Video Installation, Dur. 8:00 min, HD colour, sound
Katja Anzelewsky, Stefan Aue, Ben Brix, Hr. Brix, Emma Cattell, Marlene Denningmann, Surya Gied, Paul Godinez, Emma Haugh, Valentin Hertweck, Sophie Hilbert, Anne Hölck, Suza Husse, annette hollywood, Jochen Jezussek, Philipp König, Renate Lorenz, Fiona McGovern, Daniel Belasco New, Jessica Páez, Irene Pätzug, Mieko Suzuki, Yuyen Woywod, Johanna Zinecker
PANDA MOONWALK or WHY MENG MENG WALKS BACKWARDS
Since 2017 the Giant Panda Bears Meng Meng and Jiao Qing were hired out to the Berlin Zoo from China to attract more visitors and to therefore increase profit. Unfortunately for the Berlin Zoo this advertising campaign did not work out as planned – in fact it worked backwards. Meng Meng, the female Panda will only walk backwards – probably protesting the fact that she is kept in captivity and in a totally different continent from her origins. But instead of rethinking the problematic concepts of zoos in general, international media is taking on a different debate: blaming Meng Meng’s behavior on the fact that she has not bred yet and is just looking for attention.
Kerstin Honeit’s video aligns Meng Meng’s protest with other performances of protesting bodies using movement in public space to address grievances.
Video Installation, Dur. 15:00 min, HD colour, sound
Jessica Páez – Production / Research / Dramaturgy
Peter Friedrich, Gunter Teichert, Damian Rebgetz, Paul Hankinson – Performance
Ljupcho Temelkovski, annette hollywood – Camera
Emma Cattell – Costume
Philipp Fröhlich, Jochen Jezussek – Sound
my castle your castle, Text by Suza Husse
Set up as a somewhat retro TV talk show my castle your castle operates from within the skeleton of the Prussian castle that is currently being re-built in the center of Berlin. Erected on the foundations of the dismantled GDR parliament building called Palace of the Republic, the castle is not only an imperialist architectural remake, in its future function as exhibition space for the ‘Ethnographic Collections’ of Berlins National Museums it literally embodies Germany’s legacies of colonial violence.
The video performance work engages the building site as a stage for the material and social construction – as well as the queer contestation – of “nation” and (white) “masculinity”: Interviewed by a talk show host over a piece of cake from porcelain dishes with reproductions of the castle and its disappeared counterpart, two construction workers evoke an opaque third in a language of structural matter.
Peter Friedrich had supervised the construction (1973–76) of the Palast der Republik, and Gunter Teichert worked as the head of its deconstruction (2006–08). In the matter of fact conversation between the ‘makers of the palace’, their body of work – in other words architecture, political representation, memory – disintegrates in the builders’ jargon.
However, the material and machinic vocabulary of construction site itself resonates the massive urban reconstructions, redistributions of properties and redefinitions of political meaning through architecture that have followed the disappearance of state socialisms in Europe. This vocabulary is emphasized and queered in short interludes to the talk show in which the talk show host, who is performed by the artist herself incorporating elements of drag, appears sitting on a huge excavating machine or between metal poles that stabilize casts for concrete. Here, from within the construction site, the talk master lip-synchs the ideological statements of (male) voices on their oppositional but all too similar longings for the palace and the castle.
my castle your castle ends with a camp cowboy reenactment of the Ray Price song “I saw my Castles fall today” that subversively quotes the hegemonic figure of the settler colonialist while at the same time celebrating – with glitter and high heels – the demolition of patriarchal Western phantasies of omnipotence.
Suza Husse exhibition and talks: Drag Kings, Phantoms, Mirrors, Hands. (one hundred years of dis-/appearances)
at SixtyEight Art Institute Copenhagen, 2017
3-Channel Video Installation, Dur. 13:00 min, HD colour, sound
Talking Business, Text by Marc Siegel
The drama begins with the script. In an overhead shot of a grey table, we see a woman’s hands lay down two scripts for Talking Business before she sits down on the table next to them. Her face is not visible. The sound of her actions and the highly amplified location sound of an empty room give way to the overblown music that typically accompanies dramatic moments on film or television. Black out. New scene, different screen. Same music. A medium shot now situates the table in a studio setting: green screen, prominent white lights, and a small portable projection screen in the back. The woman, perched on the table in blue violet overalls, faces away from the camera, while reading one of the scripts. She is accompanied by a second person, an elegant woman dressed in a dark suit with a thin black tie, sitting at the table, also reading the script. The music segues into a dialogue between two women; the sound quality of the recording suggests a film or TV soundtrack. An elderly female voice expresses uncertainty about how to greet another woman. “Mrs. Carrington” is the newcomer’s name as indicated by white text against the black background of the first screen, which serves as a kind of displaced subtitle/translation for the aural exchange. This text is progressively highlighted, Karaoke style, so we can speak or mouth along and thereby take part in the unfolding drama between the script and these women, between the written and the spoken word. By the time the third screen is activated and the studio setting returns, empty this time except for projected images of the women’s encounter on the rear screen, it has slowly become clear, that Kerstin Honeit’s three screen video installation Talking Business (2015) is much more about the business of talking than about the talk of business.
Talking Business turns on the tense initial meeting of Alexis Carrington Colby (Joan Collins) and Krystle Carrington (Linda Evans) in the first episode of the second season of the Reagan-era TV series Dynasty. But Honeit spares us the spectacle of the famous cat fights that marked the women’s relationship, secured the show’s ratings and guaranteed Alexis and Krystle a spot in the camp archive of drag impersonation. Instead, she cleverly subjects the scene of the women’s initial meeting to a series of displacements, from one screen to the other, from English to German, and–most strikingly–from on-screen pretense to off-screen investment.
The off-screen of Honeit’s Dynasty is peopled first and foremost by Gisela Fritsch and Ursula Heyer, the actresses who lent their voices to the characters of Alexis and Krystle for the German synchronized version of the show. Working closely with the two septuagenerian voice actresses–Gisela Fritsch sadly died during the course of their collaboration–Honeit teases out the tensions between speaking a part and playing it, between dubbing glamorous women and embodying them. At one point over the course of rehearsals with Honeit, Heyer reflects on the empowering act of employing Alexis’s turns of phrase in her daily life: “I thought if I use my own words, I won’t manage to engage people. But when I said a sentence like, ‚It’ll snow in hell before I see you again,‘ then people laughed.” “You were always so much more Alexis than I was Krystle,” notes Fritsch.
Talking Business is a further contribution to Honeit’s ongoing artistic investigation of the voice, embodiment, and the technologies of audio-visual synchronization. Think for instance, of her earlier installations On and Off (2010) and Pigs in Progress (2013). Whereas in these pieces, Honeit employs her own body as the site of synchronization – the space from which social and political discourse speaks – Talking Business focuses instead on the bodies of professional actresses known primarily for their voices. Honeit is, of course, still visible in Talking Business. She’s the elegant woman in the aforementioned shot, the dandy recognizable from her other work. In the studio setting, she even dubs herself from earlier rehearsal footage with the actresses. Throughout the piece, however, she functions more like a moderator, who enables Heyer and Fritsch to give voice not merely to the words written for famous TV stars, but to those describing their own conflicted relationship to female embodiment and mediated presence.
That said, Talking Business does not strive to present some kind of demystified real life that was obscured by the fictions of a script or the industrial and technological production of glamor. What Honeit’s after is rather a critical laying bare of “the technologies of gender,” to invoke a concept from film theorist Teresa De Lauretis. That becomes clear in one of the most powerful moments in this new work. We hear an audio recording of Heyer’s resonant voice as the affected Alexis, and at the same time watch archival footage of the actress‘ transformation into Joan Collins at the hands of a hair and makeup artist. We see as well–on another screen–an image of a spinning reel-to-reel audio player atop Heyer’s newspaper clippings about her life as Carrington/Collins. Honeit’s synchronization of sound and images across these screens brings into focus the mediated and discursive production of a split female subjectivity, one produced at the intersection of representation and self-representation, at the crossroads of social technologies, institutional and critical discourses, and media practices.
And the third screen? That one’s reserved for amateurs like us, to read along and engage in our own acts of synchronization, however invested or subdued they may be in the space of a commercial gallery. Honeit’s gesture towards interactivity does not necessarily implicate gallery visitors in talking business, but it certainly gives us a chance to experience how awkward, alienating and empowering it can feel to take a screen star’s words into your own mouth.
Installation (Video, Text, 37 Stills on cards), Dur. 1:35 min, HD colour, sound
The miniature Ich muss mit Ihnen sprechen is a continual process of raising the voice and preparing to speak, questioning acts of speech and empowerment.
An examination of the representation of people of colour in mainstream German film and TV arising from research into the politics of film voice dubbing.
The starting point is the “white” German voice artist who dubs Whoopi Goldberg as well as over thirty other African American actors. The accompanying research is made available to the viewer as an archive of record cards and is part of the installation.
Ich muss mit ihnen sprechen (I have to talk to you) is part of Kerstin Honeit’s solo show Talking Business which premiered at the Berlin Art Week 2015, presented by cubus-m, Berlin.
2-Channel Video Installation
Dur. 07.25 min, HD colour, sound
The “game” Joint Property, a match between connotations and empowerment, starts when the two figures appear, like players entering an arena. The two figures face each other, projected onto two walls directly opposite themselves.
Both figures are performed by Kerstin Honeit.
Figure A first throws a prop to Figure B, who catches it, puts it on, and throws back a new prop to figure A, who then puts it on and throws another back, and so on. We see a continuing gestural dialogue between the players. During this match Honeit’s own body undergoes a transformation through a increasingly absurd mixture of costumes, including a plastic hood, high heels and gold metallic dress.
The audience, standing in between the two projections, has the illusion that the props fly from one figure to the other, as in a tennis match. Between each throw and catch, words such as “imitation”, “pleasure” or “economy” are announced by different voices which have been lip-synched by the artist. The word “economy” for example is called out in between the lipstick and tie props and refers equally to both figures.
After the throwing, catching of props and dressing up has reached its peak the two players leave the “arena”.
Credits Katja Anzelewsky / Daniel Belasco Rogers – Camera
Emma Cattell – Post production
Daniel Belasco Rogers – Coding
Joint Property was part of Kerstin Honeit’s solo show ’say it like it is’ which premiered at the Berlin Gallery Weekend 2013, presented by Gallery cubus-m, Berlin.
The video installation Pigs in Progress connects the issue of the current gentrification processes of Berlin, where long term tenants are moved out of the city centre to provide profitable housing space, with the experience that house owners in the wealthier suburbs have with wild boars in their gardens, the boars claming back “property” that has been taken away from them.
The tenants’ concerns about losing their homes and the house owners’ worries of being invaded by wild boars were audio-recorded and then later re-presented via the technique of lip-synching. Honeit performed this piece for video by sitting on a chair in between two actual wild boars in the forest on the outskirts of Berlin.
M. Gericke Kotti & Co
Residents of “Am Eichkamp”
Katja Anzelewsky / Sarah Thom
Pigs in Progress was part of Kerstin Honeit’s solo show “say it like it is” which premiered at the Berlin Gallery Weekend 2013, presented by Gallery cubus-m, Berlin.
In the photo installation Becoming 10 Kerstin Honeit performs her “un-met” 9 half siblings from the former East and West of Berlin. She stages herself in their real environments and apartment blocks in imagined poses using the gesture of drag.
In Becoming 10, Honeit has become an anthropologist in search of the nine siblings she has never met. Her research into their backgrounds and above all, their locations, has led her to nine different places in East and West Berlin. The artist is the last child in an unusual family constellation that only exists in the form of genealogy. In order to simulate the non-existent, she represents her potential siblings in their original locations and embodies the absentees through her own imagination and the use of poses. The absence of her real relatives leads her to an enactment of that which was never there. Her attempts to create a symbiosis with the absent family members succeed through this mimetic process.
Almost like a detective, Honeit comes closer to her nine half-siblings as she extrapolates about each of them in their own contexts. She places herself in the scene of a variety of everyday situations and these are captured photographically. Her nine half-siblings have become the equivalent of the average Berlin street scene. However, the generality the artist brings to the people she expresses through her masquerade lives in a kind of differentiation between her and the absentees. It is precisely the masquerade that momentarily disturbs the social order in the embodiment of wishes and the search for new identity. These settings appear like stills from a film, a silent film where there is no space for the lines of the performer. Perhaps it underscores the lines in the singer Nico’s cover version of a Bob Dylan’s song (“I’ll Keep It With Mine”): I’m not loving you for what you are, but for what you are not.
Text: Susanne Weiß
Translation: Francesca Bondy, Emma Cattell
Four women of different ages and cultural backgrounds lend their personal memories of their fathers’ funerals to Kerstin Honeit. These sound-recorded stories are then lip-synched, embodied and staged in a miniature box, reminiscent of a theatre model. The piece continues the Honeit’s intervention in the field of the disembodied voice in relation to moving images via the technique of lip-synching.
It is only noticeable if you watch, or rather listen, very carefully that it is not Kerstin Honeit who is speaking. Four women have lent their voices to the artist; they are telling some stories about how they experienced their fathers’ funerals. Four women – four plays.
It is a simple stage (a green screen box) that Kerstin Honeit has built. There is a white space (a white cube); in it, only her dressed in a black suit. There is nothing to draw the viewer’s attention away from her performance. Her “white cube” suggests neutrality; her black suit, integrity / seriousness.
There is however a third element that lives in that space – the emptiness.
The empty space that, according to Kant, is an omnipresent space that conveys the “presence of emptiness”. The suppressed omnipresence of death in our society is regulated by a few rituals that help to facilitate dealing with the event “death”. The artist plays with quoting the recognisable demeanour of someone giving a eulogy. In doing so, dressed in her black suit, she transforms borrowed memories, using her lips and body, through the valedictions of others.
“On and off” shows Honeit as the protagonist, substitute and performer simultaneously. Through these multiple voices, she pursues questions of the performative role of significant social initiations.
Text: Susanne Weiß
Translation: Francesca Bondy, Emma Cattell
Interactive Video Installation
Dur. 07 min, DV, bw, sound
Read my Lips is a literal invitation to the viewer to participate in an interactive video installation. The public are invited to re-dub, a collection of Hitchcockesque scenes in which the original German film dubbing was used as a method of censorship.
The work includes film scenes from Spellbound (USA 1945) Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, Notorious (USA 1946) Dir. Alfred Hitchcock and Homicidal (USA 1961), William Castle.
Act 2: Not Me
“Starting to talk about the 'I', the confusion of terms became especially noticeable. The only way I could manage was by establishing the terms ‘the big I’ and ‘the small i’. In my use of the term ‘the small i’, I mean the condition of a conscience that has awareness of its own incompleteness, that is to say that my definition of ‘conscience’ means: an 'i' who is aware of its mortality and gender. Whereas ‘the big I’ is abstract and conforms to the fantasy of ‘completeness’. This ‘big I’ is omnipotent and offers unlimited possibilities; it is simultaneously male and female and therefore gender free. In contrast to ‘the small i’, it is a creation of the mind and requires the downfall of the 'small i' to be able to materialize.”
The omnipotent ‘big I’ arises in all of Kerstin Honeit’s work. In her interactive video installation Read My Lips (2009), ‘the big I’ has transformed itself into a black box. A black and white video within this black box shows four scenes from Hitchcockesque films. Opposite the screen is a lectern with a microphone and a teleprompter, which the viewer is invited to use. The viewer becomes the dubbing voice and without the use of their own voice the film remains silent.
Occasionally, the subtitles in the teleprompter light up. It is here that Christina on Braun's ‘the small i’ comes into play; the ‘i’ that embodies incompleteness. How can ‘the big I’ be formed through the many manipulation possibilities of the dubbing process? Honeit demands the viewer to look carefully. If the viewer is able to master the art of lip-reading, they have the advantage of understanding more. From a cultural historical standpoint, Honeit’s chosen film sequences are the antithesis of a distorted post-war history. The Hollywood protests against Germany’s Nazi past on the one hand, and the revised German version on the other; a manipulation that the falsified dubbing brings to the surface, and the simultaneous confrontation of the gender stereotyping of the 1940s. Kerstin Honeit plays with these roles on the screen and asks ‘the small i’ to perform the story.
Text: Susanne Weiß
Translation: Francesca Bondy, Emma Cattell
Many thanks to
Katja Anzelewsky, Berlin
Tom Draws, Chicago
Alison J Carr, Sheffield
Riikka Tauriainen, Zurich
Eric Tschaeppeler, Montreal
In Kerstin Honeit’s piece Position #1 (work in progress – so far performed in Berlin, Chicago and Sheffield) – we find three women in different but somehow similar places, in a silent “experiential space”. The women, in their early to mid-thirties, stand in front of a closed garage each in their respective cities. Not only do the environments appear strangely similar, but so do the three women themselves. Through the constructed scene, there is also something of a convergence of the women’s identities, transmitted to the viewer through the act of observation. We, the viewers, stand in front of the projection screen and wait, thereby almost replaying the actual scene before us, set in the street, where the video was filmed. What we see reminds me of an anthropological experiment. Honeit uses her three protagonists for observational purposes; she places them in the street and their inactivity is the performance. In this way she subtly examines the similarities and potential differences of the subjects “women in the street” in Berlin-Schöneberg and an industrial area in Chicago and Sheffield.
How do the gestures change over time? What is real and what is contrived? What effect does the context have? Are the systems different and do they then generate other codes?
Text: Susanne Weiß
Translation: Francesca Bondy, Emma Cattell