23 september, E*Cinema: The Hitchcock Tapes

On Tuesday the 23rd of September at h 19.15, within the frame of the E*cinema academy, EYE film programmer Leo Hee will explain the visual dialog of the found-footage films by Nicolas Provost, Johan Grimonprez and the duo Matthias Muller & Christoph Girardet, which all were inspired by Hitchcock’s oeuvre. The three films compiled in the program exemplify a productive dialogue between experimental found-footage films and the narrative cinema, where the two genres are not in opposition but constitute a reciprocal source of inspiration.

Sans Soleil is a 1983 film directed by Chris Marker. The title is from the song cycle Sunless by Modest Mussorgsky. Sans Soleil is a meditation on the nature of human memory, showing the inability to recall the context and nuances of memory and how, as a result, the perception of personal and global histories is affected.
The sequence in San Francisco references Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo and Marker’s own earlier film La Jetée.


Many artistic practices have been engaged since the 1960s with the legacy of Hitchcock’s films. They critically reflect and unmask Hitchcock’s obsessions and cinematic strategies of building narratives through specific employments of actors, viewpoints, spaces, times and formal film elements such as sound. They reveal the relationships between fact and fiction and they reflect upon the different audiovisual technologies used in Hitchcock’s oeuvre. They engage with history of film and culture by making obvious their representation forms. In brief, thanks to these new analytical works, we get acknowledged with Hitchcock’s film narrative (aligned with the classical film narrative), including its aesthetics, cultural, historical and theoretical implications. Such works, which can be re-edited videos, but also photographs, sculptures, installations (thus paracinema, not necessarily audiovisual material intended for classical projection), alter often the original pieces of Hitchcock, almost violently affecting them, and their outcomes influence our cultural memory about film and its history, and keep Hitchcock alive. Additionally, the practices of viewing and receiving of classical films by the spectators, as well as the film’s impacts upon society, are often in the focus of such investigative productions. Art here finally participate in the production of new ideas. It reflects about film history, its conventional cultural representations and canonizations; about our being as affected spectators; about cinema existing outside its traditional screening space and formats; about the present and future of film and cinema.


But why precisely Hitchcock and no other film directors? Many artists are attracted by Hitchcock’s substantial oeuvre (53 features) for many and different reasons … because of its interesting strategic employment of symbolic discourses and montage continuity, which creates an imaginary world for the spectator where to play with the known and the unknown. Because it has been canonized through different means along the promotion of the Hollywood narrative. Because it played an important role in the film genre history; because Hitchcock’s involvement with modernism is similar to that of the recent artists; and of course Hitchcock’s self-consciousness about the cinematic language and the self-reflexivity of his films concerning the visual representations, the mise-en-scene, time, actors for narrative aims inspired those artists. Finally, new authors were pushed to reflect on Hitchcock’s poetics due to their cinephilic and epistemophilic (the desire to know more) drive toward this Master of suspense. In many cases they acted as collectors of single film fragments, situations, memorabilia and objects pertaining to the world of Hitchcock, in order to be able to reflect upon them and to structurally transform them in their own creations. Such outcomes would generate a complex temporality, situated between the present and the absence, the souvenir, highlighting the historical and reflexive dimension of the original Hitchcock’s footage or its ephemeral status.

In 1999 the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford celebrated the centenary of Hitchcock with the exhibition “Notorius: Alfred Hitchcock and contemporary art” where many of such works from the 1970s until the 1990s were included.


The notorious Untitled Film Stills (1977-80) of Cindy Sherman was part of the project. Click here and then at “Selected works”:

Many similar exhibitions proliferated all around the globe in the same year and following period, which, by exposing many moving image productions, contributed at the turn of one century of cinema, to the phenomenon of “gallery films” centering on the rhetoric of “death of cinema”: film history and ontology told through manipulated images and new cinematic works to be exposed in museums and galleries set-ups. This is the case of the following films contained in the E*cinema academy program on the 23rd of September, which after making a tour in galleries in certain exhibition forms, return to the one-screen model of cinema:

Gravity by Nicolas Provost (BE, 2007, 6 min)

The cinematic kiss is probably one of the most archetypical images to be found in film history. Playing with the physiological and cinematographic principle of the after-image, Provost causes dozens of kissing scenes from European and American film classics to collide. The reassuring world of multiplied kisses is shattered by a stroboscopic effect that plunges and loses us into the dizzying vertigo of the embrace where love becomes a passionate battle in which monsters are finally unmasked.


Nicolas Provost’s work reflects on the grammar of cinema, the human condition in our collective film memory and the relation between visual art and the cinematic experience. His films provoke both recognition and alienation and succeed in catching our expectations into an unraveling game of mystery and abstraction. With manipulations of time, codes and form, cinematographic and narrative language are sculpted into new stories.

In 2003 Nicolas Provost (born in Ronse, Belgium) moved back to Belgium after a 10 years stay in Norway. He now lives and works in New York. Solo exhibitions include The Seattle Art Museum, Musée d’art moderne et contemporain, Strasbourg, France, Muziekgebouw Amsterdam, Tim Van Laere Gallery, Antwerp and Haunch of Venison London and Berlin. His work has been acquired by major museums including the Birmingham Museum, SMAK Gent and the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Belgium. His work has earned a long list of awards and screenings at prestigious festivals including The Sundance Film Festival, The Venice Film Festival, The Berlinale, The San Sebastian Film Festival and The Locarno Film Festival. His critically acclaimed first feature film ‘The Invader’ had its world premiere in competition at the Venice Film Festival 2011. He recently completed the ‘Plot Point’ trilogy, 3 fiction films he shot with a hidden camera in New York, Las Vegas and Tokyo.

provost ritratto

Looking for Alfred by Johan Grimonprez (BE, 2005, 10min)

An homage to Alfred Hitchcock in the form of a search for the perfect Hitchcock doppelganger and vignettes starring those multiple would-be Hitchcocks, reenacting his cameos. Casting calls and screen tests in London, Rotterdam, Los Angeles and New York are documented in film stills and photos. (Professional Hitchcock impersonator Rob Burrage says, “I thought I was safe until you guys came along, digging up all those other Hitchcock look-alikes. Now we will have to find ways of disposing of them.”) Line-readings from Truffaut’s famous 1960s interview with the master and scenes in which Hitchcock acted as an extra are further grist for the mill. Beyond the work’s mockumentary structure, Grimonprez evokes the Hitchcockian universe uncannily, and connects back-through the recurring motif of a man in a suit and a bowler hat-to another great modern auteur, Rene Magritte.


Johan Grimonprez was born in Roeselare, Belgium in 1962. He studied at the School of Visual Arts and attended the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program in New York. He achieved international acclaim with his film essay, Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y, premiered at Centre Pompidou and Documenta X in Kassel in 1997 (to be watched below). He lives and works in Brussels and New York.

Grimonprez’s productions have traveled the main festival circuit from Telluride, Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro, to Tokyo and Berlin. Curatorial projects were hosted at major exhibitions and museums worldwide such as the Whitney Museum in New York, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich and the Tate Modern in London. Grimonprez’s work is included in numerous collections such as the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, the Kanazawa Art Museum, Japan, the National Gallery, Berlin and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark. Grimonprez is currently a faculty member at the School of Visual Arts (New York).


Phoenix Tapes by Matthias Müller, Christoph Girardet (DE/UK, 1999, 45min)

The Phoenix Tapes show re-edited excerpts from 40 films by Alfred Hitchcock. The six chapters focus on a personal selection of various leitmotifs in Hitchcock´s work. The consequence of this is not only to highlight Hitchcock´ s obsessions with certain types of repetitive movements and highly loaded visual signifiers, but to suggest that these actions are part of a universal language of gesture that encompasses both cinematic and everyday modes of communication.’ (John Tozer, Camera Austria) Matthias Müller described Phoenix Tapes as: “a surreal, crude patchwork that suggests a narrative, then breaks it.”


Christoph Girardet (Langenhagen, Germany, 1966) studied Fine Arts at the Braunschweig School of Art. Since 1989 he produced video installations, since 1999 in collaboration with Matthias Müller. Solo exhibitions of his work have taken place at institutions such as the Sigmund Freud Museum in Vienna and the Sean Kelly Gallery in New York. He now lives and works in Hannover.

Matthias Müller (Bielefeld, Germany, 1961) studied Arts and German Literature at the Bielefeld University. He has been guest professor at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University of Frankfurt and since 2003 he is professor for Experimental Film at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne. As a curator, he organized several avant-garde film events, such as the Found Footage Film Festival.

Christoph Girardet and Matthias Müller are experimental filmmakers who are undoubtedly considered, at least by some, to be underground filmmakers. They have been working together since 1999. They first met at the Braunschweig School of Art in the late 1980s, when the school was a place that attracted video and film artists from throughout the country. All of the themes from Phoenix Tapes can be found in the German filmmakers’ subsequent movies, installations, and collages. Every new project is created on the basis of a huge archive of footage from feature films, educational videos, and commercials. There is no hierarchy of roles between the two filmmakers: they take joint credit for their films without indicating their particular roles, operating on the basis of an egalitarian principle from conception right through to post-production.



Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y (Grimonprez, 1997), the acclaimed hijacking documentary that eerily foreshadowed 9-11. The film tells the story of airplane hijackings since the 1970s and how these changed the course of news reporting. The movie consists of recycled images taken from news broadcasts, Hollywood movies, animated films and commercials. As a child of the first TV generation, the artist mixes reality and fiction in a new way and presents history as a multi-perspective dimension open to manipulation. To be watched entirely on UBU:



Cinema de seconde main. Esthétique du remploi au cinéma et dans l’art des nouveaux média, Klincksieck, 2013 (http://www.klincksieck.com/livre/?GCOI=22520100239010)







Hand-out:Hand out HITCHCOCK TAPES

Text, photo compilation Anna Dabrowska.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s