Lehre deutsch mit Petra von Kant / Teach German with Petra von Kant

Lehre deutsch mit Petra von Kant / Teach German with Petra von Kant

single channel video (08:00), colour with stereo sound

video preview


In 2007 just before moving to Berlin, I made Lerne Deutsch mit Petra von Kant / Learn German with Petra von Kant in which I tried to learn to speak and act like a German by closely emulating the actress Margit Carstensen in the role of fashion designer Petra von Kant, suffering a mid-life-career-crisis in Rainer Werner Fassbinder´s 1972 film Die bitteren Tränen der Petra von Kant (The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant).
In the time since I moved to Berlin, Petra von Kant’s expressiveness has given me the words (and attitude!) I needed to overcome similar moments of despair and desperation. From what started as an exercise for a self-designed “integration course” in Germany – who would have guessed? – ten years later I would find myself in the role of a professor at UdK, the University of the Arts in Berlin.
I invited ten of my students to make this work with me to commemorate ten (mostly) productive years of German integration. A broad spectrum of young artists in Berlin, some of whom were as new to the city as I had been in 2007, collectively transformed into this new and restlessly changing figure of Petra von Kant of the new millenium.

Lerne Deutsch mit Petra von Kant / Learn German with Petra von Kant

Lerne Deutsch mit Petra Von Kant / Learn German with Petra von KantLerne Deutsch mit Petra Von Kant /
Learn German with Petra von Kant

digital video installation
10:00 mins loop


This work was developed by the artist as part of a personal, self-designed German language and cultural immersion programme, while he was preparing to relocate to Berlin in August 2007.

Believing that one of the best ways to get insight into a foreign culture is through the films of that country, the artist has adopted one of his favourite German films as his guide, The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972) by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, about a successful but arrogant fashion designer in her mid-thirties, who falls into despair when she loses the woman she loves.

Putting himself in the mould of German actress Margit Carstensen as Petra Von Kant – a role for which she won several awards – the artist attempts to articulate himself through as wide a range of emotions as displayed by the actress in the climactic scene from the film, where our tragic lovesick anti-heroine goes through a hysterical disintegration.

With this work the artist rehearses going through the motions and emotions and articulating the words for situations that he believes he may encounter when he moves to Berlin as a post-35-year-old, single, gay, ethnic-minority mid-career artist – i.e. feeling bitter, desperate, or washed up. (“Ich bin im Arsch”)

With these tools, he will be armed with the right words and modes of expressions to communicate his feelings effectively to his potential German compatriots.

Exhibited at:
Images Festival – Art Gallery of York University, Toronto 2009
Vain Efforts – Gallery 4A, Sydney 2009
mononoaware – MK Galerie, Rotterdam 2009
I Queerelanti – Galleria neon>campobase, Bologna 2008
ART FORUM BERLIN – Berlin Exhibition Grounds 2008
Everybody Knows This is Nowhere – Galerie Wendt + Friedmann, Berlin 2008
Streng Verdaulich – ZKM Center for Art& Media, Karlsruhe 2008
Kunstverein Dusseldorf Filmprogramm – May-July 2008
KUNSTINVASION – Blumengroßmart, Berlin 31 May – 1 June 2008
Damn! I Wish I’d Done That!! Artist’s Works I Wish I’d Made
– Project Space 176, London, 28 Feb 2008, curated by Harold Offeh
– Chapter, Wales 2008, curated by Hannah Firth
Futurama and re-inventing tradition? – Collegium Hungaricum Berlin 2007
S.T.O.R.A.G.E : Ming Wong – The Agency Gallery, London 2007