


For one minute and thirty seconds, in this silent film Friedl Kubelka vom Gröller turns our gaze to a painted portrait of a woman hanging on a white wall, confronting us with this work without any surrounding distractions. The camera slightly shakes in front of the painting, a gentle reminder that a third person is placed in between: we move in and out between viewing the artwork through this outsourced camera eye and as the direct beholders of this piece. The film also highlights how artworks seek a certain dialogue: they are approachable and graspable without additional information, surfaces for our own projection.