The visual arts have long escaped the refuge of galleries and museums. Long ago the classical margins of painting and sculpture have been ruptured. The new generation has long conquered its own platforms and new mediums. The productions fan out across a wide formal range. No aesthetic dominant can be determined. Techniques of deformation, abstraction and destruction surface, as do allegories on production and practice. Free narration stands next to political documentation, the constructivist character-fantasy next to the crossover project. Everything seems possible in the confluence of traditions and experiments of the sixties. Dada-irony and dilettante-heroism blossom. Media spectacles and handmade films by painters set signs into dead end reality. For more than ten years an avantgarde has lived far away from the museum temples and cinema palaces. Through cineastic projections it has installed an esoteric system of seeing that will be talked about in years to come.
Michael Brynntrup is inarguably one of the fixed stars in this system. His extreme, and at times, narcissistic first-person perspective is as much a tragic blueprint as it is self-enlightenment. A steadily recurring theme in his short films on Super8 and 16mm material is Death - dealt with as a central leitmotif but fractured into very different variations and interpretations. In a pool of memory and reflection fragments Brynntrup dismantles childhood traumas, and real life (family) history in its perpetual sprawl of power, discipline, conditioning, force and violence. In his Death Dance series Brynntrup swirls up 'Deutsch-Sein' and identity, the potential poisoning of the genes and social infidelity, religion, homosexuality, and sumptuously presented moments of ephemerality. This piece flirts with provocation but -and this is typical for our decade- thinks in reminiscences.
Brynntrup developes a production of chaos that disturbs the balance of filmic consent. With a light-hearted sense of omnipotence he mixes plush drama and media critique, Wagner bombast and a resistance to the imperative of form. A truely German form of conscious, poetic catastrophy. His »JESUSFILM« (1985/86), »DIE BOTSCHAFT« (1989) or »MODERN, DAS« (1991) play with the visual aesthetics of painting from the Renaissance to 19th century eclecticism. The atmosphere of other films recall Derek Jarman and Peter Greenaway, and formally, Louis Bunuel, René Clair and Kurt Schwitters. In a juxtaposition and merging of different layers of expression, all of Brynntrup's films are, at the same time, confession-like diaries and historic physiognomies. On the one hand they are as straightforward as a wanted poster, but lie nonetheless in the shadows of ambiguity.
With irony and a refreshing lack of earnestness Brynntrup undermines both additive structures and paraphrases on patterns in art history. If this corrective were missing, his interest in the ego would undoubtedly turn into pure selfcontemplation. In »NARCISSUS AND ECHO« (1989), which was awarded the 'Preis der Deutschen Filmkritik' for experimental film a year later, Brynntrup dedicates himself precisely to this walk on the razor's edge. Apart from the structural correspondences and contemplations, the film aims at an inquiry into the common allegory of the Naked Truth (in the character Narcissus). This aspect of the 'nuda veritas' is categorically tangent to Brynntrup's existance - namely that of a gay, Catholic-raised experimental filmmaker. Style and working method subliminally mark his part in the social role play and his obsession to free himself from cliches and compulsive destiny in time and ephemerality. The reference to death nears itself to the idea of open and free horizons.
Brynntrup has already coded his films »DER ELEFANT AUS ELFENBEIN, TOTENTANZ 1-3« (1988) with the dialectical challenge of the here and now, the before and after, the freezing of the moment, the Christian hope for salvation, 'Vanitas and Memento mori'. "The Death Dances don't deal with death, it's life that counts." and "Hereby the author expressedly and irrevocably declares that he has already pronounced his opposition to nuclear death and the death penalty on other occasions." Brynntrup's films neither protest nor do they abort a critical view on human civilization. The avoidance of one-dimensionality leaves the films open to different levels of meaning that overlap each other as they circle around death 'and' eros. They seem to touch and enliven facets of social reality. Example: AIDS.
The calling of attention to the diffusion of the subject, with its psychological cracks and social deregulations, by being his own example, gives Brynntrup's films intellectual frameworks of contradiction. The voluptuosly presented, glamorous rituals and colorful symbols, as well as Brynntrup's opera-like celebration of artificial worlds filled with brocade and light, give some of his films a touch of 'Les fins des siecles'. Visconti, Fellini and Pasolini would have liked that. Because Brynntrup transforms the screen into an autobiographical net on the one hand, and into the sail of a dreamboat on the other, there is more to his filmic mazes than the quality of diversion common to the cinema.
Brynntrup's time-structures of image and film gain considerable strength from the dialectics of visual arts and moving images/film. Serial copy art experiments undergo film animation, the single animation images are arranged into large format panels.
Drawings and collages determine the perception of speed and the live character of the compilation films »TABU I-IV« (1989) and the »STATIK DER ESELSBRÜCKEN« (1990). The sequence of single cadres and image groupings often has a drawing-like quality. A drawing hand -inserted as a signature- seals the conceptual hand craft. The film is produced in front of the spectator's eye. Self-produced documentary archive material characterizes the system of these films. Decorations, 'relics', photographs and video prints of existing movies are processed for visual-artistic pieces. The imagery's suspense is created through a nomadic principle triggering off formal chain reactions out of which (film) reality develops.
The questions 'does life create movies' and 'are concepts of life nothing more than movie remakes' have not been decided in Brynntrup's case. 'Lebende Bilder - still lives.'
(Christoph Tannert, Ordnungen formaler Ausnahmezustände, translated by Constance Hanna, printed in: Lebende Bilder - still lives, catalogue on the occasion of the Cineprobe Film Exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art, New York - Berlin, April 1992)