Peter Tscherkassky was born in Vienna in 1958. From 1977 to 1979 he studied journalism and political science at the University of Vienna. In 1978, a series of lectures by P. Adams Sitney at the Austrian Film Museum triggered his enthusiasm for the genre of avant-garde film. In 1979 Tscherkassky began studying philosophy, which he completed in 1986 at the University of Vienna with his PhD in philosophy. During this time Tscherkassky lived for some time in Berlin, where he began filming himself and met the Austrian avant-garde filmmakers Lisl Ponger, Dietmar Brehm and Ernst Schmidt Jr. in 1981. Tscherkassky is a founding member of the "Austrian Filmmakers Cooperative", which he left in 1993, and the "UFVA - Unabhängiger Film & Video Austria". Since 1984 he has also been active as a curator, devoting himself especially to the mediation of Austrian avant-garde filmmaking. Tscherkassky has held teaching positions at the University of Artistic and Industrial Design in Linz and at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. In 1993 and 1994 he was artistic director of the Diagonale, the Austrian film festival in Graz.
Tscherkassky's films have received great international attention. In 2005, he showed one of his films as a world premiere at the 58th Cannes International Film Festival. In 2001, he presented a new film work at the 74th Cannes International Film Festival. He received numerous awards, including the Orizzonti Short Film Award at the 67th Venice Film Festival in 2010. In 2012, he published "Film Unframed. A History of Austrian Avant-Garde Cinema," the first comprehensive reference work on the history of the Austrian film avant-garde. Peter Tscherkassky lives and works in Vienna.
Characteristic of Tscherkassky’s artistic oeuvre is his production of films without a camera. Instead, he works with found film material, so-called “found footage.” He draws his material from Hollywood productions, private amateur films, and also the early days of the cinema, for example, material from the Lumière brothers. In the darkroom, Tscherkassky arranges each individual cadre of the filmstrip. He uses contact copies to manipulate the film material, isolating spatial views, actors, and objects in an elaborate exposure technique using flashlights and laser pointers. He merges the fragments together into new narratives. This manual process—which the artist has dubbed “manufraktur”—creates traces such as scratches and blurs, thus allowing the film material itself to step forward. On the one hand, Tscherkassky’s work makes the physical foundation of the cinematographic space of illusion tangible, dismantling film from a critical perspective, while on the other hand, it appears as a celebration of the analogue material and its specific possibilities in an era of primarily digital image production. Tscherkassky’s examinations of cinema as view- and power apparatus, carried out in dialogue with psychoanalytical theory, occur in the field of reflexive work about the libidinous relationship between camera, screen, and beholder. In his most recent cinematic work, in particular, it is possible to sense a yearning for the film machine’s power to overwhelm. In light of Tscherkassky’s consistent cinematic work on the medium itself, one can speak of an oeuvre composed of “meta films.”read more read less