Humanity has always been caught between the absurdity of the world and a desire for meaningful action. People strive to create, to conceive, to build, to attain greater heights. In the everlasting search for novelty, however, humans are in a permanent cycle of construction and deconstruction. Nothing lasts forever, very little survives even for a few generations (and such things are referred to as “timeless”). Most progress is exposed soon enough as regress, as debacle, as an opening for destruction. Modern structures, monuments, works of art—and, in the end, humanity itself—declines, disappears, is destroyed. Falls to ruins.
Freely associating with the concept of ruins, land- and cityscapes in and around Vienna are the setting for Progress, with all the cracks and wounds of time. Under the rubrik Ruinen des Fortschritts (Ruins of Progress), film material drawn from the private archive of filmmaker Melanie Hollaus and the Vienna state and city archives is combined with new material from the year 2021 that serves as commentary and criticism.
The results are surprising and contradictory, showing the cycle of progress and decay over the second half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st. Following an idyllic scene from the Vienna International Garden Show in 1964, the landfill that lies buried beneath it is suddenly exposed. Construction is followed by demolition. Humans build; humans tear down.
The music of RUINEN builds on the solo work of French free improvisation icon Michel Doneda. Composer Daniel Riegler views the saxophonist’s microdynamic acoustic processes through the magnifying glass of his instrumental ensemble Studio Dan: Doneda’s individual sound is the nucleus, the center of the action; an ensemble of 14 instrumentalists distributed throughout the performance space serves as amplifier, echo chamber and modulator. The music moves between nearly static, concrete situations and fragile, broken textures. Multi-track mixing of the event lends the experience acoustic three-dimensionality and layers of depth.
The dramaturgy and montage of RUINEN draws from this arrangement of free improvisation at the center, echoed and elaborated at the periphery. Each musical chapter is matched to a central visual leitmotiv—in the form of an urban space or stretch of country—out of which thematically associated sequences of images are developed.
RUINEN/ RUINS short film, 39 minutes, with the music of the Viennese composer Daniel Riegler
Director, Editor: Melanie Hollaus; Music composed by Daniel Riegler; Ensemble Studio DAN, Soloist: Michel Doneda; Cinematographers: Christoph Lammerhuber, Melanie Hollaus