PETER LIECHTI (1951-2014)
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SIGNER'S SUITCASE – On the Way with the Artist Roman Signer (1996, Documentary/Essay, 16mm 3:4. 35mm 16:9 Dolby Mono. HDCAM-SR. DigiBeta. DVD. , 82 & 52(TV)')
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ON THE ROAD WITH ROMAN SIGNER by Peter Liechti
Art critics have often characterised Roman Signer as a «maximalist of modesty». He works with the very simplest of props, that don't claim to have any artistic (but certainly aesthetic) worth, and are used in a purely functional manner. In his performances we i can experience how Roman Signer, or rather his constructions and landscapes, are exposed to elemental natural and physical forces. He specifically puts them to use and includes them in the creative process thus giving his 'sculpture' shape. After a long preparatory period full of suspense the real event is like a stroke of lightning great expectation before and then an even greater longing afterwards for 'it' to happen again…
Roman Signer has never conformed to any kind of trend, he has never simply followed current ideas. His personal way of life and his work are conspicuously unfashionable, albeit absolutely modern.
His own timelessness is an expression of his independence and gives a clearer more undistorted view of the prevailing signs of the times.
In the seemingly simple arrangements of his 'performances' Roman Signer serves only as the trigger nature and time do the rest... Which also means: Roman Signer's work is mainly creating shows and very often films too. For the past 15 years he has documented his performances himself in short super 8 films. Impressively simple short films full of fun and poetry, often no longer than 30 seconds. Using our own cinematic resources we aimed to take the essence of those short films and transfer them into a geographical/cultural context, that extends beyond the limits of the art sphere. Beside this his performances are particularly engaging visual events that have a certain parablelike approach to human destiny and certain natural phenomena. His performances are never just a show to be seen but also make us see in a deeper sense. What primarily seems to be a demonstration of energy takes on a highly meditative character when further contemplated: actually a continual reminder of transience.
As a film maker I saw my task in the preservation of work that so resolutely resists commercial evaluation (also on the art market… ) or at least in capturing it photographically, so that in some way it would endure.
The sensuality and simple clarity on the one hand as well as this unimpeachable, almost religious being on the other were the challenge of filming Roman Signer's work On the cinematic journey we made together Roman Signer in a way dictated the route; the film improvises as we proceed on our way.

«I have some ideas, but to do the kind of job I do is something you cannot plan documenting the vulcanic eruptions, you don't have a readymade script. The nature itself makes its script and you try to follow it. So you are continously fighting for the material and you don't know, how the story is going to end.» Villi Knudsen, documentary film maker, Reykjavik

«It's like a big house with a mysterious room, that I would like to call the explosion chamber.»
«You can sometimes get a bit nearer, sometimes pass close by the center, but when you are at the center, you bum in the deadly chamber.» Roman Signer

«I show as much of the surroundings as is needed, for people to imagine the center.»
«I don't want to prove or verify anything, I want to touch something.» Peter Liechti

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