Home, Identity, Exploitation, and Appropriation: A Conversation with David Krippendorff

by Andrea Scrima

David Krippendorff is a US/German interdisciplinary artist and experimental filmmaker. Based in Berlin, he grew up in Rome, Italy, and studied art at the University of Fine Arts in Berlin, Germany, where he graduated with an MFA. His paintings, drawings, prints, films, and videos have been shown internationally, including at the New Museum (New York), ICA (London), Hamburger Kunsthalle (Hamburg), and the Museum on the Seam (Jerusalem). He has participated in three biennials (Prague, Poznan, Tel Aviv).

Krippendorff’s short film Nothing Escapes My Eyes is currently part of the group exhibition “The Women Behind” at the Museum on the Seam; it was also shown at the Belgrade City Museum for the 56th October Salon in 2016 and has been screened at numerous international film festivals, winning twice as Best Short Film. Kali, a short film based on Brecht’s Threepenny Opera, also features Palestinian actress Hiam Abbass; it premiered at the Braunschweig International Film Festival in 2017.

Scene from the video “There’s No Place Like Home,” 1999

Andrea Scrima: David, I’d like to begin with a question about your previous work. For decades now, you’ve been incorporating imagery from popular culture; earlier works, particularly There’s No Place Like Home, Sleeping Beauty, and The Beautiful Island, drew on the hidden subtexts in well-known American movies, such as The Wizard of Oz and Gilda. What was the motivating force behind this line of inquiry?

David Krippendorff: I grew up on classic American movies. The Wizard of Oz was an intrinsic part of my childhood, so it felt very natural to work with these films, because I had a personal relationship to them. My interest was in uncovering the ideologies and desires present in these films, but hidden beneath a polished layer of glamour and storytelling. I’m also fascinated by how thin the boundaries have become between the personal and the mediated experience, and films—with their almost mythological function—are the perfect material for this inquiry. Read more »

“How Do You Feel about Being an American?” A Conversation with Patricia Thornley

by Andrea Scrima

Indian Scout

From November 17, Patricia Thornley’s work The Western, part of her series THIS IS US, is on view as part of the group exhibition “Empathy” at Smack Mellon Gallery in Brooklyn, New York. The project is the latest in a seven-year series of installation and single-channel video works consisting of interviews and performances. Previous videos of the series are An American in Bavaria (2011), Don’t Cry for Me (2013), and Sang Real (2015). As a whole, THIS IS US  formulates multiple parallel inquiries into the collaborative fantasies Americans enact through popular media. In the current political climate, as the escalation of social and economic forces impacting millions of lives is cast into increasingly sharp relief, these fantasies take on new urgency and, in many cases, a new absurdity.

The Western’s cast of characters consists of these Civil War-era archetypes: Indian Scout, Beast of Burden, Frontiersman, Savage, Deserter, Justice, and Drifter. The work is conceived as a two-part installation in which the cinematic trope of the Western is used as a framework for inquiring into the American psyche. In the exhibition space, a projected “movie” is installed opposite a wall of screens playing a series of interviews with the seven participating characters.

Beast of Burden

Andrea Scrima: Patricia, a few years ago I conducted an interview with you about a previous work of yours, Sang Real (2015), for the online poetry magazine Lute & Drum. Now, with The Western, the overall structure of THIS IS US is coming more and more clearly into focus. The last time we spoke at length about your series was a year and a half before the last presidential election. How have recent changes on the political landscape affected your approach to the themes in your work?

Patricia Thornley: From the beginning in the THIS IS US series, one of the questions I asked in my interviews with the people who featured in the individual videos was “how do you feel about being an American?” Historically, there’s always been a certain political disconnect at play with Americans, due to less armed conflict on our own soil and a certain comfort level. Read more »