Hans Richter and the Transatlantic Exchange of Film Culture

Prof. Dr. Yvonne Zimmermann, Universität Marburg

Forschungsprojekt

The project explores Hans Richter’s role in the transatlantic exchange of art cinema and avant-garde film culture between Europe and the United States in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The inquiry into Richter’s work examines his exile in Switzerland (1937–1941) – a blind spot in the otherwise intensively researched film oeuvre of one of the most renowned avant-garde artists – and his 1941 emigration to New York. The exchange of film culture between Western Europe and the United States is studied as an entangled history of transforming, adapting, and preserving objects, practice, and knowledge in the context of Richter’s exile and emigration.

For the first time in Richter studies, the project links archival research and film analysis from both sides of the Atlantic to excavate aesthetic and political transformations and continuities in Richter’s transnational career and to bring to light the cross-cultural exchange of film culture that connects the European interwar avant-garde and the US post-war experimental film movement. The project covers neglected aspects in Richter’s work that are both formative for and informative of film culture at that time; aspects such Richter’s decisive role in transnational documentary theory and practice and his impact as a historian of the interwar avant-garde movement whose retrospective accounts have become standard textbook fare and gone largely unquestioned to date.

The project closes a major gap in the oeuvre of an internationally acclaimed representative of modern art. It addresses a wide range of central fields in cinema and media studies (networks of film culture, intersections of avant-garde, documentary, and sponsored film, essay film, exile and transnational cinema, history, cinema and memory). With its emphasis on artistic and cultural exchange, the project inserts itself into the larger field of cultural studies and has implications for aesthetics and art history.