Figures of Absence: The Films of Dore O.

When and Where

Monday, October 09, 2023 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Innis Town Hall
Innis College
2 Sussex Avenue, Toronto, ON M5S 1J5


Masha Matzke, Deutsche Kinemathek


Introduced by Stephen Broomer (filmmaker film preservationist and historian, AD HOC) and Masha Matzke (film restorer, scholar, and curator at Deutsche Kinemathek, Berlin).

This special program is dedicated to one of Dore O.’s signature techniques: 16mm front and rear projections captured through meticulous in-camera editing and matting. Bodies interacting with projections on parchment paper, frosted glass, or moving fabric, fractured images of sculptural double 16mm projections ― Dore O.’s formal rigor and ingenuity led her to create a singular oeuvre of avant-garde films. The program traces her earliest use of projected imagery as part of her exploration of notions such as disparate temporalities and polyvisuality fused to an aquatic vision that well carried over to her later work in the 1990s. Water and the rolling waves permeate the flow of movement in KALDALON, a film accompanied by Anthony Moore's exceptionally beautiful avant-garde soundtrack. Gradually moving, floating forward, retracing scenes that shatter, blend, and collapse into one another, that dissolve boundaries, oppositions, and hierarchies (BLONDE BARBAREI), one image always becomes another in a state of constant “becomingness,” as Maya Deren once defined the distinctive time felt and expressed by women. Multilayered imagery, ghostly flickering, and intricate patterns of repetition and variation build up to sensorial experiences evocative of the play of memory and introspection. Particular ways of experiencing the world—in all its impermanence but also transformativeness, not least through the impact of art (XOANON)—find poetic expression through Dore O.'s relentless concentration on the medium's capacity for abstraction and sensual address.


KALDALON (1971, 45 min, 16mm-to-DCP)
“A non-euclidean, ambiguously mangled and transfigured adventure film.” –Dore O.

BLONDE BARBAREI (1972, 25 min, 16mm-to-DCP)
“A film for the liberation of sensuality, a film against the hospitalism of society.” –Dore O.

XOANON (1994, 11 min, 16mm)
“The sand painter blows things into pictures, shadows gather and dissolve.” –Dore O.

TRT: 81 mins.

On the occasion of the publication of Figures of Absence. The Films of Dore O. Women’s Experimental Cinema (StrzeleckiBooks; ed. Masha Matzke), the first monograph focusing on the film practice of the German artist Dore O., a three-day event honours the work and legacy of one of Germany’s most prolific and internationally renowned ― yet overlooked ― experimental filmmakers. The program offers the rare chance to see the recently restored films by Dore O., many of which haven’t been accessible for a long time. Presented by TIFF Cinematheque, Goethe-Institut, and AD HOC.

October 9, 7PM, AD HOC film screening at Innis Town Hall
October 10, 12:30PM, Goethe Institut Book Launch & Panel
October 11, 7PM, Wavelength Series film screening at TIFF


In the 1960s, the artist Dore O. (1946–2022) became one of the first and few women in Germany to turn to experimental film in such a consistent and self-determined way. As the only female co-founder of the Hamburg Film-Coop, she was actively involved in exploring new forms of cinema alongside her then-husband Werner Nekes while developing her own “signature, her own tone, her own film method” (Harun Farocki). Radically following her own path, she laid the groundwork for a later generation of mainly female artists by cultivating personal filmmaking in a strong intersection with medium-specific experimentation. Defying highly politicised currents and prevailing theories both structural and feminist, this refusal rendered her work hard to categorise, ultimately pushing it to the margins. But Dore O. carried on for 35 years, meticulously crafting a sensuous and hypnotic flow of multilayered images and radical soundscapes. Dore O. transformed painterly and musical concepts into a distinctly cinematic language, using complex in-camera editing and rephotographing techniques to “create new architectures of old forms” (Dore O.). Going beyond the strictly personal or formalistic, her work’s highly enigmatic and elusive poetics convey new modes of introspection, states of consciousness, and vaguely evoked stories from inside the layers of celluloid film.


A long-overdue reappraisal of Dore O.’s avant-garde film practice, the new publication Figures of Absence (StrzeleckiBooks) exposes the formal rigour and inventiveness, as well as the cultural connotations, of a cinematic vision that significantly contributed to an international continuum of radical film art. Figures of Absence features previously unpublished archival material, rare interviews with Dore O., extensive image material, and new contributions from international scholars and experts on women’s experimental cinema from Europe and North America. Ultimately, the authors’ revisionist accounts of Dore O.’s films spark a debate on still underrepresented areas of women’s experimental cinema.

The book will be available at the TIFF Book Shop, and online.

AD HOC aims to rethink what an experience of cinema can be. We seek to reposition historical landmarks and buried treasures within the on-going tradition of experimental and other non- commercial modes of filmmaking, drawing on work from Toronto, throughout Canada, and internationally. Within these parameters, we aspire to diversity in programming, as well as to multimedia and interdisciplinary screening events that bring together varied communities.

AD HOC = Stephen Broomer, Madi Piller, Jim Shedden, Tess Takahashi, Bart Testa.

Contact Information


Cinema Studies Institute, Innis College