Ecstatic Truth: Documenting Herzog 'Documenting'
Werner Herzog, Beat Presser
October 22-November 15, 2007
Reception on Thursday, October 25, 2007
Cinema Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and Slought Foundation, Philadelphia are pleased to announce an exhibition featuring work by Werner Herzog, accompanied by images of the filmmaker by photographer Beat Presser. In conjunction with the exhibition opening, a public conversation between Werner Herzog and Karen Beckman will take place on Thursday, October 25, 2007 from 7:30-8:30pm. The exhibition will be on display in the Slought Foundation galleries from October 22 through November 15, 2007. The exhibition will include manifestos, films, and photographs that engage Herzog's continued explorations of "ecstatic truth" and the boundary between fiction and documentary practice.
Photo Caption: Beat Presser, "Werner Herzog, Iquitos," May 1981.
"In my 'documentaries' I have constantly explored the intensified truths of the situations that I have found myself in and of the characters I have met, whether it be abused people who lose their speech in Lessons of Darkness or the chain-smoking African chimp of Echoes from a Sombre Empire. [...] The real Fitzcarraldo moved a far lighter boat from one river system to the next, but he disassembled the boat into little pieces and got some engineers to reassemble it later on. But for what we did there was no precedent in technical history, and no book of instructions we could refer to. And you know, probably no one will ever need to do again what we did. I am a Conquistador of the Useless." -- Werner Herzog, -Herzog on Herzog, 241/179 (2002)
For more information on other events and activities organized around Werner Herzog's Fall 2007 visit, organized by the Cinema Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania, please visit www.cinemastudies.upenn.edu or download the poster (PDF). Please note that a public conversation about the work of Werner Herzog will also take place on Monday, October 22, 2007 from 6:30-8:00pm at Slought Foundation, featuring Timothy Corrigan, Thomas Y. Levin, Heidi Schlipphacke, and Alan Singer in a conversation introduced by Karen Beckman (here for more information).
Werner Herzog, one of the most influential filmmakers in New German Cinema, was born in Munich in 1942. Herzog has gained notoriety not only for his fantastic narratives but also for pushing himself and his crew to unprecedented lengths in order to achieve the effects he demanded. He has produced, written, and directed more than forty films, published more than a dozen books of prose, and directed as many operas. Herzog’s works explore the boundary between fiction and documentary practice, and aim for “ecstatic truth” in the form of an event-based dynamic and “the feeling of being an observer dragged into the scene.” In lieu of a filmography, Slought Foundation is pleased to reproduce below Herzog's "Minnesota declaration," a series of principles outlining his practice, originally presented in a 1999 appearance at the Walker Art Center on the occasion of a 14-film retrospective at that museum.
Since 1980, Basel-based photographer Beat Presser has collaborated closely with the German filmmaker Werner Herzog and actor Klaus Kinski, as still photographer for notable films such as Fitzcarraldo, Cobra Verde, and Invincible. His works have been shown in many international exhibitions. In 2007-2008, “Oasis of Silence” will be on display at the Patravadi Theater in Bangkok. His photographs will also be on exhibit at the Beyeler Foundation and at the Tinguely Museum, Basel. His many catalogues and publications include Klaus Kinski-portrayed by Beat Presser (2000) and Werner Herzog (Arte Edition) (2003). For more information, beatpresser.com
“Minnesota Declaration” / Truth and fact in documentary cinema
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, April 30, 1999
LESSONS OF DARKNESS
1. By dint of declaration the so-called Cinema Verité is devoid of verité. It reaches a merely superficial truth, the truth of accountants.
2. One well-known representative of Cinema Verité declared publicly that truth can be easily found by taking a camera and trying to be honest. He resembles the night watchman at the Supreme Court who resents the amount of written law and legal procedures. “For me,” he says, “there should be only one single law; the bad guys should go to jail.”
Unfortunately, he is part right, for most of the many, much of the time.
3. Cinema Verité confounds fact and truth, and thus plows only stones. And yet, facts sometimes have a strange and bizarre power that makes their inherent truth seem unbelievable.
4. Fact creates norms, and truth illumination.
5. There are deeper strata of truth in cinema, and there is such a thing as poetic, ecstatic truth. It is mysterious and elusive, and can be reached only through fabrication and imagination and stylization.
6. Filmmakers of Cinema Verité resemble tourists who take pictures of ancient ruins of facts.
7. Tourism is sin, and travel on foot virtue.
8. Each year at springtime scores of people on snowmobiles crash through the melting ice on the lakes of Minnesota and drown. Pressure is mounting on the new governor to pass a protective law. He, the former wrestler and bodyguard, has the only sage answer to this: “You can’t legislate stupidity.”
9. The gauntlet is herby thrown down.
10. The moon is dull. Mother Nature doesn’t call, doesn’t speak to you, although a glacier eventually farts. And don’t you listen to the Song of Life.
11. We ought to be grateful that the Universe out there knows no smile.
12. Life in the oceans must be sheer hell. A vast, merciless hell of permanent and immediate danger. So much of hell that during evolution some species—including man—crawled, fled onto some small continents of solid land, where the Lessons of Darkness continue.
This program was made possible in part through the generous sponsorship of the Jerry and Emily Spiegel Funds in Fine Arts, the Cinema Studies Program, the Department of German, and the Department of English at the University of Pennsylvania. We would also like to thank International House of Philadelphia, the Society of Friends of the Slought Foundation, and the Roy & Niuta Titus Foundation. Very special thanks for organizing the Werner Herzog's Fall 2007 visit at the University of Pennsylvania goes to Paul Holdengräber, Nathaniel Kahn, Nicola M. Gentili, Timothy Corrigan, and Karen Beckman.
Tim Corrigan, Aaron Levy
Werner Herzog, et al. "Ecstatic Truth: Documenting Herzog 'Documenting'." Slought Foundation Online Content. [25 October 2007;
Accessed 22 May 2013]. <http://slought.org/content/11374/>.