Film in One Drawing

Vadim Zakharov

Vadim Zakharov, Film in One Drawing, The Golden Beetle

Series of drawings of 70 films on black or white paper with pencil, pastels, or charcoal

Russia/Germany 2014–­2016


In the series Film in One Drawing Vadim Zakharov acts as an artist-archivist, and what is being preserved here in black and white drawings are silent film classics and early milestones of cinema history. His “archiving technique” involves hand drawing the fleeting, moving images directly onto the projection surface while the film is running. With a pencil, pastel, or brush he attempts to capture the outlines of what the light of the projector writes on the screen. In relation to film, this form of live recording is a particularly inappropriate method of notation: Naturally, the hand is neither designed for the speed of a film projector nor the simultaneity of such visual representation.

Besides their inevitably fragmentary and selective character, above all, Zakharov’s drawings illustrate that each line just drawn is overwritten in the next moment by new contours and letters. Each change in scenery and camera settings in the film implies starting afresh and adding a new layer to the image. Figures, landscapes, architecture, and signs incessantly pass over the projection surface, which also serves as the inscription surface at the same time. However, the capacity of the surface is limited; it is quickly full, covered with numerous lines in a matter of just a few minutes. The sequential nature of the moving images in the film becomes juxtaposed, superimposed, interwoven. The longer the film projection continues and the “transcription” endures, the more the lines overlap, intersect, and consolidate – to a point completely beyond recognition, even to a point of progressive reciprocal destruction.

But Zakharov is not satisfied with just “transcribing” a film and exhibiting the results: The act of drawing is also recorded – with a video camera at the height of the projector, recording both the running film projection as well as Zakharov’s drawing performance. The transcription as the result of the drawing performance is juxtaposed with the video recording of the drawing performance as an event. That the drawing process actually has the character of an autonomous performance is also evidenced by the fact that the performance occasionally took place in public and that Zakharov employs different masquerades to “evade his own patterns and behaviors.”.At points his arm crosses one of the figures in the film or he nods his head at a character, creating an impression of interaction between the documentary maker and the documented character.

Vadim Zakharov makes the act of archiving an artwork in itself and therewith performs the multifarious interplay between transcribing and transcription, event and result, immaterial light traces and materialized writing traces, document and documented, movement and fixation, preservation and destruction. (Annette Gilbert)


Vadim Zakharov, born 1959 in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, lives and works in Berlin and Moscow.


Annette Gilbert, “Quickpieces. Zu den Filmmitschriften des Künstler-Archivars Vadim Zakharov,” in Schreiben als Ereignis. Künste und Kulturen der Schrift, eds. Jutta Müller-Tamm et al. (Paderborn: Fink, in press).

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