Interview: 10 questions
1. Tell me something about your life and the educational background
I was born in Eastern Germany in 1981, moved to Western Germany in 1989, then to France in 2001, where I am still living to this day. When I will be 40, I will have lived 20 years in Germany and 20 years in France. I already feel half German, half French, because until my A-levels, I knew everything only from a German side and from then on, I only knew independent life in France, where I did all my studies and work.
2. When, how and why started you filming?
Since I can remember, I was a total television addict, as cinemas didn’t really exist in East Germany, I only watched television, everything from series to films. I always watched the films/series first and then replayed the screenplay in my room, dressing up and playing all the roles. In doing so, I developed my imagination with the medium film and performance. I moved a lot as a child, and didn’t really develop any ties with people at any place I lived at, so the medium film gave me a certain feeling of escape into an imaginary place where everything was fine.
My first experience in a cinema was Disney’s Ariel, the little Mermaid, when we moved to West Germany. It was during the summer, very hot and a local fair was on, so nobody was at the cinema. It was just my Dad, my sister and I. It was magical, because I could walk up to the screen and be close to the story, almost being in it.
Growing up, never losing interest in films and series, I always kind of knew I wanted to do something with films, that’s why I moved to France, to study cinema at FEMIS, which is a classic film school. Prior to be able to passing the entrance exam, I had to do 2 years of film theory at a university, but during these two years, I realised that experimental films were what I was more drawn to. And then I studied video and photography at ENSAD Paris, where I was completely free in developing the kind of films I wanted to make.
3. What kinds of topics have your films?
For several years now my work is evolving around research about behavioral codes in connection with the theme of violence.
I am looking for an artistic language, which is staging a sort of “torture”, which I inflict on my protagonists, either in their postures or their actions or which comes from their environment. They become thus the puppets, the guinea pigs, who are forced to incarnate dysfunctional human relationships and values, power dependencies, unhealthy power games within a group or other dominational fights in society.
4. How do you develop your films, do you follow certain principles, styles etc.?
I mainly work with subjects or questions, which are controversial, paradoxical which move me as a human being, this can be my own life experience or things I see in my environment or in the media. Then I usually write them down and then do research, watching documentaries about the subject and then try to imagine how I could translate my questions into something visually symbolic. I re-read certain books or re-watch certain films, which I am obsessed about, like the diary of Andrej Tarkovskij or his films and Mathew Barney’s work. But then, I tend to be inspired by too many things (fashion, film, drawings, craft and furniture design etc.) and I often have to simplify to get one message across. And I generally know instinctively in advance which medium I want to use, as it’s not always necessarily film.
5. Tell me something about the technical equipment you use.
The equipment I use depends on the kind of film I want to make. Although I am really interested in evolving technology, I am not a big fan of always using the most up-to date equipment. In film, I usually use a full-HD camera and a sound-technician, but it can also be a simple microphone attached to the camera or post-production sound-design, as I often walk around with my H1-Zoom to record sounds. But at the moment, I am writing an experimental animated film, and I will use my Nikon D-300 camera to do the stop-motion frame by frame.
6. These days digital technology is dominating also video as a medium. In which way the digital aspect is entering the creation of your videos, technologically and/or conceptually?
It is not weighing very heavily on my creative process, as the story I want to bring across is more important then the medium or the technology itself. To be honest, for me “Never-ending Story”, with its papier-mâché decors, even if the special effects have evolved since then, is still more magical to me then any 3-D effect you can see today. I am more of a manual character and want to see things I imagine come to life than only move in front of a green screen.
7. How do you finance your films?
All my films are self-produced for the moment, but as this kind of filmmaking includes a lot of voluntary work of many people because I can’t pay them, and hence the risk of these people to leave my project at any time for a paid job, I now usually tend to crowd funding or asking for institutional subvention.
8. Do you work individually as a video artist/film maker or do you work in a team?
All my films until now included a team of any sort, from only actors and me to a 30 people team. I like to work in a group, but it can be exhausting too, if you are the one making all the decisions.
And you are always dependant on those people and that’s why I decided to do an animated film for once to try and make a pause from the group-working kind of way.
if you have experience in both, what is the difference, what do you prefer?
I will be able to tell after finishing my animated film.
9. Who or what has a lasting influence on your film/video making?
As I already said before, everything inspires me. In film, my heroes are all kinds of experimental filmmakers, from Bill Viola, Mathew Barney, Maya Deren to Alexander Alexeieff or the Brother’s Quay or Jan Svankmajer and above all Andrei Tarkovski. I generally like non-narrational, poem-style kinds of films.
But I also am obsessed about experimental fashion, like Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan, Dries van Noten, Walter Van Beirendonck and Azzedine Alaïa. Or in performance art, I adore Marina Abramovic, Paul McCarthy, Orlan or Ana Mendieta. They all have in common, to ask themselves questions about the human being, the human body, how everything works together, but they tend to be more interested in the “dark side“ of the human being, why everything is not working so well. And that’s what I try to do also.
10. What are your future plans or dreams as a film/video maker?
I hope I will be able to continue to do my work, which is mainly a financial question, and I hope I will always find an audience. I think it’s a pity as a young filmmaker, that you can’t always go and meet the people at festivals abroad, because it’s too expensive to go everywhere. So maybe that would be my dream, to be able to exchange more with the people who see my films.
Can works of yours viewed online besides on the CologneOFF platform? Where?
List some links & resources
I tend not to publish my films in their entirety. But you can see trailers of my films on my website: www.corneliaeichhorn.com and if you’re interested in more, you can absolutely get in contact with me through my website or come and see them at the next exhibition.