Testimonial by Jordan Belson, 1971
From a series of Fischinger Testimonials collected by William Moritz. Published in Moritz's Optical Poetry: The Life and Work of Oskar Fischinger. Eastleigh: John Libbey, and Indiana University Press, 2004.
I was just graduating from college in painting when I saw Fischinger's films at the 1946 Art in Cinema festival at the San Francisco Museum of Art, and that inspired me to start making films instead of just painting canvases. He was very supportive of my work, and recommended me for a Guggenheim Fellowship on the basis of my first film.
My most impressive memory of him is the lingering imagery of the Lumigraph show he performed, also at the San Francisco Museum of Art, in 1953. His films had been shown in the auditorium, which was treat enough, and then the curtains were closed for a brief intermission. Then the lights faded out slowly, and the hall was completely black for several minutes, so your eyes began to adjust. Some music -- I think Sibelius' "Valse Triste"-- arose out of the darkness, and in mysterious synchronization with the sounds appeared soft, glowing images where the movie screen had been. I could tell that this was not a film: the luminous presence of these lithe colors was quite different even from the illusions of the high-contrast black-and-white films we had just seen. These irregular, always-changing shapes could flicker and pulsate, and when they swirled around, they could leave a vague trail like a comet's tail. The bright, saturated colors had a ghostly three-dimensional presence. The shapes changed so easily-- occasionally resembling some hard, complex object, but most often amorphous clusters or discrete points of light -- however they seemed so dimensional, so solid. Sometimes the lights would disappear and appear suddenly, but other times they would fade in and out extremely slowly -- just as one color might glow exquisitely in saturated duration or suddenly jump to another hue, with brilliant, tasteful timing.
When the music was over, we were plunged into total darkness again. The audience erupted with wild applause. Fischinger wouldn't let anyone backstage to inspect the Lumigraph because it would have destroyed the magic (just as he didn't like to tell about his filmic techniques -- and I have followed his wisdom in that). Actually, the mechanism of the Lumigraph was rather primitive, hand-made, but the way he performed proved his innate artistry, his natural sensitivity, that could turn even the simplest things into a luxurious, magical illusion of cosmic elegance. That was very inspirational to me: much of my work after that had more of the quality of Lumia, and relied more on simple, hand-made devices.
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