Kurt Kren

Thousandsuns
Cinema

Kurt Kren (Austria) was a vital figure in post-war avant-garde cinema, born in Vienna in 1925 to a Jewish father and a German mother. In 1939 he was sent by Children’s Transport to live in Rotterdam until the end of World War II. Kren returned to Vienna in 1947, where he worked at the National Bank. He began his film career in the early 1950s, creating short works on Super 8 film. He was also known to make paper film scores and drawings, and was a member of the Vienna Art Club along with contemporary artists and writers such as Ernst Jandl, Ilse Aichinger, and H.C Artmann. In 1966 he participated in the Destruction in Art symposium in London, England led by Gustav Metzger, along with participants including Yoko Ono, Henri Chopin, and others. In 1968 his films were confiscated and he was fired from the National Bank for his participation in the Kunst und Revolution happening at the University of Vienna. Kren was co-founder of Vienna Institute of Direct Art (1966) and Austrian Filmmakers Cooperative (1968). He created more than 50 films between 1956–1996, screening at festivals and museums worldwide including Cannes, the Museum of Modern Art, Documenta 6, and the National Film Theatre. He lived in Texas from 1983 to 1989 and worked as a security guard at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. Kren’s films have screened at Media City Film Festival six times, including a retrospective (2006), and in a program focused on work by the founders of the Austrian Filmmakers Cooperative in 2013. He is the subject of the documentary No Danube – Kurt Kren and his Films (1988), directed by Hans Scheugl, along with numerous essays, articles and publications. Kren died of pneumonia in Vienna in 1998.

THREE FILMS BY KURT KREN

ONLINE SCREENING DATES: May 20 – June 10, 2021

FILMS IN THIS PROGRAM: 29/73 Ready-made, 13 min, 1973; 24/70 Western, 3 min, 1970; 44/85 Foot’-age shoot’-out, 3.5 min, 1985  


29/73 Ready-made, Kurt Kren, 13 min, 1973

For a TV programme about the film Casablanca, Kren was supposed to read three letters that Groucho Marx had written to the Warner Bros. These letters were about the Marx Brothers’ use of the title in their own film called A Night in Casablanca, as a result of which legal measures were being threatened by Warner Bros. The filmed material of Kren was no use to the production and should have been destroyed. Kren got hold of the material and presents it, uncut, including all of its repetitions. – Hans Scheugl

24/70 Western, Kurt Kren, 3 min, 1970

In 24/70 Western, recognition of the image being filmed (an anti-war poster picturing the My Lai massacre entitled And Babies) is withheld, through close-up filming of the surface of the image, never stepping back to reveal the whole. The method in this film (as in 20/68 Schatzi) acts to subvert the quick responses of viewers to such loaded imagery. In all of Kren’s films, the images are variously covered and uncovered, hidden and revealed, never taken for granted. – David Levi Strauss

44/85 Foot’-age shoot’-out, 3.5 min, 1985

Made while Kurt Kren was living in Houston, Texas. He was asked to shoot and deliver a film for a festival given four days notice, which he did. Claiming the result was “a rape” and “probably my last film,” Kren removed his name and copyright from the work. “I was angry because I am not used to making films on the spot, and definitely not when I’m not in the mood to make a film. I felt somewhat violated. Shortly before the eleventh hour I left and traced the silhouette of Houston and simply wiped it out. I stuck the film in an express envelope and sent it off”. – Kurt Kren

 

Kurt Kren’s achievements with regard to the montage of short cuts in his early works was many years ahead of the rest of the film world, in both form and content. Kurt Kren was a pioneer: an avant-gardist in the classic and best sense of the word. A filmmaker who knows how to think in images like few others in this trade, and who realized these images in films that are among the “most beautiful” and — if it’s important — most important in cinematic history. – Peter Tscherkassky

All stills, photographs, and artwork courtesy ©Kurt Kren Estate and Sixpack Film. 

Screening co-presented with Sixpack Film.