RECONNAISSANCE
2012 HD / 3D 5 Minutes Silent Colour 25f/s 16:9 Edition 5+2

VERTIGO RUSH

The term “reconnaissance” generally means an inspection or exploration - that which in the military field can be categorized as “intelligence.” Such connotations also inevitably arise with Johann Lurf’s RECONNAISSANCE; after all, the film is laid out as an intensely perceptive exploration of an area. In silent shots, Lurf offers a clip-like depiction of the Morris Reservoir near the Californian city of Azusa - a huge reservoir, which long served as a testing site for torpedoes , or rather, underwater warfare. RECONNAISSANCE targets details of the terrain in a seemingly motionless way, to unfold a subtle play with light and movement within this “framing.” First is a stone wall on which the incidence of light begins to oscillate almost imperceptibly. Then come parts of the dam, ramp-like concrete colossi, obstructed sections of road, underground shafts; and also medium shots of the surroundings - all sublimely alienated. One alienating effect is the partially abrupt, and partially barely perceptible change of light. The other, much more ghostly, is the sliding movement of individual areas of the landscape or the building. The background of a building thus begins to “wander,” the stone wall “framed” by the dam facility to escape from its frame. Reconnaissance, that is, shedding light on the obscure-monstrous facility, thus always also attempts to include its opposite - as though the independent existence of this functional military building cannot be simply abandoned or exorcised. Or, simply, it can be photographed only at the price of granting the bizarre building fragments their own dynamics, emanating from themselves: which gives the act of reconnaissance a highly remarkable visual-dialectical twist.
Christian Höller (translation: Lisa Rosenblatt)

„Reconnaissance“ meint gemeinhin Naherkundung, auch Auskundschaftung – das, was im militärischen Bereich der „Aufklärung“ zuzuordnen ist. Derlei Konnotation stellt sich auch bei Johann Lurfs RECONNAISSANCE unweigerlich ein, ist der Film doch als wahrnehmungsintensive Gebietserkundung angelegt. In tonlosen Einstellungen bildet er ausschnitthaft das Morris Reservoir nahe der kalifornischen Stadt Azusa ab – ein riesiger Stausee, der lange Zeit als Testanlage für Torpedos bzw. die Unterwasserkriegsführung diente. RECONNAISSANCE nimmt Details des Geländes scheint’s unbewegt in Visier, um innerhalb dieses „Framings“ ein subtiles Spiel mit Licht und Bewegung zu entfachen. Erst ist es eine Gesteinswand, auf welcher der Lichteinfall fast unmerklich zu changieren anfängt. Dann folgen Teile des Staudammes, rampenartige Betonkolosse, verbaute Straßenabschnitte, unterirdische Schachtanlagen sowie Halbtotalen der Umgebung – allesamt sublim verfremdet. Der eine Verfremdungseffekt liegt im teils abrupten, teils fast nicht wahrnehmbaren Wechsel der Lichtverhältnisse. Der andere, weitaus gespenstischere, in der gleitenden Bewegung einzelner Landschafts- oder Bauteile. So beginnt einmal der Hintergrund eines Gebäudes zu „wandern“, einmal die von der Dammanlage „eingerahmte“ Steinwand gleichsam aus ihrem Rahmen zu fliehen. Aufklärung, sprich Licht in die obskur-monströse Anlage zu bringen, versucht so auch immer wieder ihr Gegenteil mit einzubeziehen – als lasse sich das Eigenleben dieses militärischen Zweckbaus nicht einfach stilllegen oder bannen. Oder eben nur um den Preis ablichten, dass den bizarren Baufragmenten ihre eigene, aus sich heraus wirkende Dynamik zugestanden wird. Was dem Akt der Auskundschaftung einen höchst bemerkenswerten visuell-dialektischen Dreh gibt.
Christian Höller

In his first film made outside of his native Austria, Johann Lurf spent several months documenting the Morris Reservoir near Azusa, California, which functioned for decades as a military torpedo-testing site. Now decommissioned, and rife with resulting infrastructural oddities, the oft-documented site is here transformed through subtle movements by Lurf’s sly investment in visual perception play. The world is anything but static...
Andréa Picard, Toronto International Film Festival 2012

Johann Lurf has spent several months documenting Morris Reservoir near Asuza, California, which functioned for decades as a military torpedo testing site and water source. Torpedos were fired into the water at different angles, using a movable ramp structure. Now that the site has been decommissioned, all that remains are infrastructural oddities. Lurf's intention has been to produce a video study of the site's immediate context and its place in the larger conversation of L.A. civil engineering. Several different shots of the dam and its surrounding topography play in sequence, each having a precise focus and a subtle movement, mimicking visual perception.
Anthony Carfello, MAK Center for Arts and Architecture LA

Wavelengths shorts programs end in style with a true mindbender. Lurf, a notable member of the seemingly inexhaustible posse of Viennese a-g talent, has made what looks to be a rather straightforward film-document of an out-of-the-way bit of civil engineering. The Morris Reservoir, near Asuza, CA, has the grand appearance of any number of North America’s massive dams, and Lurf is correct to recognize that their stolid majesty counts for something cinematically, not only as a kind of shortcut to the formalist-sublime, but because the very idea (at least in the U.S.) of marshaling public resources for the greater good has somehow become anathema to so many. But wait . . . Something about this film isn’t right. It’s been a long night. Are my eyes tired? What gives? It’s best that I tell you as little as possible about Reconnaissance ahead of time, but you are in for a bit of dislocation when your reference points start coming unmoored. Sorry, but I gotta say it. Dam.
Michael Sicinski, TIFF 2012. Wavelenghths Preview on mubi.com September 7th 2012

In his meditative exploration of the Morris Reservoir is Aszura, California, created during a residency at the MAK Center for Arts and Architecture in L.A., Austrian artist Johann Lurf uses a nearly imperceptible moving camera to play with our visual perceptions and reveal the architecture of space. The site itself was once used for testing torpedoes, and Lurf’s film serves to present both the current state of the dam at night, as well as explore the scars left on the site from its military history. Initially static shots of the manmade structure and the ragged topography of the surrounding landscape transform as the camera’s subtle movements reveal the dimension of the space, forcing the eye to acknowledge the depth of the monumental structures and land masses. The subtle, inquisitive dynamism of Reconnaissance makes for a fitting conclusion to a programme which consistently challenges the concept of fixed perceptions and an immutable world.
Andrea Whyte in Cinema Scope Online, TIFF 2012

A portrait of the imposing gravity dam of the Morris Reservoir near Azusa, California. Lurf captures the details of the infrastructure marvel with a quiet, persistent camera, subtly framing the facility in ways that render it as somewhere between a scale replica and reality. Ominous perceptual shifts resonate with the reservoir’s history as a bulwark against the 1938 Los Angeles Flood and a testing site for numerous torpedoes and ballistic missiles through most of the Cold War.
Ann Arbour Film Festival, March 2013

In his first film produced outside of his native Austria, Johann Lurf uses static shots to document a closed Californian Army base that once served as a military testing range. The uneasy silence of the footage taken using a long-distance lens and the distance maintained in to the compounds filmed highly augment the impression of latent secrets.
New Horizons International Film Festival, July 2013

The latest work by Johann Lurf, Reconnaissance (2012), documents the Morris Reservoir in California, which functioned for decades as a military torpedo testing site. As Lurf was not allowed to get close to the area he was forced to keep hundreds of metres away from his object of desire. And images start to swirl, proportions get thrown into turmoil, colours grow unreal. No sound.
Claudia Siefen in desistfilmblog, November 2012

Silent observation of colossal concrete structures around an abandoned reservoir. The extremely long lens creates a new perception.
Rotterdam International Film Festival, January 2013

Filmmaker Johann Lurf uses light and shadow to document the infrastructural oddities of a decommissioned military torpedo-testing site in California.
Melbourne International Film Festival, July 2013

In the first experimental film made abroad by Viennese Johann Lurf - a director we have been following for a while - games of perception remain at the centre of his work. In this experimental silent film, the director plays with ‘recognition’. Viewers follow the action through the immediacy of the handheld camera lens and lose themselves in contemplation of what it captures: light, walls and abandoned spaces in the dark. Slowly, a dam emerges - it is the Morris Reservoir, California, a space that has been used for years, most notably in the Cold War, for military testing. Lurf wasn’t authorised entry to the dam and instead he observes it from afar. The result is an alienating contemplation of the structure, where games of perspective contrast with reality.
Alessandro Beretta, Milano International Film Festival, September 2013

Morris Reservoir, California. The former torpedo-testing site is the silent protagonist of Johann Lurf's RECONNAISSANCE – a sophisticated exploration of the architectural curiosities of a location and which under the shifting patterns of light and shadow seems to develop a life of its own.
30. Kasseler Dokfest, November 2013

Ein verlassener Torpedotest-Stützpunkt an einem Staudamm bei Azusa, Kalifornien. Morris Reservoir heißt der Schauplatz des neuen Films von Lurf, sein Schau-Wert ergibt sich aus den subtil gerundeten oder leise flirrenden Bewegungen, aus den Verfremdungseffekten der Bilder, die zugleich unsere visuelle Wahrnehmung auf die Probe stellen und ein ganzes Reservoir an möglichen Assoziationen bergen. «A true mindbender», nannte der US-amerikanische Kritiker Michael Sicinski diese raffinierte Studie.
Viennale Oktober 2012

In seinem ersten außerhalb von Österreich gedrehten Film inspiziert Lurf das Morris Reservoir, ein ehemaliges militärisches Testgelände für Torpedos in Kalifornien. Wirkt bereits der Wechsel aus Nah- und Großaufnahmen irritierend, so evozieren die subtilen Lichtwechsel und gleitende Bewegungen von Bauteilen und Landschaftsstrichen bei fixen Einstellungen Gefühle der Beklemmung und Unwirklichkeit. Erblickt man reales Gelände oder ein Modell? „Reconnaissance“ ist ein militärischer Ausdruck für die visuelle Auskundschaftung feindlichen Gebietes, der Titel auch eine Ironie auf die Position des Filmemachers, der wegen fehlender Zutrittsgenehmigung aus der Ferne filmte.
Verena Teissl für die Viennale im Oktober 2013

Morris Reservoir, Kalifornien. Ein ehemaliges Torpedo-Testgelände ist stummer Protagonist von Johann Lurfs RECONNAISSANCE – eine technisch ausgefeilte Erkundung eines Ortes, dessen architektonische Merkwürdigkeiten im Spiel von Licht und Schatten ein irritierendes Eigenleben entwickeln.
30. Kasseler Dokfest, November 2013

El último trabajo por Johann Lurf, Reconnaissance (2012), documenta el reservorio Morris de California, que funcionó por décadas como un sitio de testeo de torpedos. Ya que Lurf no pudo acercarse a las instalaciones, fue forzado a mantenerse a cientos de metros fuera de su objeto de deseo. Y las imágenes empiezan a girar, las proporciones entran en caos, los colores crecen irreales. Sin sonido.
Claudia Siefen in desistfilmblog, November 2012

Udtrykket ’reconnaissance’ henviser til en inspektion eller en udforskning – det, der indenfor militær-sprog kategoriseres som en efterretning. Sådanne konnotationer opstår også uundgåeligt med Johann Lurfs Reconnaissance. Filmen visualiserer en intens undersøgelse af et område. I sagte billeder skaber instruktøren en afbildning af Morris Reservoir nær den californiske by Azusa – et stort reservoir, som længe har fungeret som testområde for torpedoer, eller rettere undersøisk krigsførelse. Reconnaissance går til det detaljerede terræn i en subtil leg mellem lys og bevægelse. Filmen blev til, mens Johann Lurf besøgte James Benning, som gæstede vores festival sidste år.
Copenhagen Architecture Festival x Film, March 2015

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