prologue.night.

(In a narrow Gothic room with a high vaulted ceiling, Faust is sitting uneasily in his armchair at his desk.) 2006 / Installation & Video / PAL 4:3 / 09:39 min. b/w / sound

Today, 50 years after playing Gretchen in Goethe’s ‘Faust’ — a role for which she became famous in the former East Germany — the renowned stage actress Christa Gottschalk recites an excerpt of the well-known Faust monologue in which Faust’s thirst for knowledge nearly drives him to despair. The audio recording of this monologue can be heard via two headphones, with English subtitles projected onto a black-lacquered board. A poster from the 1950s with a stage photo of Christa Gottschalk shows her in the role of Gretchen.On several levels, the work visualizes the process of translating as well as the shifts in meaning that necessarily occur along the way. Long having outgrown her role as Gretchen, the experienced actress now deliberately reads the Faust text out loud for the first time — a text which, due to the countless ‘Faust’ performances she took part in, she actually knows by heart. Thus, the feminine voice appropriates the inquisitiveness that is normally attributed to the male gender. The text is then re-translated into projected characters, into simultaneous English subtitles. Rendered into the foreign language (which is for many still somehow recognizable), the unfamiliar, unrhymed verse now allows for new and different interpretations. Not only do these shifts create space for alternative considerations, they at the same time create a distance to the well-known classic text.


Video: PAL / 4:3 / 09:39 min.
Performer: Christa Gottschalk
Language: German & English subtitles


Installation view / HGB Leipzig / 2007
Installation view / HFBK Dresden Oktogon / 2007