Essais (2020) by Hannes Schüpbach

Sunday November 5, 7:30pm

Hannes Schüpbach: Essais

80 Turk Street | San Francisco

Presented in association with CounterPulse, the San Francisco Dance Film Festival and the Consulate General of Switzerland in San Francisco
Admission: $15 General / $12 Cinematheque Members
Event tickets here

Hannes Schüpbach in person

Stately and silent, the 16mm work of Swiss visual artist and filmmaker Hannes Schüpbach resonates with the work of kindred 16mm artists Nathaniel Dorsky, Ute Aurand, Robert Beavers and Gregory Markopoulos, evidencing a meticulous attention to craft while expressing a patient, meditative and loving sense of coexistence in a luminous, richly tactile world. Rarely screened in the US, Schüpbach appears in person (in his first Bay Area screening since 2006) to celebrate the publication of his latest book work, Essais: Conversations and Film Images and to present the films Essais (2020)—a lyrical dance film made in collaboration with dancer/choreographer Kira Blazek Ziaii—and Instants (2012), an impressionistic portrait of French writer Joël-Claude Meffre, filmed in the French countryside near Avignon.

Cinematheque is also proud to offer Hannes Schüpbach: Essais in its online bookstore: Hannes Schüpbach enters into dialogue with dancer/choreographer Kira Blazek Ziaii, poet/language activist Stephen Watts, art conservator Éléonore Bernard, fashion designer Heba-Raphaëlle Meffre, cellist Flurin Cuonz, author Marco Baschera and visual artist Jiajia Zhang, exploring the concept of movement that starts within us—in dance, poetry, fashion, music and language. How singular are our gestures? Where do transitions between individuals come into play? Where does a shared cultural space come into being? The publication pairs these conversations with images from Schüpbach’s 16mm film Essais and contains an essay by Philippe-Alain Michaud, curator of film at Centre Pompidou, Paris. Hannes Schüpbach: Essais will be available for purchase (at a discount!) at this screening but can also be ordered online here.


Instants (2012) by Hannes Schüpbach; 16mm, color, silent, 16 minutes
Essais (2020) by Hannes Schüpbach; 16mm, color, silent, 43 minutes

Instants (2012) by Hannes Schüpbach

With Joël-Claude Meffre, Heba-Raphaëlle Meffre. Filmed in Séguret and in the Vaucluse region, France, 2011.
Instants arrive and take place for us and in us. Like the girl appearing in a gust, as a goddess of winds, whose movements settle into a gesture, a suite of still images. Between the instants relations unfold, the evident as well as the invented. The hand that halts in writing sentence after sentence implies a loop, a stepping back. There, what has been felt takes form. The jolts, abrasions, and stops in the arrival of images make up this body of instants from which language flows.
This film is devoted to a central point of convergence of the arts: the INSTANT. In photography, film or literature, the instant in its “entrance” or “descent” signifies a performative opening in the sequence of time that radically breaks through any concept of linearity. (Hannes Schüpbach)

Essais (2020) by Hannes Schüpbach

If the dancer dances, everything is there. The meaning is there, if that’s what you want.
—Merce Cunningham, The Impermanent Art (1955)

I shake myself. I get the idea to make a few movements. Movements, gestures. For almost two years now, I have been searching for something along these lines. Movements mostly without meaning. What was I looking for by doing so? To modify myself. To undo a certain stationary condition. What I do then, are exercises in the relationship between myself and my body. Not to work my muscles, not to develop my physique, or to dance, or to imitate anything. Modestly, these are gestures that correspond to my inner ramblings, my inner roaming.
—Henri Michaux, Face à ce qui se dérobe (1975)

The dancer Kira Blazek Ziaii explores new movements, her dance passionately broadening into a bodily reflection about the possible. Her shifting ventures in dance dialogue with the six further personalities the film introduces, all of them engaged in some form of self-experiment. Stephen Watts, Éléonore Bernard, Heba-Raphaëlle Meffre, Flurin Cuonz, Marco Baschera and Jiajia Zhang are artists and researchers, filmed in London, Bern, Antwerp, Zurich and St. Gallen. It is gestures and postures that define them. They exist alongside one another in a fictional exchange where the other extends their own form. The images are unlocked from linear time via black transitions, resulting in a hypnotic flow. Its temporality marks a recollection: the repetition of what has once been seen, in a rhythm linked to recapitulation and speech. (Hannes Schüpbach)


Hannes Schüpbach (born 1965, Winterthur) is based in Switzerland. He is a visual artist, a maker of silent films and a writer. He has made eleven silent films since 1999. An overview exhibition of his works, Stills and Movies, at the Kunsthalle Basel was curated by Adam Szymczyk in 2009. It highlighted the intimate conceptual interconnections between his installations, performances and films; they all entice movement and unfold through memory. Many of his pieces explore the creation of art, such as his films Erzählung (2007), L’Atelier (2007), Spin/Verso/Contour (2011), Instants (2012) and Essais (2020), as well as his large-scale installation Explosion of Words (2021), which revolves around the oeuvre of London-based poet Stephen Watts. His films have been shown in the US at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Anthology Film Archives, Harvard Film Archive, San Francisco Cinematheque, Pacific Film Archive, Bard College and the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. He has written about the films of visual artists such as Rudy Burckhardt and Klaus Lutz, both of whom lived and worked in New York. Publications on his work include Hannes Schüpbach. Cinema Elements: Films, Paintings, and Performances 1989–2008 (Kunsthalle Basel; Scheidegger & Spiess, 2009); Film as Corporeal Exposition: On Spin/Verso/Contour (with an essay by Maja Naef; Revolver Publishing, 2012); Instants (with Joël-Claude Meffre; Revolver Publishing, 2014) and Explosion of Words (with Stephen Watts; Vienna: Verlag für moderne Kunst, 2021).