Schwarz und Weiß


The project for the Axel-Springer-building in Berlin is based on images of talking mouths. On the screen on top of the tower block, two mouths can be seen from the distance. After a while it is easy to discern what they are pronouncing, even though it is inaudible – they say "everything is white" and "everything is black". These contradictory statements are spoken by two mouths directly next to each other, in a continuous sequence: first a woman says, "everything is white", next to a man who says, "everything is black"; then there is a change, and the woman says, "everything is black", while the man says, "everything is white". The film shows a part of the faces, but focuses on the talking mouths, and thus the information about gender and race of the speakers remains transparent.

The words can be ‘seen’ in nine different languages: Amharic (Ethiopia), Russian (Russia), French (France), Arab (Morocco), German (Germany), Turkish (Turkey), Hebrew (Israel), English (New Zealand/UK), Dari (Afghanistan) and Mandarin (China). In each case, the two people are native speakers of either sex. Each language has a time frame of about 30 seconds. The movements of the lips and mouths are so clear and concise that each viewer of the same linguistic area can easily perceive the statements.

The fact that the language cannot be heard and the process of speaking is ‘only’ seen incites the viewers’ curiosity and they want to know, what is hidden behind this film. Thus, the usual communication structures are prised open, and through the simplicity of the piece’s conception, the viewers are at liberty to fill them with meaning of their own, with their own thoughts and feelings.

Shown on a prominent and widely visible press building in Berlin, the piece also refers to the necessity for truth in the news industry. It is a contemporary urge to prove the truth with facts, and the contradictory statements – "everything is white" and "everything is black" – create irritation and are open to a wide variety of associations. One can surely associate the conclusive "in black and white" of the printed media. Yet, other points of reference could be various political disputes. In the complex conflicts of the Near East for example, it is difficult to say, whose record is all white and clean.

3 films (2016 x 160 px), durations: 01:29 min, 01:40 min, 01:28 min

Location: Axel-Springer-Building, Berlin – until 30.11.2007

Curated by Annika von Taube / sleek magazine

download (PDF) german
press release Sleek magazine (PDF) german

Images / Films

stills film1 / see wmv (8,7 MB)

stills film2 / see wmv (11,5 MB)

stills film3 / see wmv (8,8 MB)