QUEER HISTORY: Ashley Hans Scheirl

DATE: DeCeMber 8th, 5 pm.

This program features exceptional trans artist and experimental filmmaker Ashley Hans Scheirl (*1956 Salzburg, Austria) as a festival opener to set the mood for cobra spirit and in honor of our queer icons. In the years between 1979 – 1998 Scheirl shot 52 super-8-films – eleven of them will be presented. The chosen films show the artist in their young versions –  we see untroubled, playful and pure dyke-joy, non-binary anticipation and intimacy turned Inwards and Outwards. It is indeed a visual journey from intimate states, hangouts, skin experiments and home dress-ups, to punkish city strolls and architectural confrontations. A flicker of infused symbolic meaning and random silliness. Queer bodies in their most beautiful shape-shifting form!

Scheirl, in their oeuvre, appears as an ever-changing self, not only in different media but in varying genders, roles, and states of play, all involving theatrics in the form of colorful cross-dressing, sexualized motifs, and bended appropriations. The work they did in the 1990s as part of London’s underground lesbian-dyke scene contributed to the development of a conceptual art practice via techniques of experimental cinema, painting, sculpture, actions in public space, performance and music, with all genres treated as equal and brought together to function on the model of a lesbian, queer sexuality. This transitioning from one fine arts category to another was accompanied during these years, when the artist was moving between London, Vienna, and New York, whilst also transitioning their body by the injection of testosterone. The use of multiple artist names throughout the years also reflects the constant becoming, which is never really static – an experience common to queer identity.

However, for Scheirl, super 8 has been one of their favorite artistic tools since the very beginning of their filmmaking career; the films they made in collaboration with Ursula Pürrer show a strong commitment to the punk movement as most films are musically supported by 80’s queercore music (fun!). The spirit of a hedonistic subculture is particularly present in the closing film of this program Summer of 1995, which captures the drag king fever that was raging in London at the time, taking us on a trip with Scheirl’s lovers and friends from the international scene of queer and transgender artists.

ANNA UND MARIA MARKIEREN MUTTERMALE (ANNA AND MARIA MARK BIRTHMARKS) – Ashley Hans Scheirl, Ursula Pürrer, 1984, 1’37”, no dialogue

Bodies as media: A red marker determines points of identification on naked skin, before things really take off in the mixed media landscape of Pürrer/Scheirl. The whirring of a Super-8 projector and a monitor serve as backdrop for the performance of the Super or Uber-Mother (Sub-Mother) as priestess, punk goddess, dancer.

PISS IN ROSA (PISS IN PINK) – Ashley Hans Scheirl, Ursula Pürrer, 1984, 1’37”, no dialogue

From the topographic vulvic landscape a stream issues forth. How else but pissing in standing! Powerful and colorful, and as always: naked and with full-throated laughter.

IM GARTEN DER GELBEN G. (IN THE GARDEN OF THE YELLOW G.) – Ashley Hans Scheirl, Ursula Pürrer, 1985, 8’36”, no dialogue

In the Garden of yellow G. there is no impulse control: Peonies are gambled and won, bitten off, torn, tulips and orchids teeter and fall. Making fun, being playful, filmed and set to sound; and the jagged trickle begins to find its way.

METALL UND BLUMEN (METAL AND FLOWERS) – Ashley Hans Scheirl, Ursula Pürrer, 1984, 1’54”, no dialogue

On a metal cot, stretched out, tormented. Test signal at head/end; fucked by flowers. Buried by flowers, undead in lust. Stretched out, tormented: filmed.

OSTERN 84 (EASTER 84) – Ashley Hans Scheirl, Ursula Pürrer, 1984, 6’08”, no dialogue

Pürrer and Scheirl as naughty Easter bunnies create their own visual rhyme on Easter: Catholic excess and Christ kitsch become drowned out by undulating sounds and shimmering foil. Jesus pin-up and corpse of Christ re-enactment included.

SARDINE – Ashley Hans Scheirl, Ursula Pürrer, 1984, 2’14”, no dialogue

The titular fish as canned food is only one of innumerable images worked into a wild ride of edits. The associations span a broad spectrum, from jiggling breasts to Japanese visages of horror – as so often, material filmed off the television plays a decisive role. „One of our methods was ‚super-projection’: We filmed the action with b/w Super-8 in front of the black background and projected the figures with a moving Super-8 projector onto a projected slide depicting a model scenery. These Low Tech cameras have an inherent aesthetics, the abstraction is always already there …. I get a lot out of the grain and I find the mixture of film and video very exciting. If you record on video, then film from the monitor surrounded by a model and transfer it back to video, this particular ‚glow’ of video comes out really nicely.”

ROTE SCHNITTE UND DIE LUFT DAZWISCHEN (RED CUTS AND THE AIR IN BETWEEN) – Ashley Hans Scheirl, Ursula Pürrer, 1985, 3’32”, no dialogue

An etude in red condenses the visual vocabulary of Pürrer and Scheirl into a form of grammar. Close-ups of a grimacing face with rolling eyes and iconic make-up (Siouxie and the Banhees) are cut at high velocity with bodies assuming poses approximating stop-motion and portraits of plants. Sound structures the tempo which is repeatedly whipped up into a frenzy by second-long sequences. The air between is tight.

HOCHHAUS UND REIßVERSCHLUSS (SKYSCRAPPER AND ZIPPER)– Ashley Hans Scheirl, Ursula Pürrer, 1984, 1’01”, no dialogue

A brief study of the upward camera pan: How nimbly the camera is moved, from the basement to the apex and into the beyond of a cloud. The gaze however gets caught on her: the Statue of Liberty, Mistress of Towers and Rings.

NACHT-PLAKAT-U-BAHN (NIGHT-POSTER-SUBWAY)- Ashley Hans Scheirl, Ursula Pürrer, 1984, 2’56”, no dialogue

Lesbian love in Danube country: A bleak Vienna of the 1980s is seen through the lens of two people with an uncompromised perspective on its slow crawl toward modernity: Skyscrapers, subways, Tempo Tempo, neon signs and heavy metal. Shot of camera minus counter-shot. 

SEX AND CRIME – Ashley Hans Scheirl, Ursula Pürrer, 1984, 1’43”, no dialogue

True Crime Story XY – solved! Inspired by a TV fragment from a German true crime series that is eventually shown, we observe the dance of a fighter, Wonder Woman in the living room, menacing looks and lewd gestures.

WALD UND WIESENFILM (FOREST AND MEADOW FILM) – Ashley Hans Scheirl, Ursula Pürrer, 1985, 3’28”, no dialogue

Naked bodies, exposed vulvas. Two queer protagonists explore which positions assumed in forest and meadow harmonize with the nature of shooting film. The result of the research: Everything, everything is suited to sexual meaning: Hurrah! 

SUMMER OF 95 – Ashley Hans Scheirl, Jason Elvis Parker, 1995, 13′, no dialogue

An eventful summer: London in dragking fever! The “dustydaddy dandydyke d@d@s” are meeting at the Dandy Dust Factory. Hans and Svar are driving to Scotland. Then Hans travels to California and is fotographed by Cathy. They create a new persona: “the dirty old man” with a new grey moustache from the movie shop. On his return Hans finds Jason with chickenpox. This doen’t stop Jason and Svar from performing the “T”-ceremonies.


Program length: 50 min

Language: The films have no dialogue. The opening will be in german spoken language.

Content Notes: Nakedness, genitals, pissing, stroboscopic effects, loud noise and sound, found footage of crime scenes

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