- Dóra Maurer born 1937
- Film, 35mm, shown as video, projection, black and white, sound (mono)
- Duration: 12min
- Purchased with funds provided by the Russia and Eastern Europe Acquisitions Committee 2015
Triolets 1981 is a 35mm black and white film with sound transferred to Digibeta. It is twelve minutes long. The description appearing on the screen at the beginning of the film defines Triolets as ‘18 variations for 3 lenses and one voice’. The film’s frame is a collage of horizontally trisected frames in which three views can be seen. Each of these three sections of the image shows a separately recorded one-second-long camera pan shot in the artist’s studio. The camera pans were filmed with a 16 mm film camera equipped with three different types of lenses (wide-angle, normal and telephoto). The resulting footage was divided horizontally into three strips and rearranged into new collaged compositions, each lasting 32 seconds, which were mechanically printed together into a single 35mm film.
The film’s collaged frames systematically juxtapose different focal lengths, pan directions, subjects and moments in time. Dóra Maurer is intermittently visible in a number of shots, including in close-up. In the film’s final variation, pans of Maurer’s face form the centre strip between two pans of mens’ faces. Each of the three shots composited in the frame has a separate audio track assigned to it – a vocal glissando, a continuous slide between two notes, performed by Eszter Póka. The resulting sound for each of the eighteen variations is a different combination of three tracks. These sounds accentuate the movement of the camera. The camera was operated by Béla Ferenczy and the sound engineer was Gábor Antal. Tate’s copy is number four in an edition of five.
The film was produced by the Béla Balázs Studio (BBS). The BBS was a Hungarian state-sponsored organisation that began as a film club in 1959 and was then re-founded in 1961 as a film studio that worked both inside and outside the structure of Socialist state film production. In 1973 the BBS announced a ‘Film Language Series’ and opened its doors for representatives of different art disciplines to investigate the tools of expression in cinema. These decisions turned the studio into a centre for experimentation, with Maurer working under its umbrella alongside many other conceptual artists of the time.
Although the title of the film refers to a type of rigidly structured poem involving the repetition of lines in a prescribed order, Triolets follows no such structure, unfolding more as a puzzle. It is, however, nevertheless characterised by a structured form of repetition typical of Maurer’s practice at the time. Rhythmic movements and tones are intermingled, forming a mosaic of images and sounds, the relations between which are based on a rigid system of simple rules. However, the logic is blurred by the vertiginous visual effect and collaged sound, as a filmed interior is captured from different focal lengths. The artist has described the film as ‘an attempt to expand space producing changing montages of the elements, inducing it automatically by the shifts in time’ (Maurer 2011, p.71).
Time measured by the movement of a photographic lens or a camera is a recurring motif of Maurer’s practice. The artist often analyses its influence on perception. A swinging camera as a device marking the passage of time appears in her film Relative Swingings 1973 (Tate T14285), where the artist also used sound to stress the cyclical character of the movement of a filmed object. Maurer continued to experiment with different correlations between sound and image, notably in Kalah 1980 (C3 Video Archive and Media Art Collection, Budapest).
The visual structure of Triolets makes reference to Maurer’s photographic work in her Drawing with the Camera 1977–9 series (see Parallel Lines, Analyses 1977, Tate T14289) and Tracing Space II 1979 and Tracing Space III 1979 (both Hungarian Museum of Photography, Budapest). In these works, Maurer mounts photographs taken in sequence in a location so that the spatial information provided by each perspective may be compared and combined to form a mental picture of the location.
Maurer, who trained as a graphic artist, initially worked mainly in printmaking (see, for example, Seven Foldings 1975, Tate P77124, and Traces of a Circle 1974, Tate P77125). Since the late 1960s her practice has also incorporated photography and film (see Timing 1973/1980, Tate T14284, and Relative Swingings 1973, Tate T14285). She has been a major figure in the Hungarian art scene since the 1970s, both through her art and her influence as a professor at the Hungarian Fine Arts Academy, where she began teaching in 1990.
Dóra Maurer, Filmek/Films 1973–83, trans. Komárik Vera,Pécs Gallery, Pécs 1983, pp.12–13.
Dóra Maurer (ed.), Dóra Maurer: Traces 1970–1980, Krakow 2011.
Zoltán Prosek (ed.), Maurer Dóra: Folded Time – Film Retrospective, Rómer Flóris Art and History Museum, Gyor 2018, pp.104–7.
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