Jürgen Reble Chicago (1996) Publications


This film was provoked by a trip on the overhead railway through the centre of Chicago in 1991. I filmed a twelve minute piece facing forwards in the direction we were driving. Three years later I came across the film material once more. The memory of it had faded, and its images were just as vague. So I worked on the material using a bleaching bath. The complex, cuboid-like architecture of the city came out in a test of the substantial and then sank back into the minority - dissolving to a lump of cosmic dust. I was first able to identify a projection of the experienced, within the undercurrent of disintegration.
Many years passed by and dust settled on the filmcarrier. Sound researcher Thomas Köner ran the dust through the optical sound system on the projector and a crackling sound could be heard. He then undertook a more exact examination of this dust-noise. Ultimately a tone composition came to fruition, which I transferred onto the final copy of the film in the form of an optical soundtrack. (Jürgen Reble)


Germany 1995, 16 mm, 12 minutes, b&w, optical sound
Music: Thomas Köner
Pemiere: European Media Art Festival Osnabrück, 09.05.1997
Distribution: Light Cone, Paris and Arsenal Experimental, Berlin, prints in:
- 16 mm, optical sound
- HD-Video, 1440x1080, stereo


Ausgelöst wurde der Film durch eine Fahrt mit der Hochbahn durch das Zentrum von Chicago 1991. Ich filmte einen 12-Minuten-Ausschnitt in Fahrtrichtung. Drei Jahre später fiel mir das gefilmte Material erst wieder in die Hände. Die Erinnerung war verblichen, das Bild im Gedächtnis nur noch ein Schatten. Also arbeitete ich mit einem Ätzbleichbad am Material. Dabei geriet die komplexe, quaderartige Architektur der Stadt in eine Prüfung des Substantiellen und sank zurück ins Partikuläre - zerfloß zu einer Anballung von kosmischem Staub. Erst in diesem Sog der Auflösung fand ich eine Projektion des Erlebten.
Weitere Jahre vergingen und Staub siedelte sich auf dem Filmträger an. Diesen Staub tastete der Klangforscher Thomas Köner auf dem optischen Tonsystem des Projektors ab, und ein Knistern wurde hörbar. Er unterzog diese Staubklänge einer genaueren Überprüfung. Schließlich entstand eine Tonkomposition, die ich der endgültigen Kopie in Form der Lichttonspur hinzufügte. (Jürgen Reble)

History of Events

Video Exhibition as Permanent Installation
2008.06.18-08.17 - Palais des Beaux-Arts, Bruxelles


The ghosts of early cinema haunt Chicago. Reble shot the originating film on a railway trip through the eponymous city. The black and white sequence resembles early film experiments such as Alexandre Promio’s (camera operator to the Lumière brothers) Liverpool Docks (La Rade; Entrée dans Clarence Dock, Panorama pris du chemin de fer électrique I-IV, all 1896), where bulky cameras relied on carriage by a moving vehicle, and echoes the Lumière films where trains loom towards the camera. It is also reminiscent of Ernie Gehr’s reworking of an unattributed 1905 film, A Trip Down Market Street Before the Fire, shot from a trolley car travelling along a San Francisco street, in Eureka (1979). Gehr slows the film to a snail’s pace, lingering on the fading, damage, tears and scratches of the original footage. Promio’s film, in the condition that it survives to this day, is also marked by the traces of age. Characteristics of this and other early cinema is the steady, impassive recording of urban spatial environments, coupled with a flatness inherited from its roots in the pre-cinematic entertainment of the panorama.

While works of early cinema survive due to diligent restoration work and archives; Reble’s urban panorama is born out of the reverse of preservation. Having forgotten about the footage for some years, it was literally ‘found’ footage. Surprised by its discovery he proceeded to age the film, bleaching and distressing it to near disintegration.

In Chicago layers of chemical processes are an obscuring mist, drying marks, dust and hair left intact, sprocket holes printed through. The Windy City becomes vertical urban tundra of rectilinear blocks, as though it had entered an ice age of snap blizzards and freezing fog. Thomas Köner made a tone composition running dust from the film can through an optical sound system. In keeping with Köner’s other work, such as the CDs Teimo (1992) and Permafrost (1993), the resulting sound, redolent of icefloes and frozen wastelands, plays a crucial role in the film’s atmosphere. With this sonic panorama the film is a paradoxically claustrophobic journey, barbiturate and itchy, undertaken in vague detachment. (© Steven Ball, June 2004)