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    L SZLO MOHOLY-NAGY

    P INTINGPHOTOGR PHYILM

    WITH NOTE BY HANS M WINGLERAND POSTSCRIPT BY OTIO STELZERTR NSL TED BY JANET SELIGMAN

    LUND HUMPHRIES LONDON

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    Copyright 1967 by Florian Kupferberg Verlag, MainzEnglish translation copyright 1969 by Lund Humphries. Lon;:;;:;-First English edition 1969Published by Lund Humphries. 12 Bedford Square. London WCMade and printed in Great Britain by Lund Humphries. London andBradfordPublishers notThis is a translation of Ma/erei Fotografie Film which originallyappeared as Volume 8 in the Bauhausbucher series in 1925 secondedition 1927). The German edition was reissued in 1967 infacsimile in the series Neue Bauhausbucher by Florian KupferbergVerlag, Mainz. In an effort to convey something of the true flavourof the original volume. an attempt has been made in this Englishlanguage edition to adhere as closely as possible to the originaltypography and make up of the second) German edition

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    ONTENTS

    7 IntroductionFrom painting with pigment to light-displays projected with areflector12 Problems of terminology in optical composition13 On the objective and the non-objective16 Easel painting, architecture and Gesamtkunstwerk20 Static and kinetic optical composition25 Domestic pinacotheca27 Photography30 Production, reproduction32 Photography without camera. The photogram33 The future of the photographic process38 Typophoto4 Simultaneous or poly-cinema44 On technical possibilities and demands47 Illustrations (some with explanations)122 Dynamic of the MetropolisSketch for a film, also typophoto139 List of illustrations4 Sources of the typo photos of Dynamic of the Metropolis143 Editor s note145 PostscriptOtto Stelzer: Moholy-Nagy and his vision

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    INTRODU TION

    I In this book I seek to identify the ambiguities of present-day optical creation. The means afforded by photography play an important part therein,though it is one which most people today still fail to recognise: extendingthe limits of the depiction of nature and the use of light as a creativeagent: chiaroscuro in place of pigment.The camera has offered us amazing possibilities, which we are only justbeginning to exploit. The visual mage has been expanded and even themodern lens is no longer tied to the narrow limits of our eye; no manualmeans of representation (pencil, brush, etc.) is capable of arresting fragments of the world seen like this; it is equally impossible for manual meansof creation to fix the quintessence of a movement; nor should we regardthe ability of the lens to distort the view from below, from above, theoblique view as in any sense merely negative, for it provides an impartialapproach, such as our eyes, tied as they are to the laws of association, donot give;.and from another point of view: the delicacy of the grey effectsproduces a sublimated value, the differentiation of which can transcendits own sphere of influence and even benefit colour composition. But whenwe have enumerated these uses, we are still far from having exhausted thepossibili_ies in the field. We are .only beginning to exploit them; for -although photography is already over a hundred years old it is only inrecent years that the course of development has allowed us to see beyondthe specific instance and recognise the creative consequences. Our visionhas only lately developed sufficiently to grasp these connections.

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    IIThe first essential is to clarify the relationship of photography to thepainting of today and to show that the development of technical meanshas materially contributed to the genesis of new forms in opt ical creationand has split the hitherto indivisible field of optical expression. Until

    p t o g r p h y \ as invented, painting combined within itself the missionsui representation and expression in colour. Now since the division, onefield embraces

    pure colour composition, the otherrepresentat iona I composition.

    COLOUR COMPOSITION: The pure inter-relationships of coloursand light-values, similar to what we know in music as composition inacoustical relationships; that is, the composition of universal systems,independent of climate, race, temperament, education, rooted in biologicalla\vs ;REPRESENTATIONAL COMPOSITION Relationships of elements imitatively derived from without, objective elements with associative contents, as, in acoustical composition, speech exists side by ~ i d ewith music ; this is the composition of systems dependent upon climate,race, t emperament, education, rooted in association and experience.Creative elements which are rooted in biological laws can also be mobilisedas constructional and compositional auxiliaries .This division is not undoing all that the humanspirithasachievedhitherto;on the contrary : the pure forms of expression are being crystallised andare becoming more telling in their effect for being autonomous. epresentation is not identical with nature or a slice of nature. E.g., when we seek to fixa fantasy or a dream the results are equally representational.In the hands of an original artist representation becomes creation otherwise it remains mere

    r t a g e The introduction and spread of colour photography, a development which hashad a very short history, in no way alters this situation.

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    I l l .I summarise the current consequences of this situation:1 In the exact mechanical procedures of photography and the film wepossess an expressional means for representation which works incompar-ably better than did the manual procedures of the representational paint-ing we have known hitherto.From now on painting can concern itself with pure colour composition.2 Pure colour composition shows that the theme of colour compositionpainting) is colour itself that with colour, without objective references,

    a pure and primary, a composed expression, can be achieved.3 The newly invented optical and technical instruments offer the opticalcreator valuable suggestions; among other things they give us light paint-ing side by side with painting in pigment, kinetic painting side by sidewith static. Moving light displays side by side with easel-painting,instead of frescos - films in all dimensions; outside the film theatre, tooof course.) do not wish with these remarks to pass value judgments on the

    various modes of painterly creation, but simply to classify thoseoptical creations vvhich exist or could exist today in the sense of theapplication of means. The quality of a work need not be dependentabsolutely on a modern or an old theory of composition. It isdependent on the degree of inventive intensity which finds its technically appropriate form. All the same, it seems to me indispensablethat we, the creators of our own time should go to work with up-todate means.

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    FROMP INTING WITH PIGMENTTOLIGHT DISPL YSPROJECTEDWITH REFLECTOR

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    PROBLEMSOF TERMINOLOGYINOPTICALCOMPOSITIONIn the interests of better understanding we need to grapple with thewhole contemporary problem of optical creation with

    objective andnon-objective painting,e sel painting andcolour composition in n architectonic context,

    which is linked with the problem of theGesamtkunstwerk ; with

    static and

    2

    kinetic optical composition with the materialpigment and the materiallight.

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    ON THEOBJECTIVEAND THE NON OBJECTIVEThe biological functions of colour, its psycho-physical effects, have as yetscarcely been examined. One thing, however, is certain: it is an elementary biological necessity for human beings to absorb colour, to extractcolour. We must assume that there are conditions of colour relationshipsand tensions, light values, forms, positions, directions which are commonto all men and determined by our physiological mechanisms. E.g. complementary colours, the ways in which colours can be arranged centricallyand eccentrically, centrifugally and centripetally, values of brightness anddarkness- black and white content- the warmth and coldness of colours,their advancing and receding movements, the lightness and weight ofcolours.

    Biologically conditioned expression of these relationships or tensionsbe it conscious or unconscious - results in the concept of absolutepainting. In fact these conditions have at all times been the truecontent of colour composition. I.e. the paintings of every age must havebeen formed from these primal states of tension grounded in man. Theobservable variations between the painting of different periods can beexplained only as periodic formal variations of the same phenomenon.In practical terms this means that a painting - quite apart from itsso-called (theme -must make its effect simply through the harmonyof its colours and its chiaroscuro. E g a picture could be standing onts head and still provide a sufficient basis for an assessment of

    its worth as a painting. Of course, neither its use of colour nor itsrepresentational intentions that is, its objectivity only) fully accounts forthe character of a painting of the earlier periods of art. Its character isrevealed only in the inseparable conjunction of the two. It is difficult

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