New York has been photographed and filmed so many times that it seems hardly possible to express anything about New York in images, except for its own picturesque quality. That would be one of the confusedly clear thoughts that suddenly occur to me when gliding through space and time in Viktoria Schmid’s NYC RGB. The film’s approximately seven minutes present a collection of views of Manhattan from a 20th-floor studio apartment – straight ahead to the horizon, steeply downward on neighboring rooftops and into the urban canyons, upward into the clouds and every angle in between, including the building itself, its neighboring balcony, and the reflections of light and shadows within. In fact, however, each shot doesn’t comprise one single view, but rather the image of three shots taken in succession with the same strip of film running through the camera, each time using a different color filter in front of the lens – first red, then green, then blue. As such, NYC RGB is part of a series of works in which Schmid deals with historical color film processes. This causes the rigid lines of the buildings and streets and the grid of the city to lose their focus and sharpness, while at the same time everything that is in motion in the grid – the light, the shadows, the people, the cars, the clouds – literally “fans out” in the three colors. Out of the rigid structures, everything that lives, moves, and breathes appears tinted with color and in triplicate. The city becomes what it is – fixed, immobile, rigid and yet the background for this life, its underlying framework.
NYC RGB takes me into an ecstasy of seeing – and, along with Liew Niyomkarn’s soundtrack of field recordings and synthetic-spherical triads, also hearing – while viewing the “concrete jungle where dreams are made of” that Alicia Keys sings about. Not, however, as an “ecstasy about architecture” as Rem Koolhaas suggested, but as one that in the midst of stasis, through the architecture of analogue film, makes movement, the temporalities beyond the rigid space, the pulsation of the city, all perceptible as light and color. (Alejandro Bachmann)
Translation: John Wojtowicz
This gentle trip from Viktoria Schmid surveys the architecture of Manhattan in a series of fixed-frame compositions, each exposed three times, through red, green, and blue filters. The city’s range of beiges, browns, and grays remain steady, while highlights and shadows splinter into geometric arrays of color. This tension between consistency and change draws the mind toward one of the traits of modern New York which Schmid avoids: its glass-facade new construction. The matter of what goes into making a city durable as both idea and place is a heavy one, though the film’s opalescent skies do help to lighten it. - Phil Coldiron