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Introduction
1921

Hans Richter makes Rhythmus 21, one of the first abstract films, in Berlin

"…this kind of film gives memory nothing to hang on. At the mercy of "feeling", reduced to going with the rhythm according to the successive rise and fall of the breath and the heartbeat, we are given a sense of what feeling and perceiving really is: a process - MOVEMENT."
Hans Richter 1924

Hans Richter's Rhythmus 21 is one of the earliest and most innovative examples of abstract filmmaking.

As an active member of the Dadaist movement in Zurich, Richter was one of the first to recognise the new creative possibilities that cinematography offered the artist. Richter's collaboration with Viking Eggeling on drawings, abstract sketches, and most importantly on 'scroll paintings' (variations on formal themes drawn on long rolls of paper), provided the inspiration for Rhythmus 21.

Using the rectangle (the shape of the cinema screen), as his basic means of expression, in Rhythmus 21 Richter attempted to 'orchestrate time'. Overlapping shapes in shades of black, gray and white are reduced to squares, rectangles and bars, giving the illusion of space and depth. Richter suggested connections through opposites: black/white, left/right, top/bottom, and created visual associations with geometric patterns. Rhythmus 21 uses animation to make pictures develop like time, to create rhythm without sound, to display painting in motion.

Lara Thompson

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Still from Rhythmus 21

Courtesy of the artist/Lux
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