Thierry Kuntzel

French film theorist and videomaker Thierry Kuntzel, whose distinguished writings are among the major contributions to the textual analysis of film, also produced an original body of videotapes and installations. Kuntzel's theoretical texts propose significant applications of psychoanalytical and semiological constructs as elaborations of the relation of the filmic and psychical apparatuses. Among the concepts that he elucidated in the context of the cinema are condensation and displacement, defilement, the imaginary and the unconscious, the "dream-work" and the film-work.

In the late 1970s, Kuntzel shifted from the analysis of film to the production of video. Minimalist in representation yet richly layered in suggestive content, works such as Nostos I (1979), Time Smoking a Picture (1980) and Le peintre cubiste (1981) use video to uncover the essence of the perception of reality and representation, memory and the unconscious, in relation to the codes of cinema, photography and painting. Employing the transformative potential of video technology, these evocative works unfold as elusive, implied fictions, visualizations of shifting passages of time, light and movement.

Raymond Bellour has observed that for Kuntzel, video becomes a medium analogous to Freud's "magic writing pad," a means of transcribing the unconscious processes of the psychical and the real. His tapes are informed by use of the paluche — a miniature, portable camera that functions as an extension of the hand, rather than the eye. Indeed, Bellour has written that it was the "paluche, and its 'writerly,' even calligraphic, qualities that inspired Kuntzel to make the leap from film theory to video art." Grounded in discursive theory, Kuntzels' video works also resonate with a haunting poetry.

Kuntzel was born in 1948 in Bergerac, France, and died in 2007. He studied philosophy, linguistics and semiotics with Roland Barthes and Christian Metz at l'Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, where he earned a doctorate. He was head of the Research Division of both the French Radio and Television Office (ORTF) and Institut National de la Communication Audiovisuelle. He produced a number of experimental video works in conjunction with the Departement des Programmes at the Institut National de l'Audiovisuel in Paris. Kuntzel taught semiotics of cinema and textual analysis of film at the University of Paris; the Centre d'Etudes Americain du Cinema, Paris; and the State University of New York, Buffalo, among other institutions. His writings have been widely published, appearing in such journals as Camera Obscura, Revue d'Esthetique, Communications, and Quarterly Review of Film Studies. His video work was the subject of a 1984 retrospective at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, and has been exhibited internationally at festivals and institutions, including the University Art Museum, Berkeley, California; Paris Biennale; American Center, Paris; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. Kuntzel lived in Paris until his death in 2007.