For a student discussion the Kunsthochschule Kassel, where Harry Kramer taught from 1971 to 1992, was, amongst others asked to assemble a tribute to Harry Kramer’s ‘Mechanical Theatre’. The animation class in the German city of Kassel was founded in 1979 and has since developed a distinctive culture of narrative animation.
Ten students, inspired by Kramer’s experimental short film “The Sluice” used the kinetic object movements, materials, the direct, dynamic, loud and uncompromising mood and music in this film as sources of inspiration for their own animated puppet film with a narrative story structure.
Experiments by the students
The focus was on experimentation with the theme of rotation.The story revolves around an object: a machine, operated by eight workers located within individual compartments of the machine.
The machine rotates horizontally around its own axis. The workers have to press two different buttons in front of each figure in time. If they make a mistake, the machine stops, water comes out of the water tank and the figures risk drowning. Then the workers have to quickly set another mechanism in motion that opens a sluice so that the water can escape and the machine turns again. To do this, they each have to pull seven levers attached to the upper platform to activate a lift that transports the eighth figure to a button that opens the sluices. When the water drains away, they all return to their places and the process begins again.
Rule Zero – The Film
The students worked with the technique of the 8-part zoetrope. Using loops, green-screen, hand-held cameras and figurines made of plasticine and wire. Plastic sheeting arranged skillfuly was also used to represent water – this effect was borrowed from the Augsburger Puppenkiste. They also worked according to Kramer’s experiments with blurred images, fast movements, image play and extreme perspectives. The soundtrack of the film was specially developed and composed.
When the film was finished, the group found it visually, too smooth; they projected it onto different screens including a concrete wall which was eventually chosen as the correct medium and the animated film was filmed again in the projection process.
Success of the student experiment
“Regelnull” won the M2LIVE Film Award in Maastricht in 2013. The machine and the material are now part of Kolk 17’s collection.The students published a detailed report on the project in “UNIMA Das andere Theater” No. 81. www.unima.de