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Stairs I: Geneva

00:00 Introduction by Nick Marshall, Manager of Exhibitions and Programs, George Eastman Museum
01:59 Stairs 1 Geneva

Stairs I: Geneva (Switzerland 1994)
Director: Peter Greenaway
Cast: Patrick di Santo, Peter Greenaway (Narrator)
Producer: Jean-Daniel Bloesch

Production date: 1994
Sound: stereo
Color: color
Format: PAL Digital Betacam

Length: 2 tapes
Running time: 107 min.
Frame rate: 25 fps

Generous support for the video introduction provided by Art Bridges.

Funded by the George Eastman Museum Film Preservation Program
Digitized by Eastman Museum Film Preservation Services

This film has been made accessible to the public in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: NEH CARES. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this video, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Peter Greenaway’s installation and video exhibition Stairs I: Geneva (1994), was commissioned by the city of Geneva, Switzerland, under the title The Stairs: Geneva, the Location. Greenaway originally conceived the Stairs project as a series of ten shows to be held in ten different cities, dealing with ten different aspects of cinema—location, projection, frame, audience, light, and so on. Munich was chosen as the site for the second Stairs installation, Projection (1995); to our knowledge, there were no further installments of the Stairs project.

In 1994, over the course of one hundred days, one hundred white wooden staircases were installed around the city of Geneva. The public was encouraged to climb each one—not necessarily in order—for the purpose of viewing the selected scene. At the top of each staircase, was a simple hole framing a “living picture postcard,” using the original cinema aspect ratio of 4:3 to view the chosen “frame.” Printed beneath each viewfinder was an accompanying commentary of one sentence in French and English. With this work, Greenaway ingeniously created a meditation on location in cinema and invited viewers to literally step up and view a conceptual cinema, releasing the image from the theater screen and observing it with the naked eye in situ.

Stairs I: Geneva combined cinema, performance, music, and contemporary art in an experiential event. Spotlights of different colors were installed throughout the city to highlight the stairs. The film’s scenes show day or night views in the exact frame defined by the staircase’s viewfinder. Approximately 100 performers were choreographed by Serge Campardon to perform routines every 15 minutes at the stair locations. Their superimposed images appear and disappear in the frame under different lights, and their performances were coordinated with different kinds of outdoor cultural events taking place in the city at that time. Greenaway’s narration aids the visual description by numbering the scenes with the same number of each staircase and reading the sentence printed on the viewfinder. Each scene is accompanied by a one-minute music pattern by composer Patrick Mimran.