German Identity

„Erst kommt das Fressen, dann kommt die Moral“

Bertolt Brecht – Die Dreigroschenoper

Wer reitet so spät durch Nacht und Wind?
Es ist der Vater mit seinem Kind;
Er hat den Knaben wohl in dem Arm,
Er fasst ihn sicher, er hält ihn warm.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe – Erlkönig

otto holt koks
otto holt obst
otto horcht
otto: mops mops
otto hofft

Ernst Jandl – Ottos Mops

Sein Blick ist vom Vorübergehn der Stäbe 
so müd geworden, dass er nichts mehr hält. 
Ihm ist, als ob es tausend Stäbe gäbe 
und hinter tausend Stäben keine Welt.

Rainer Maria Rilke – Der Panther


The search for one’s own core, the ego that remains stable despite all changes over time, is a common motif in all media. The many-sided manifestations of identity as ego-identity, but also as sexual, national or cultural identity confuse and occupy people. My work goes in search of cultural identity as found in the poetry of a culture.

„Our languages are our media. Our media are our metaphors. Our metaphors create the content of our culture“ (Neil Postman, 1992).

If we take this idea and combine it with the basic tenets of a narrative theory, the importance of literature to a culture becomes even clearer. Albrecht Koschorke wrote in 2012 in Truth and Invention, Outlines of a General Theory of Narrative that „cultures dream and write poetry rather than think themselves.

At this stage it becomes undecidable what is truth and what is invention.“ We are all influenced by poems and literature that belong to the so-called canon of literature.
Reich-Ranicki said in 2001 about his canon of German-language works worth reading that „not to have a canon would be to regress to barbarism.“
Accordingly, in the course of one’s educational biography, one cannot help but be exposed to works by Wilhelm Busch, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Rainer Maria Rilke, or Marcel Reich-Ranicki. In addition, there are folk songs, operas and related works. All of this shapes our cultural identity!

But is this canon still connectable in today’s world? What would the works look like if they had been written today? What if the poets had not been poets, but photographers with the possibilities of today? How can the core of a literary work be represented in the visual language of photography (which functions quite differently)?
This question is explored in the series of images, which decodes the essence of selected German literature and transforms it into the present.

The chosen photographic medium is still life photography, in which products of our consumer society are presented as symbols of its identity. Together with selected short quotations from the interpreted literature, the presentation provides a confrontation with one’s own cultural identity and critically questions it.
Through the reduction to a still life, the viewer is involved in a completely different way. Is one’s own cultural knowledge sufficient to decipher the message of this cross-media realization of a different kind? Language, image and cultural identity are connected in this way and made accessible in a different way. It is an implicit invitation to reflect on the original time horizons and conditions of poetry in relation to current events, and thus to question contemporary society and one’s own place in it. The series is thus not only concerned with cultural identity, but leads to a new sense of identity.