TEACHING THE ALPHABET

by Volker SCHREINER
2007 / Betacam SP / color-b&w / sound / 1S / 3' 34




credits: letters spoken by Michael O’Connell

„It's not a simple ABC, this found footage alphabet by Volker Schreiner. Schreiner reveals his qualities in collecting and choreographing footage from classic (Hollywood) films. The concept of alphabetical ordering is loosely maintained so there's room for a playful contribution from the subconscious.“
(catalogue International Film Festival Rotterdam 2008)

Teaching The Alphabet
Basket, ball, bandit. Learning to read is child’s play once the letters are linked to images. In Volker Schreiner’s found-footage work Teaching the Alphabet, which spells out the alphabet in a subtle montage of film sequences, an early scene ushers in the elementary relationship between writing and images. Sitting in front of the television a girl learns to spell by identifying the images – basket, ball, bandit. The child riveted to the screen becomes an identification figure for the viewer, who learns Schreiner’s formal principle: it is far from inevitable that his letters are shown, they are often only visualised without being named. The viewer is thus enticed into decoding increasingly complex references, assigning King Kong, Lassie, Marilyn Monroe to ‘K’, ‘L’, ‘M’, respectively.
Volker Schreiner relies on the vocabulary of Hollywood, the collective memory of the cineaste. This memory is not only called on with iconographical figures like Superman, Zorro or Terminator, but also when for example a chalky M on a man’s back recalls Fritz Lang’s M, or the tattoo ‘HATE’ on the knuckles of a hand in Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter. Hollywood itself is brought into play with the monumental ‘W’ taken from the giant sign on the Hollywood Hills. A male voice speaks the ‘double-u’ and thus conjures the ‘double you’, the projection space, the mirror, Hollywood has become for us. The ABC of emotions, we have learnt them through the cinema.
And this often ad nauseam. When Tarzan is about to bellow out a cry, then we all know what’s going to happen. Volker Schreiner does not show the rest because the secret of the gesture has long been revealed. It is the intimate code that now remains gripping: the hesitant tapping of a signal in Morse code before the door opens, the whispering into an ear. Communication remains a mystery.
(Kristina Tieke - from German by Paul Bowman)

1 PRINT IN DISTRIBUTION


distribution format Digital file on server (PAL)
screen 4/3 (single screen)
speed 25 fps
sound sound
rental fee 22,00 €