Interview: Stefanie Dinkelbach

Stefanie DinkelbachImage courtesy of Stefanie Dinkelbach

Interview: Stephanie Dinkelbach

Luca Curci talks with Stefanie Dinkelbach during VISIONS – The Garden of Liquid Identities in Venice.
Stefanie Dinkelbach is a German born artist, filmmaker and scholar who lives and works in Ireland since 1993. Her work developed from figurative ceramic sculpture to puppet animation to experimental documentary film making. Since the completion of her practice-based PhD in film in 2013, Dinkelbach’s work is informed by her interdisciplinary research into trauma and violence with a particular focus on the Holocaust.

 

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Luca Curci – What’s your background? What is the experience that has influenced your work the most?

Stefanie Dinkelbach – I was born in Germany in the 1960’s and after completing my secondary school education, ventured out to learn the art and craft of ceramics by studying at various art schools in Luxembourg, Germany and Wales. Initially interested in working with my hands and training in a craft that would be independent to the structures of contemporary industrial society. I soon realised that I was not a crafts person at heart but that it was human psychology and interaction that inspired my work. Aiming towards an approach that was time based and included sound, my work developed from figurative sculpture into puppet animation and from there into experimental documentary film making. Growing up in postwar Germany with a father who had spent his youth fighting in World War II and two grandfathers who had been in World War I, I feel compelled to explore the subjects of trauma and violence from a personal as well as from a historic perspective. I have therefore undertaken studies at PhD level in which I used an interdisciplinary approach in my theoretical studies that informed the making of a film that aims to acknowledge the mental origins of the Holocaust. I am still engaged in research and it is the studies in neurobiology, social psychology, history and philosophy that I come across that currently influence my work the most.

 

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LC – How do you find creative inspiration?

SD – I am often inspired by text or music and compelled to communicate something through my work that I feel needs to be said and heard at the time. I like to work with already existing material like archive footage or to create an adaptation of a piece of music or literature in a way that makes it accessible to a wider audience.

 

LC – What is the most challenging part about creating your artworks?

SD – Getting funding and finding an outlet that enables successful communication to audiences are both major challenges especially if the subject matter is controversial. For example: I am still hoping to stage the event ‘The Legacy’, the screening of my PhD informed film to life music and light projections in Germany but have so far met with a lot of resistance.

 

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LC – Did you style change over the years? How?

SD – I try in my work to respond to the subject matter of each project in terms of approach and use of media. That often means that I have to develop a new approach, a new technique or even develop appropriate equipment at times. I therefore don’t think that I have a style, but, you could say, certain working preferences. For example, since I work in time based media, sound is always the most important element and often the starting point when I develop new work.

 

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LC – What are you currently working on?

SD – There is a number of audio-visual projects that are still at the vulnerable stage of fundraising and development that I don’t want to talk about too much at this early stage. Staging the event ‘The Legacy’ at a suitable venue in Germany is also something I am working towards and I am currently preparing a presentation for the next Holocaust conference in Leeds which will be held at the end of July.

 

LC – What’s the art tip you usually receive? Do visitors’ suggestions enrich yourself and your art?

SD – I don’t really understand what you mean by art tip. However, feedback from audiences is very relevant to me and gives me an indication to what extent I manage to communicate my ideas successfully. I therefore often show work in progress to friends and colleagues and make changes and adaptations in response to their feedback. It was also part of my PhD to screen my film to small sample audiences and to survey its reception. It is in this context important for me to find out that the main message of my work can be understood and is received by some, even if this is not the majority.

 

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LC – How is being an artist nowadays?

SD – I find it more challenging to work in film since I completed my PhD in 2013. I used to work in 16 mm film and I now find that the labs that I used to work with have closed down. Everyone is now working digitally and there is a vast amount of audio-visual material that is being produced while we speak. I somehow find myself reluctant to add to this and then to fight for attention in a world that already suffers from an overload of sensory stimulation. At the same time there are a lot of exciting and inspiring studies being published, especially in the area of neuroscience, that are starting to inform my work. 

 

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LC – What do you think about the concept of this festival? In which way did it inspire you?

SD – I found the word ‘liquid’ particularly appealing, as it relates to the state of fluent interconnectivity that I also refer to in my film ‘There are no other ‘others”. This concept has become extremely relevant to me, as I have in my research found, that it is a fear based view that perceives the individual in its isolation and hopes to establish and defend a sense of static stability that is often the result of trauma and the facilitator of violence. A perspective that encourages an awareness of fluent interconnectivity can therefore be seen as a much needed antidote that guides us towards what Rosi Braidotti calls ‘nomadic becomings’ that ‘engender possible futures’ and ‘construct the world by making possible a web of sustainable interconnections’. 

 

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LC – Do you think ITS LIQUID GROUP can represent an opportunity for artists?

SD – Yes, I do and that is why I have responded to the call to submit work to the Venice exhibition. I am very happy for the opportunity to have been part of a festival that promotes a concept that resonates with my own, to have had my work seen by a wider international audience and to share my views and talk about my work and approach in this interview. Thank you.

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