Paul Sharits

Year of birth, place
1943, Denver/Colorado, United States
Year of death, place
1993, Buffalo/New York, United States
Role at the ZKM
in the collection

Paul Sharits is one of the main protagonists of structuralist film, and together with Tony Conrad one of the inventors of the »flicker« genre. Trained in painting and visual design, he completed his first color flicker film in 1966: Ray Gun Virus was composed of a series of repeating monochromatically colored and black-and-white individual images. These series produce a constant flickering which varies rhythmically, coloristically, and in intensity.

Sharits negates filmic illusion, and places the focus on the function and materiality of film, as well as on the viewers’ subjective perception. In N:O:T:H:I:N:G [1968] or T,O,U,C,H,I,N,G [1968] he replaced the earlier »color fields« with associative images, and thereby extended the reduced »flicker film« concept. Increasingly the sound track also developed into an equally important, rhythmic and independent element within his films. Later works focus more strongly on the physical materiality of the film strip, in as much as it is worked over, scratched, and damaged. In 3rd Degree [1982] Sharits associated the fragility of filmic material with the vulnerability of the human body.

The Frozen Film Frames [1960s-70s] are serial arrangements of film strips, which- like the sketchy Scores - visualize film's overall structure. With the Locational Film Pieces [beginning in 1971, among them Epileptic Seizure Comparison of 1976], Sharits shifted from the context of a frontally oriented movie theatre into the gallery space, and extended reception possibilities via its open structure and the interactive play between various synchronicities. Sharits has documented filmic thinking not just in films and film installations, but also in excellent theoretical writings. His installations with multiple projections have not just extended filmic time and space, but rather pictorial space in a general sense, including that of painting. As a member of the Fluxus movement in New York, he also produced objects and performances of a profound expressiveness.

Within a non-hierarchical juxtaposition, Sharits investigated the most varied means of representation, extending from film to painting. At the beginning of the 1980s, abstract but also expressionistic image backgrounds with figurative elements were produced. Frequently he took up motifs or ideas again, moved them from one medium into the next, and made thinking’s circulating process itself into a focus of attention. Paul Sharits taught from 1973 until his death in 1993 in the Department of Media Study at SUNY, Buffalo.