Chris Kennedy

“Sylvia Schedelbauer: The Enigma of Memory”. December 5, 2014

Sylvia Schedelbauer: The Enigma of Memory

The videos of Sylvia Schedelbauer reinvent the found-footage genre through their dense layers of imagery that narrate memory as an elusive object. Raised in Japan by a German father and Japanese mother, Schedelbauer is now based in Berlin, but her visual material is harvested from an archive of ephemeral films housed in San Francisco—a nomadic artistic existence that manifests itself in her work through themes of migration, hidden histories and inherited rebelliousness.

Although much of her footage is culled from the basement archive of Craig Baldwin (the nutty professor of the avant-garde set), Schedelbauer’s work evinces none of the irony of traditional found- footage filmmaking. Rather, her videos are complex, abstract emotional narratives that trace the historical traumas of the twentieth century into the shadowplay of today. The personal narrative of Schedelbauer’s first video, Erinnerungen (Memories)—which traces a family history from a Nazi grandfather’s photo diary to Schedelbauer’s youthful revolt in 1990s Tokyo— soon evolved into the oblique use of found material in Schedelbauer’s breakout video Remote Intimacy, which recounted a similar tale using purloined footage of youth camps and postwar Japanese melodramas. In both, personal history is sutured with visual and textual references (Milan Kundera is a particularly important touchstone), the anonymity of discarded images becoming an emotional counterpoint to biographical detail.

The key to Schedelbauer’s reimagining of found footage, however, is her recent use of quick fades and near-stroboscopic effects, which both imprint images upon the mind’s eye and allow them to slip swiftly away (propelled by stunning soundtracks from Thomas Carnacki and Jeff Surak, among others). Sounding Glass and the brand-new work Sea of Vapors are highlights of Schedelbauer’s oeuvre, twin tours de force of rhythmic montage and sound. Sounding Glass propels us through a man’s memories, hitting trigger points of recall that unleash a flood of emotions, while Sea of Vapors employs almost-static imagery, suspended in vibrato, to create an erotic exploration of the birth and rebirth of the lunar cycle.

Warning: These videos contain stroboscopic effects.

Sounding Glass dir. Sylvia Schedelbauer | Germany 2011 | 10 min. | video
False Friends dir. Sylvia Schedelbauer | Germany 2007 | 5 min. | video
Remote Intimacy dir. Sylvia Schedelbauer | Germany 2007-2008 | 14.5 min. | video
way fare dir. Sylvia Schedelbauer | Germany 2009 | 6 min. | video
Erinnerungen (Memories) dir. Sylvia Schedelbauer | Germany 2004 | 19 min. | video
Sea of Vapors dir. Sylvia Schedelbauer | Germany 2014 | 15 min. | video

Sylvia Schedelbauer in person.

Friday, December 5 6:30pm