‘Portraits in Motion‘ at the Festival of Live Art starts with a show-and tell about flip book. What is a flip book? Berlin-based Volker Gerling demonstrated using his prized Nikon F3: Choose a subject, hold the shutter for precisely 12 seconds, and take 36 pictures. Turning his camera to us to demonstrate, noisy click-click of the three frames per second startled us out of our considered poses, recording portraits that exist in a unique state between photography and film. The black and white pictures are then printed in thick stock cards, and bound together by hand.
Volker finished his art degree and decided he wanted to explore this unique art form, recording said portraits in motion, and inviting people to visit his travelling gallery. Starting more than 15 years ago, every summer he walks everywhere. From Berlin to Basel, and all around Germany. Yes, hundreds of kilometers carrying flipbooks, camping gear, and no money – he relies entirely on donations.
Volker’s performance consists of holding a series of flip books under a video camera, flicking through each three times, with the image enlarged in a screen behind him. Most of his subjects are people, but he also captures buildings and landscapes – each one carefully considered, as he takes usually no more than a roll of film a week in his travels. He looks for people and places with stories he can share. The words are carefully considered, and have a poetry to them too. We meet through portraits an old widower who invites him to a cottage and watch television, a young couple in a campsite who fell in love working in a fish stall, a striking young woman in a bar who bares her top in the space of the dozen seconds.
As much as the pictures themselves, the performance is about the artist who made these books his life passion. It is enchanting, funny and touching. At the end of his storytelling, we were all invited to come on stage and flick through the books ourselves. My German +1s welcomed the opportunity to chat with Volker, and most of us left buying a copy of a few of the handmade books he brought as extras. There was no pressure to do so, but it felt like a memento, a little piece of these miniature stories we could bring back home with us and relive. Highly recommended.
Christian G. is an international man of mystery; lover of books, cats and the performing arts; moonlighting as a finance professional by day.
Disclosure: The Plus Ones were invited guests of TS Publicity.
Photo credit: TheatreWorks.