Oskar Fischinger — the Wizard of Friedrichstrasse

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Oskar Fischinger — Czarodziej z Friedrichstrasse

Oskar Fischinger — the Wizard of Friedrichstrasse

The chapter on wizards and witches, a part of William West's Simboleography (London 1594), defines wizards as those who, by saying certain magic words, dare to try to achieve things contrary to the order of Nature and shows others things that are concealed. And that was exactly who Oskar Fischinger was, called the Wizard of Friedrichstrasse. Because talent and hard work alone would not be enough to create such masterpieces of virtuosity of abstract animation, which he produced in 1929-36 in his Berlin studio in Friedrichstrasse, the street in which in the interwar years there were the headquarters of the largest film production companies operating in Germany, and during his work in Hollywood in the next decade. What was needed was the most important thing - a magic idea-formula that the application of laws of acoustics to optical expression is possible.

Oskar Fischinger's intriguing statement in the catalog of his Los Angeles 1951 exhibition in Frank Perls Gallery that music is not confined to the realm of sounds but there is also the music of the visual world opens a fascinating perspective of viewing the world through the prism of music. The perspective of reaching metaphysics, the inspirational vision of Being, highly spiritual experiences.

Oskar Fischinger was born in Gelnhausen near Frankfurt in 1900 and died in Hollywood in 1967. His impressive filmography comprises at least 56 completed films made during the quarter of century between 1921 and 1947. Moreover, he left 900 pictures. He also composed synthesized music drawn on rolls as abstract ornamental borders, photographed and played as a film soundtrack. He designed one of the first of camera systems which recorded film picture in color, and he was a designer and virtuoso of optic light instruments. He is regarded as a forerunner of polycinema and audiovisual multi-projection shows. He cooperated with Fritz Lang (1929), with the Paramount company (1936), MGM (1937), Walt Disney Studios (1939) and with Orson Welles (1941).

The vast range of Oskar Fischinger's achievements shows his cognitive and contemplative attitude, ranging between the avant-garde imperative of anti-traditionality, Plato's concept of ideas and things, and mysticism of the Far East, which (attitude) is rooted in the absolute cinema. This trend in the German avant-garde film of the 1920s and 1030s was termed by its founders Zeit mit Malerei [painting in time] (Walter Ruttmannn), Bewegungskunst [movement arts], and by critics Kinomalerei [cinematic painting] (Yvan Goll), Augenmusik [music for the eye], Lichttonsymphonie [light and sound symphony], or Zeitraumliche Eurythmie [time-space eurythmy] (Bernhard Diebold.)

From these descriptions emerges the picture of a five-head media hybrid, which Fischinger mounted. The bringing together and integration into one, of five media - music, visual arts, the art of life, movement, and the cinema - was the moment of truth and revelation, from which a new, syncretic form of work of art arose.

The Wizard of Friedrichstrasse, who mixed his intellectual food in a retort filled with the medium of audiovisual show, is an important figure in the process of transformation of the way of perceiving the world, which took place in the 20th century. His artistic and research experiments, and his theoretical statements contributed to the rise of new structures of feeling and thinking, which correspond to cyberspace protocols in the contemporary world.

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Annales UMCS, Artes

The Journal of Maria Curie-Sklodowska University

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