Masters of Abstraction (image 1)

Screened as part of NZIFF 2006

Masters of Abstraction 

Directed by Various

An animation retrospective (1921-78) featuring some of the most iconic, important abstract animated films ever created: a virtual “Who’s-Who” of the genre.

77 minutes


Abstract animation is the purest cinema, a medium of movement, light, colour and sound. An abstract animator may employ these elements to evoke emotion or sensation, or to excite and even empower your imagination. There is no single ‘key’ to unlocking the layers in these films – ‘understanding’ them is a flexible, personal and interpretive experience. We’re delighted to continue our policy of animation retrospectives with this very special collection featuring some of the most iconic, important abstract animated films ever created: a virtual ‘Who’s Who’ of the genre.

A programme this ambitious inevitably raises questions about those not included. Len Lye and Norman McLaren (profiled this year in Animation Now!) deserve inclusion but – with time constraints pressing – we felt that they were artists with whom many New Zealanders were already familiar. Robert Breer would have made an appearance had we not recently screened a retrospective of his work. Should we have included Pat O’Neill, Steven Beck, Harry Smith or Mary Ellen Bute? Why stop at the 70s? Excellent questions which might best be dealt with in future programmes.

Symphonie Diagonale (Viking Eggeling, Germany 1924, 9 mins), Rhythmus 21 (Hans Richter, Germany 1921, 4 mins), Opus II, III and IV (Walther Ruttmann, Germany 1921–25, 12 mins), Spirals (Oskar Fischinger, Germany 1926, 4 mins), Contrathemis (Dwinnell Grant, USA 1941, 3 mins), Film Exercise 2 and 3 (James Whitney, John Whitney, USA 1944, 4 mins), Yantra (James Whitney, USA 1957, 8 mins), À La Mode (Stan VanDerBeek, USA 1959, 7 mins), Scratch Pad (Hy Hirsh, USA 1960, 10 mins), Allures (Jordan Belson, USA 1961, 7 mins), Rumble (Jules Engel, USA 1977, 3 mins), 3/78 (Objects and Transformations) (Larry Cuba, USA 1978, 6 mins).