Jonas Mekas about Klaus Wyborny

in the Village Voice

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Jonas Mekas - Movie Journal on the London Avant-Garde Filmfestival  
- Village Voice New York, Sept. 27 1973, p 61 -

LONDON - I'll be back for the New York Film Festival. But right now  (September 3 to 16) I am at the Festival of Independent Avant-garde Film at the National Film Theater in London. You are lucky that I am not in New York, because I'd be fuming against the distortion of the idea of cinema, as represented by the films shown at the New York Film Festival. Just to give you an example: if there is a bad film anywhere , that film is 'Andrei Rublev." This film is being pushed through film festivals as a "modern  Soviet cinema masterpiece", while in truth it's just a piece of very bad, very amateurish movie making. I just managed to see that other masterpiece of the New York Film Festival, "Last Tango in Paris." I Have no idea why I sat to the end of it, the film is so bad! A much better film is "Pink Flamingo" (at the Elgin Theater), which Jack Smith was raving about in these pages some time ago and which is as good as he was telling you. Certainly, "Pink Flamingos" is 10 times more interesting than "Last Tango" or "Rublev".

But I shouldn't permit myself to be distracted by all this. I am here in London and that's where the cinema is right now. The best, or at least some of the best European and American filmmakers have gathered here with their latest works. This is a very vast survey, and I have no idea how I#m going to report on it. I'll try going into it chronologically.

September 3: Hollis Frampton shows "Hapax Legommena," complete. It is a monumental workl, and we well know it., in New York, so I don't have to dwell on it.

Klaus Wyborny (Hamburg) shows "Dallas Texas - After the Goldrush", a fine work in the structural direction. Same section repeated five times, treated differently each time. I say "treated" and I'll be using this word a lot in this report. This is one of the things that became visible at this festival, filmmakers shooting some footage, of this or that, and then using it as material. They treat this material very freely, they transform it by various means, they project it and refilm it (like Landow used to do in his early works), and they change it, by lights, filters and different film stocks, and they work and work on it until the original footage disappears and something else emerges. - Anyway, Wyborny's film is one of the most successful of the "treated" films, and it remains in my mind as one of the best films I have seen in London.

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Jonas Mekas - Movie Journal  on the London Avant-Garde Filmfestival  
- Village Voice New York, Oct. 25 1973, p 87 -   

Klaus Wyborny (Germany) screened "The Birth of a Nation" (70 minutes), one of the few extraordinary and original works of this festival - a work that begins very casually, some footage of some people in a desert, doing something, carrying water, digging - and one begins to get bored with it. At that time the sequence begins from the beginning, the same footage, but with some variations, and some new footage, and the film and its story become more complicated, and then the footage is repeated for the third time, again with new variations, the filters and color come in, and some new actions - and thus with each repeating the films grow in complexity of image and content. Basically, it’s a structural narrative with a very thin line of action, but with many formal complications and implications. Wyborny's two films shown in London  belong among the most interesting experiments in the narrative film direction that anybody's doing today.

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Jonas Mekas - Movie Journal Interview with Klaus Wyborny
- Village Voice New York, June 2, 1975 -

The presentation of "The Birth of a Nation" at the Second Lonon Avantgarde / Independent Film Festival established Klaus Wyborny as one of Europe's leading Avantgarde-Film figures. I should add here that "The Birth of a Nation", in this particular case, has nothing to do with D. W. Griffith. Its a Wyborny film.

Klaus Wyborny, originally from Austria, but residing in Hamburg, taught film at Binghampton College this past winter. In April and May he came to New York to give shows at the Collective for Living Cinema and Anthology. We saw "Demonic Screen", "Percy McPhee-Agent of Horror", "Dallas-Texas, After the Goldrush", "The Ideal (Ecstasy and Beauty), and "The Birth of a Nation".

All of Wyborny's films are narrative. All concern structures and language. They are progressively abstract and indeterminate. They rely much on repetition and variation. They grow and change in mood and intensity with each repetition and each variation. His voice, in the contemporary Avant-garde film, is original, intense, personal.

Jonas: "Would you attempt to describe your own particular direction in cinema?"

Wyborny: "I've always been very interested in the narrative. My cinema has to do with stretching the narrative until it kind of collapses. I'm interested in the point of a certain critical balance. When this critical balance is achieved the audience becomes very open. So I try to expand the narrative to that point, kind of collapsing the narrative. The narrative seems to fall apart somehow, the words gain distance from the images, the cutting makes the images fall apart."

"Most of the filmmakers in America are interested in the aestetics of the single image. Maybe not all, but many are. I don't care much about the individual image. But I care about the structures, about what they do to one's mind. Maybe this is being analytical. But I analyze the time structures while I proceed in building them. Structure in itself doesnt't interest me. I am interested only in specific ones which then I kind of try to analyze. There are different ways of analyzing them. I have repetitions, this is one way. I also have decompositions of parts of the images, which is another way."

Jonas: "In comparison with your work, the films of other leading European film-makers, who work in the structural direction, are very mechanical and mathematical. Your work retains spontaneity and chance, its very open."

Wyborny: "This is probably because I am a mathmetician."

Jonas: " In what way?"

Wyborny: "I studied theoretical physics for seven years. Thats a long time."

Jonas: "It seems to me that artists whose backgrounds are in the exact sciences are more open to chance in their art, than those who come from the humanities."

Wyborny: "The latter ones kind of play a simple number game. Of course, i also play number games but I try to expand them. I try to get over the simplicity of their structures by making chance decisions in the middle of them. I break them up. For I developed a great mistrust against so called "logical" structures, thats why I left mathematics and switched to film. I don't want to repeat the same logical, rational structures and ideas that came to the European mind in 1600. I don't want to do this in cinema. A-B-C-logic in cinema doesn't interest me."

Jonas: "You have a book coming out soon?"

Wyborny: "Yes its in German. It's called "Elementary Theory of Editing". Its being published by the University of Hamburg. Its a mathmatical work."

Jonas: "Are you planning to come back to New York?"

Wyborny: "Yes, I'm looking for teaching positions in universities. In Germany there are very few places today to either show ones work, or teach. Its not a very good situation at the moment, for the avant-garde film-maker."

Jonas: "Who else is doing advanced work in Hamburg or in Germany?"

Wyborny: "There is Werner Nekes , Dore O., and Hellmuth Costard in Hamburg, von Praunheim in Berlin, Werner Schröter in Munich, Birgit and Wilhelm Hein in Cologne."