The Invisible Cinema

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    The Invisible Cinema was an experimental movie theater designed by an experimental filmmaker. Devised by the Austrian avantgardist Peter Kubelka, it served as the first place of exhibition for the Anthology Film Archives in New York. Apart from the screen (and some exit signs and aisle lights installed for safety reasons), the auditorium was completely kept in black. Its partitioned, high-winged seats had blinders at the sides and a small hood-like top. The rows were arranged stadium-like and the viewers had to follow a number of strict be-havioral rules. This unusual 90-seat auditorium only existed from 1970 to 1974, but its ideas had an afterlife in other venues such as the Austrian Film Museum.

    Discussing the Invisible Cinema as a specific type of movie theater, the essay has two goals. First, it describes what the cinema looked like, what the aims of its specific interior design were, and what rules of conduct existed for the audience. Second, it tries to reconstruct in a phenomenological reception study the viewing experience this specific cinema may have enabled for its historical audience. Described by Peter Kubelka as a “viewing machine,” the Invisible Cinema apparently caused sensations of floating, drowsiness, and strong absorption among its viewers, but it also gave an unexpected weight to the collectivity of the audience.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationExposing the Film Apparatus
    Subtitle of host publicationThe Film Archive as Research Laboratory
    EditorsGiovanna Fossati, Annie van den Oever
    Place of PublicationAmsterdam
    PublisherAmsterdam University Press
    ISBN (Print)978-90-8964-718-4
    Publication statusPublished - Mar-2016


    • invisible cinema
    • cinema studies
    • audience
    • phenomenology
    • avantgarde

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