At the Shores of Language

Video Work



HD video

07:41 min.
Trailer 01:55 min.


It seems to me that everyone creates a personal mythology – stories that we recite when we want to make ourselves known to others. These narrations operate like a presentation table of the self, one’s biographical curiosity shop. They reveal as much about how we perceive ourselves as about how we would like others to see us.

In 1960 my father relocated to Germany to study. His German was very poor, to the point that he claims he spoke none at all. His story goes that he bought a Greek-German dictionary and a Dostoyevski book (in German), which he then read from cover to cover looking up every word he didn’t understand.

During 2004 – 2008 I produced a series of works in which I reveal the unsettling nature of language acquisition. Relocation, followed by the slow and often painful process of learning a new language, appeared to me as a precept for cultural estrangement. For ‚At the Shores of Language‘ I asked my father to re-enact for the camera his self-taught mode of learning German. Instead of having him read out of Dostoyevski, I asked him to narrate his story about learning by reading – and to do so in English, having a German-English dictionary at his side.