The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Valeska Gert Day


‘More than 30 years after her death, admirers pay tribute to one of Germany’s most enigmatic – and overlooked – artists, dancer and actress Valeska Gert. She’s said to have laid the foundations for the punk movement.

‘”I saw her on television in 1977 when she was 86 and I thought, she has short hair, a colorful dress, she’s tough and living in the present, she’s a real punk because she doesn’t care about her image,” said artist and musician Wolfgang Mueller at the opening night of a new exhibition dedicated to Valeska Gert. The show in Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof coincides with the launch of a Mueller’s new biography on the performer. “When she died in 1978 people took care of her letters and found correspondence from punks who said, we would like to know you and to meet you,” he said.

‘Indeed, Valeska Gert’s appearance on a TV talk show in the late 1970’s re-ignited interest in one of Germany’s most enigmatic artistic figures. Her acceptance, at the age of 86, by the burgeoning punk movement is as much a testament to her brash, no-nonsense energy as it is to her artistic achievements. Since then she has remained a marginal curio.

‘Gert was born Gertrud Valesca Samosch to a Jewish family in Berlin in 1892. Showing no interest in academia, Gert began taking dance lessons at the age of nine, and by 1915 was studying acting with Alexander Moissi. Her leanings toward the performing arts, combined with the detrimental effects of World War I on her father’s finances, led her to seek employment and she soon made appearances at the Munich Kammerspiele, the Deutsches Theater and the Berliner Tribuene.

‘As the 1920’s progressed, she also began appearing in silent cinema, performing in The Threepenny Opera, Diary of a Lost Girl  with iconic flapper Louise Brooks, and G. W. Pabst’s Joyless Street.

‘It was around this time that Gert unveiled one of her most enduring performance works. Entitled “Pause,” it was an interpretative anti-dance performed between reels in cinemas, designed to draw attention to stillness and serenity. “It was so radical just to go on stage in the cinema stand there and do nothing,” said Wolfgang Mueller, “She did this in the 20’s where the convention was speed, business, activity and you see this in the films of the 20’s: big cities, traffic, nervosity. To go out there and do the complete opposite was very, very modern.”

‘By 1933, with the Nazis in power, Gert suffered a ban from the German stage due to her Jewish heritage. She moved to London where she continued to perform on stage and appeared in the experimental short film Pett and Pot directed by Alberto Cavalcanti. It would be her last film work until her triumphant return to the cinema in the mid-1960’s.

‘By 1938, in her late 40’s and living in New York but, Gert found it virtually impossible to revive her previous career. She lived on the welfare of a Jewish refugee community, washed dishes and posed as a nude model. In 1941, she opened the Bettlerbar (Beggar’s Bar), a ramshackle cabaret/restaurant filled with mismatched furniture and staffed by the likes of Jackson Pollock and Tennessee Williams, the latter being fired by Gert for being “too sloppy.”

‘Although licensing requirements forced the New York bar to close, Gert introduced the concept to Germany upon her return in 1950. It has proved perhaps her most enduring legacy; tumbledown bars furnished with random pieces of flea-market chic and junk store accessories have since become legion in Berlin, a fad started by Gert which Wolfgang Mueller terms “freedom from taste.”

‘Back in post-war Berlin, she once again had to start from scratch. In the same 1977 television show, the interviewer tactfully suggested that by the dawn of the 1950’s Gert was perhaps not so well remembered as before. With typical self-depricating humor and bluntness typical for Berliners, she exclaimed, “Not so well remembered? I was totally forgotten!”

‘She opened the Hexenkueche (Witch’s Kitchen) cabaret and made a triumphant return to the silver screen with an appearance in the 1965 surrealist drama Juliet of the Spirits, directed by Frederico Fellini. She was soon cast in other high profile projects by Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s and Volker Schloendorff.

‘While Valeska Gert has had a small but solid fan base, widespread fame always eluded her and, especially in the intervening years, she has become very much a marginalized character. “I think she is a bit invisible,” said Wolfgang Mueller, “She is not known because she always ignored borders. She was always far away from these boxes that the art scene puts people in.”‘ — Gavin Blackburn, DW





Valeska Gert @ Wikipedia
The grotesque burlesque of Valeska Gert
Valeska Gert’s Performances in the Context of Weimar Culture
Volker Schlöndorff: Portrait of Valeska Gert
The Remarkable Life of Valeska Gert
Back to the Future of the Body
Valeska Gert: The great grotesque pantomime
Valeska Gert @ MUBI
Valeska Gert @ The Criterion Collection
L’excentrique Valeska Gert
Dancing Out of Bounds: Valeska Gert in Berlin and New York
«Kaleidoskop meines Lebens»: Valeska Gert’s Performances of the Self
‘Dada Gert’ A Tribute To Renegade Cabaret Artist Valeska Gert
illustres illustrateurs : Jeanne Mammen, période Weimar (1914-1933)
A Different Drum: Valeska Gert and Tennessee Williams



Valeska Gert — Die Frau im Taumel des Lasters

Valeska Gert bei Je später der Abend 1975

Die Valeska Gert Story / Hörbuchausschnitt

Valeska Gert – Anfänge und Zeit der Weimarer Republik

VALESKA GERT-number one video


Curating Valeska Gert: Ana Isabel Keilson in conversation with Wolfgang Muller and An Paenhuysen


Ana Isabel Keilson: Today is the 14th of July 2011. Can you both introduce yourselves? Say how you met and then we can just kind of go from there. An Paenhuysen: My name is An Paenhuysen. I’m from Belgium. I’ve been living in Berlin for a while now. I’m a curator and historian. I met Wolfgang his show, Séance Vocibus Avium. Then we curated the show of Valeska Gert together, and now we’re working on a new project. Wolfgang Müller : Yes. We fell in love. (All laugh). An: Love at first sight. Wolfgang: Mental love. Sounds horrible! Ana: Why Wolfgang? (They are interrupted by a phone call) Ana: [Wolfgang] You can introduce yourself too. Wolfgang: I grew up in a small village in Wolfsburg in this city where you don’t get an identity by birth, or some kind of no-identity. I saw it after awhile as a chance to look at where something like identity, or personality is built on. [To see] what is there, and what you can create. This is a theme I was always interested in: cognition. When I was kicked out of school, I moved to Berlin, and then to West Berlin, which was a very nice place. Ana: When was this? Wolfgang: 1979. West Berlin was a very interesting place because a wall surrounded it, and it was only reachable from West Germany. You had to cross East Germany, the Communist part of the country. In West Berlin, you had a half-city with coal heating, toilet outside upstairs. It was really not so modern. But this means that you could live very cheap. And you didn’t have to go to the army if you went to West Berlin. This was a very good area to create something where you didn’t have to think of how you can make a profit out of it. Just create an idea, a concept. When you’re 20, you’re not a professor. You’re not somebody who is in an institution who has ten years time for making a research towards a master or post, or something like that. Time is money in that way. Here was a kind of free space because money was not so important. This is changing now. An: Yeah. But it still has this a little bit, no? People are always at the cafes. People seem to have more time here, or are taking more time. Not this work pressure. In Belgium you have to make a career, and it goes very fast. Ana: Same in New York. There’s a lot of pressure. So then I’m curious. What do you perceive as things that happened as a result of that? In the seventies, moving into the 80’s–and maybe trying to bring Veleska Gert into this–did you feel like there was an awareness among the people here that this was a special place to be? Wolfgang: Don’t forget that she was an outsider. She came back after the war, and had a little flat in West Berlin. I have a magazine from ’66, a video I can show you, where hippies, freaks and Gert are part of it. She was really part of a subculture. There were a lot of gay people there, like Herbert Tobias, a photographer who photographed Nico, and also Gert. He was together with her. There were a lot of outsiders in West Berlin. West Berlin was till the end of the wall, attracting just these people from all over the world. There were Americans, people who can’t stand America for some reason, they moved to West Berlin. Also Italians and French people and English people from everywhere. The art business wasn’t interesting. The galleries and so on were very conservative, but the atmosphere was very open-minded. The city, the general life was open. An: But in the case of Valeska Gert. It’s not just about the outsider or about recovering strange people and freaks. Ana: People know about Mary Wigman who very much is able to fit into those categories, and people don’t know about Gert. There is any number of artists, things that happen, events that take place. People don’t hear about it because they’re very particular or they happen in a specific place with a specific group of people, and it can’t get broadcast in the same way. As a historian, my interest in some ways is not saying, for example, “these people are deaf. Let’s fetishize them. Or, aren’t they crazy and weird?” But it’s that they have a certain kind of knowledge that most people don’t know about. So what’s the act of recovery that has to happen in other forms of communication or with other kinds of interested parties that share this information in a different way? I think that was more my point. I think that your interest in Gert isn’t because you want to make a discovery of this lost artist. Wolfgang: I think Valeska, she did really an art which is still not dead because she works just between the schools. She doesn’t solve things. When she performed “Baby”, and she has the old face, of course she knows that it’s grotesque. You see it when she’s performing and afterward, when she’s finished, you see this old woman, 75 years old who just did a performance. She makes a cut, a border, a wall. It’s very important. People assume she is that way [and not performing]. If she performed in the 20’s as a prostitute having an orgasm, then people think, “Oh, she must be very open-minded.” Of course she was, but it doesn’t mean that she had sex with everybody. This is a big misunderstanding. Ana: Right. But there’s a practical level to it too, which is the art that we have of Gert’s. We have these fragments, a couple videos, some visual images, letters and other kinds of things. But if people don’t get to see these videos, then they don’t know what you’re talking about. Wolfgang: That’s why we publish it. An: It’s also a way of presenting. You can dig up all this stuff from the 80’s and present it in many ways. With Valeska Gert. It was very important for us the way that we presented her work. It was about concepts. Wolfgang: Not [only] historical. An: It’s in the vein of contemporary art. It’s not about her life that’s about [being] a baby, young, and then old. Wolfgang: It had nothing to do with the time, in fact. If a young performer would do the same now, it would be also good. An : But it would be easy for Valeska Gert to be shown as a prostitute and then an older grotesque dancer, or as a woman dancer. We had to discuss lots how we present her, because still today this was in one room and it was “Works made by Women” from the collection. Still today, the way we perceive art–we act as if the contemporary art world is free of hierarchies. If we go inside and we see a woman who works with the body and does the prostitute thing, we have right away this frame. So we tried to have another frame there for how people watch her work and to see the concept of her work. She happened to use her body, but that was not the main thing for us. Wolfgang: I mean everyone has a body, but she used the body as an instrument. This is something that people don’t notice. They think you are the body. They couldn’t imagine that somebody would make a performance and stay behind or next to this body. She doubled it in a way. This doubling is so interesting. She is not like Mary Wigman, who found a form and then built it to become a Gesamtkunstwerk. This is something else. Valeska makes deconstruction a big key of the work. It’s not deconstruction. It’s deconstruction–with construction. Very important. For instance, it’s not like Einsturzende Neubauten. The punk world was such that we destroyed the stages. I think this is déconstruction, word by word taken. For me it was always interesting to imagine Neubauten would play on stage, destroying and playing the big evil man, and then in the background you see a recommendation from the Berlin Senate, “please support for our American tour.” This is how this band from Germany made high art. Ana: But I think that also takes a certain kind of self-reflexivity, or a self-awareness or self-consciousness. Like with everything you’re saying about Gert. She’s not stupid. She gets what she’s doing. One minute she’s this baby that’s–call it grotesque, call it disarming, and then she makes a break and is this old woman. She gets that she’s in control. She gets that that juxtaposition of the two is part of what she’s channeling in the work. I’m curious to hear you both speak a little more about the curatorial aspect and also the scholarship side because you’re both scholars. Scholarship has it’s own position in this kind of cultural landscape. [Scholars] as participants, viewers, audience and activists. I believe that scholars are activists, and maybe that’s why I keep going back to this idea of recovery, historical recovery. You’re saying that you didn’t want the Hamburger Bahnhof exhibition to be historical, and that it was more about ideas in her work as a female artist. How do you structure a situation in which that can happen, because I think that from my perspective, it’s hard to say that an exhibition at a museum about someone like Valeska Gert isn’t historical to some extent. An: Is it historical? Ana: It is historical in the sense that she’s dead, she’s not living. She’s not very well known. Part of it is just about giving access to what she did. She worked with very famous people. She was an important actor in a moment to groups of people. Wolfgang: Historical in that way, I would say. We plan not to make some kind of “This was Valeska, she’s grown up there and there.” There is an introduction to her work in a historical context at the front of the exhibition. But within the exhibition, we displayed in a way that was more about concepts than a timeline. We put her work in communication with Marcel Duchamp’s work, or Marcel Broodthaers or VALIE EXPORT. VALIE EXPORT is still alive, but all these other artists are dead, and are/were more or less her generation. One of the Viennese Aktionists, Gunter Brus, met her in a cafe and described her in the book, Old West Berlin. It was published a year and a half ago. Valeska was performing and acting in the same moment. In that way, she opened a space between these roles. We sought to show a wave of time and development where she was making many different kinds of work. An: And to break conventions also. That’s what people talk about all the time. In 1975 she had this interview on T.V., on a talk show, and she talked about sexual education for kids. She said, “I don’t agree with [the way] sexual education [is taught],” As an artist, she performed an orgasm in the 20’s. She knows that people are shocked by her.


11 of Valeska Gert’s 15 roles

Volker Schlöndorff Coup de grace (1976)
‘Despite its modest claims, Volker Schlöndorff’s twelfth film, Coup de Grâce (Der Fangschuss, 1976), can be considered a jewel among his creations. Adapted from Marguerite Yourcenar’s novel by the same title, this film brings the 1920s heritage to life, thanks to quilted jackets, frozen landscapes, impersonal firing squads, uniformed soldiers folk dancing at war-ravaged estates: images, sound, and texture evocative of revolutionary Russia. In addition, actress Valeska Gert, 1920s exponent of avant-garde pantomime, expressionist dance, and women’s liberation, graces the screen in one of her final performances, as Aunt Praskovia. It marks, at the same time, Schlöndorff’s return to and recapitulation of his own cinematic methods from Young Törless (1966) and The Sudden Wealth of Poor People of Kombach (1971). It presents Margarethe von Trotta, here also Schlöndorff’s screenwriter, in some of her most convincing scenes as an actress. It carries on the portrayal of rebel women in the line of A Free Woman (1972) and The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum (1975), though in more spartan visual style. In all its simplicity, this is a key work by a pivotal literary filmmaker of Young and New German cinemas.’ — Hans-Bernhard Moeller and George Lellis




Tabea Blumenschein & Ulrike Ottinger The Enchantment of the Blue Sailors (1975)
‘In collage sequences, the surrogate of synthetic sensuality takes form and seduces the sailors in the guise of a Hawaiian girl. In ritual punctuation, she distributes deaths which seemingly only the hardy siren Fatality can survive. But beyond the apparent and real rigidity of expressive forms, the film imparts a new life, which although not reversing its loss, breaks it in irony and repeats it in ritual, making visible other means of survival:

Mais ce sont de petits secrets
Il en est d’autres plus profonds
Qui se dévoileront bientôt
Et feront de vous cent morceaux
A la pensée toujours unique

‘The film is constructed in such a way that the alternation between collage sequences and the continually repeated rhythmic sequences of images correspond to the confrontation between the organic and synthetic worlds allegorized in the film. Transformations or metamorphoses are here depicted as the means to escape fatality.’ — UO

No excerpts available


Rainer Werner Fassbinder Eight Hours Are Not a Day (1973)
‘On October 29, 1972, the first part of Fassbinder’s five-part family series flickered across West German TV screens. Over the next months, the public broadcaster ARD showed all five episodes, in each case on a Saturday evening in the prime-time slot: I. Jochen and Marion, (October 29, 1972), II. Grandma and Gregor (December 17, 1972), III. Franz and Ernst (January 2, 1973), IV. Harald and Monika (February 18, 1973), and V. Irmgard and Rolf (March 18, 1973). In EIGHT HOURS ARE NOT A DAY Fassbinder melded the popular genre of the middle-class family series with the themes and milieu of the so-called worker film. He himself said of the series he made for WDR: “What distinguishes Jochen und Marion and Grandma and Gregor and a few of the others from what people imagine workers to be like and from the image sold on TV and elsewhere is the fact that these characters have still not been beaten down.”’ — The Fassbinder Foundation

No excerpts available


Federico Fellini Juliet of the Spirits (1965)
‘Federico Fellini’s 1965 Juliet of the Spirits remains a timeless, major work of a master, a portrait of a dutiful wife plunged into crisis that triggers her spiritual awakening. With Fellini’s own wife, the great Giulietta Masina, as Juliet, and with his unique command of fantasy and spectacle in full force,  Juliet of the Spirits, Fellini’s first film in color, is at once an eye-popping display of bravura and a work of compassionate insight. … As various gurus, including an androgynous Eastern mystic (played by pioneering performance artist Valeska Gert) are telling Juliet what to do, she is at once flooded with childhood memories and drawn to the hospitality of her gorgeous blond neighbor Suzy (Sandra Milo), who lives in an Art Nouveau-ish palace with her Greek tycoon lover and whose parties would not be inappropriate for a bordello.’ — Kevin Thomas




Alberto Cavalcanti Pett And Pott: A Fairy Story Of The Suburbs (1934)
‘The film, made to advertise domestic telephone sets, is based around two very different families. The Petts are conventional, happy and have children; the Potts are unconventional and unhappy, without children. The Brazilian-born experimental filmmaker Alberto Cavalcanti cast fellow émigré Valeska Gert as a wildly impertinent house servant in this plug for telephones, the first movie he made for British documentarian John Grierson’s General Post Office unit.’ — NYJFF

No excerpts available


Georg Wilhelm Pabst The Threepenny Opera (1931)
‘A little leeway is required here as this big screen adaptation of the famous musical drama written by Bertol Brecht with music by Kurt Weill features very little singing. This was largely due to director G.W Pabst being more interested in the actual story than the singing. He did though keep two of the more popular songs, including Die Moritat von Mackie Messer which you will recognise from its English translation Mack The Knife! Brecht’s 1928 play is actually a reworking of John Gay’s 18th century English opera The Beggar’s Opera yet the cynical look at how corruption exists at all levels of British society remains intact. The central figure, in this version, is well known crook Mackie Messer (Rudolf Forster), the king of the London underground living an amoral life yet is presented as an anti-hero. He marries Polly Peachman (Carola Neher), the daughter of Jonathan Jeremiah Peachum (Fritz Rasp), the man who controls all the beggars in the capital. He and his wife (Valeska Gert) aren’t pleased by this news and when all efforts to make Polly change her mind fail, they resort to dirty tactics to break up the marriage. A fairly simple set-up and one which plays out with surprisingly few twists or turns – one of the most straightforward plots to be found in such a famous work. But that doesn’t stop a wry eye from being cast over its subject, coming through loud and clear regardless of the language it is presented in. As was the custom of the time Pabst shot versions in both German and French but a planned English version didn’t materialise.’ — MB’s Instant Headache


the entire film


Carl Junghans Telle est la vie (1930)
‘Carl Junghans’ film captures the tragic story of an aging laundress, whose drudgery and toil support a licentious and abusive alcoholic husband. Following the wave of social realism in European cinema, the film tries to be true to life, refusing embellishment or sentimentalism. In this way, it distinguished itself from the other films produced during this period in Prague. German social cinema and the cinematic expression of Soviet cinema (some shots are only two frames long) influenced Carl Junghans and are not only present in the style of the film itself, but also in the casting which included personalities who had already played in decisive films that influenced its genesis. The choice of Vera Baranovskaja as the main character is a reference to the sacrifice and the moral integrity of Pudovkin’s Mother. The performance of Valeska Gert, who plays a waitress liberated from the usual confinement of female repertoire, is essential not only for the characterization of the waitress, but also to associate the film with avant-garde ideas and aesthetics and to set it apart from mainstream productions. A few weeks after its initial release in Berlin’s Ufa-Theater, some shots, considered too obviously sexually explicit and indecent, were censored in Czechoslovakia: a customer touching the manicurist’s knee, the lovers’ scene, a man carrying his bedpan, a doctor proposing a price for an abor- tion, a drunken husband heading to the toilet. So far, no original print of the silent version has been found in the world. A 1950’s print – made from a print dating most likely from the first release in Germany in 1930 that included all the censored sequences – was the best source available for the digitization. The Czech intertitles, produced in the 1950s probably for a sound version, are more concise than in the original Czech version that did not survive. All the other existing film materials have been made from this print.We were determined to preserve its integrity throughout the digitization process.’ — Jeanne Pommeau



G.W. Pabst Diary of a Lost Girl (1929)
‘In Diary of a Lost Girl, Louise Brooks plays Thymiane Henning, the innocent young daughter of a pharmacist (Josef Rovensky), who is seduced by her father’s lecherous assistant, Meinert (Fritz Rasp) and later gives birth to an illegitimate child. Reading Thymiane’s diary, her family discovers that Meinhert is the baby’s father, but neither Thymiane nor Meinhert want to marry each other. Thymiane is forced to leave her home, give her baby away to a midwife and is then sent to a strict girl’s reform school, where the school’s Director (Andrews Engelmann) and his wife (Valeska Gert) subject the girls to relentless, regimented, military-like discipline. Thymiane fights back against this oppressive regime and escapes from the school with her friend Erika (Edith Meinhard). Discovering that her baby has died, Thymiane wanders the streets in despair, until she eventually tracks down Erika, who is working in a brothel. Thymiane also ends up working at the brothel, where she begins to rebuild her life and regain her self-esteem. Diary of a Lost Girl is a compelling indictment of the society of the time and while the majority of the film successfully conveys this visually, some of this is conveyed in some rather heavy-handed moralising towards the film’s end. However, Pabst’s directorial skill is evident throughout Diary of a Lost Girl: his close-ups and his staging of the action draw the viewer into the drama, and make them identify with Thymiane throughout.’ — Martyn Bamber


the entire film


Henrik Galeen Alraune (1928)
‘Hanns Heinz Ewers’ grim science-fiction novel Alraune has already been filmed twice when this version was assembled in 1928. In another of his “mad doctor” roles, Paul Wegener plays Professor Brinken, sociopathic scientist who combines the genes of an executed murderer with those of a prostitute. The result is a beautiful young woman named Alraune (Brigitte Helm), who is incapable of feeling any real emotions — least of all guilt or regret. Upon attaining adulthood, Alraune sets about to seduce and destroy every male who crosses her path. Ultimately, Professor Brinken is hoist on his own petard when he falls hopelessly in love with Alraune himself. Alraune was remade in 1930, with Brigitte Helm repeating her role, and again in 1951, with Hildegarde Knef as the “heroine” and Erich von Stroheim as her misguided mentor.’ — H.O.W.

No excerpts available


Jean Renoir Nana (1926)
‘Renoir’s second work, Nana, is a silent film that tells the story of the rise and fall of a young actress. After trying unsuccessfully to make it big on the Parisian theater scene, Nana uses her powers of seduction to break into society, becoming a vicious courtesan supported by rich lovers.’ — collaged

the entire film


Hans Neumann Wood Love (1925)
‘Mistaken identity, unrequited love, and the supernatural are combined in Shakespeare’s classic set in the woods of Greece on a moonlit night.’ — IMDb




p.s. Hey. ** Dóra Grőber, Hi, Dóra! I’m glad you liked the post, cool. My favorites? Hm, maybe Balloon Factory, Cheryl Pope, Tadao Cern, ‘Blow Dough’, Olivier Grossetête, Spencer Finch, and David Colombini. I hope you hear back from the interviewees easily and in the friendliest way possible. At the moment I’m fearing that we might have to cancel the auditions, so it is not going so well, but there’s still a chance we’ll get things organized enough today, and we’ll decide to go ahead or not shortly. So yesterday was largely a stressful and difficult day, but those days happen sometimes. How is your dog? I hope it’s nothing at all serious. I hope both of our days today are much better than our yesterdays. Was yours? ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi! Cool that you got to experience the Creed first hand, and obviously that it helped point your way. Great, I’ll watch that scene and start getting educated. Thanks, buddy. ** Jamie, Hi. Wow, I’m two for two? I fear the string of magical coincidences will be broke today, i.e. no bubbles and hardly even any colors, but maybe she’ll tweak something. Yeah, if you watch those videos yesterday, you’ll see people walking through the Creeds. Things aren’t so good at all on the organizing, but maybe we can salvage things today. Trade shows are weird — simultaneously exhausting and headache-producing, but it’s worth it for those three or four maybe cool discoveries. And there’s usually free merch and samples, so there’s that. I would like to see that Bjork VR. It’s pretty rare in my experience that someone amazing gets to work with the tech. Do let me know how it is, for sure. I’m aiming for a winner of a Wednesday, and promise me that you’ll do the same, yeah? Lots of love back. ** B.R.Y., Hi! Yeah, I found it kind of shocking that I was so into those Matsumoto pieces, and liking something via shock is the best. Maybe. I haven’t smoked Salvia stuff. Obviously curious, but locale seems pretty crucial and would need to be sorted out. I’m thinking not an amusement park, for instance. ** David Ehrenstein, They used to show ‘The Red Balloon’ at least once in almost every class I attended regardless of what the class’s concentration was back in grammar school and junior high. I must have seen it a hundred times. I wonder if they still do that. There are so many French film and music and TV and etc. legends, at least in the French mind, that I think literally every day here would be a national holiday if they did stuff like that. ** Steevee, Glad to hear you’re surfacing. ** Thomas Moronic, Hey, T! Great to see you, maestro! How’s stuff, and what’s what? Balloons in general? Any size or shape or color? Inflated and not inflated? ** James Nulick, You too? Huh, I honestly had never heard of balloon phobia before. I used to be deathly afraid of the idea of going up in the basket of a hot air balloon, but then I forced myself to do that, and it was amazing, scariness and all. Rosalyn Drexler, yes. She’s extremely interesting. She’s as much a visual artist and playwright/performance art pioneer as she is a fiction writer. An important figure. I really need to make a post about her. Weird that I haven’t. I read two of her novels quite a long time ago. ‘Bad Guy’ and ‘To Smithereens’, both of which I remember liking quite a lot. Really nice to be jogged about her. Thanks! ** Jeff J, Hi. Thanks! Apparently that floating bridge can/could be walked over. I’d like to watch someone do that, but I think I might get motion sickness or something if I did. ‘Paterson’ is playing steps from my front door, and I’m just looking for a free moment to see it. I’m a big fan of Ron Padgett’s poetry, yes. I think the best way to start reading Padgett is probably to get either the ‘New and Selected Poems’ or ‘Collected Poems’. I think most of his individual books are out of print? For individual books, they’e all pretty terrific, but I think I especially like ‘Toujours l’Amour’, ‘Triangles in the Afternoon’, ‘How to Be Perfect’ maybe? No, we’re still just waiting and waiting with increasing impatience for the final word from ARTE. It’s very frustrating, but we’re told that’s how it works with TV stuff, at least in France. ** Sypha, Hi, thanks for the venue news about that game. I don’t like playing games on my computer, and I’m a Nintendo guy, so I think I’m out of its loop. Sounds very cool, though. Hm, maybe I’ll figure something out, and I’ll watch the demo to start. Thanks again! I haven’t read ‘Panama’. I’m not a big fan of Lish’s fiction based on what I’ve read, but I think he’s rightfully called an editing god when it comes to others’ work. ** Misanthrope, Balloons are cool. I think having a gigantic chandelier would make sleeping on the floor or on a very thin futon as head protection worth it. Yay, I’m very happy that I convinced you about the post. I await it adorned in bells. Oh, a Christopher Nolan film is the big time. I kind of can’t stand his films, but they’re still the big time. Good luck to Mr. Styles with making the music performer to actor transition. Maybe he’ll be the new Ice Cube. Sia’s not my thing whatsoever based on what I’ve heard, but, hey, who am I? ** H, Hi. Nice to see you. Oh, yeah, I liked the Spencer Finch one too. It was the most like a poem. I’m doing mostly okay. I hope you’re doing far more than that. ** Okay. I’m wondering if anyone out there already knows of Valeska Gert. I think she was pretty special. See if you agree. See you tomorrow.


  1. David Ehrenstein

    Like most f us I’m sure I first became aware of Gert through “Juliet of the Spirits” then worked my way backwards to “Threepenny Opera” and “Diary of a Lost Girl,” then forwards again to “Coup de Grace.” He weirdly expressive mouth is her signature feature I feel.

    Susan Sontag was a great fan of “Alraune”

    Today’s Performance Artists have a lot to earn from her.

    I expect her “Pause” is where Peter Kubelka “got the idea” for his “Pause.”

  2. Jamie

    Don’t get me wrong, Dennis – your posts always hit the spot/a spot! I’ve never heard of Valeska Gert and now I’m rather fascinated. Thanks. She’s got a great face.
    Hope you’re well. How was Wednesday? I saw my osteopath again and again she’s worked her magic.
    I believe Thursday is the first day of your audition? Hope that they go very well and you find exactly what you’re looking for, or better. Are they in Paris?
    I’m off to London. Catch you on the flip.
    Lots of love to you,

  3. Dóra Grőber


    I’ve heard back from a few of them, I mean the interviewees, and they all said yes so far so now we’re in the middle of planning. Looks like I’ll be able to meet at least 3 of them next week!
    Oh no! I’m so sorry to hear you might have to cancel the auditions! Or rather to postpone them, I guess, but still. It’s the evening now so I think you’ve already made your decision but still: fingers so very crossed! I hope you managed to overcome the most stressful difficulties!
    My dog is way better, thank you! If she goes on like this, she’ll be perfectly well in a few days! And my whole day was a lot better than my yesterday! I managed to write something I like a lot, something with a somewhat newish style I still feel ‘me’. It’s very exciting!
    How was your day? I hope it turned out way-way better than yesterday suggested!

  4. Pedantic_Lurker

    Second pic is Lotte Lenya; is that Gert with her back to the camera?
    Cheers everyone & hope yr respective weeks are swell.

  5. Mark Bringelson

    Oh my god what a great post; thanks! How is it possible she’s flown under my radar? Anything 3-Penny, Pabst, German Expressionism is a magnet (usually). Can’t wait to explore her.

  6. steevee

    There was a Gert sidebar at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Jewish Film Festival, which wrapped up yesterday.

    Trump is driving me insane right now. The fact that the only other subject anyone is discussing on social media is Mary Tyler Moore’s death isn’t helping. I can’t imagine how we can put up with 4 whole years of a Trump presidency.

  7. _Black_Acrylic

    I’d not heard of Valeska Gert before today and she’s an inspiringly proto-punk figure with yes, an amazing face.

  8. David Ehrenstein

    Trump is the one that’s insane.
    You’re not.

  9. B

    Hey Dennis!

    Apologies for being so out of touch! It’s been a busy week, but all good things. I think I mentioned some friends and I are putting up a short play at a salon in brooklyn? That’s coming up on Tuesday so I’ve been MIA. I don’t think I ever checked in post-boston. I had a really nice time with the person I was visiting, lots of walking around and talking, but overall I couldn’t really get a sense of the city. Lots of good bridges though!

    So glad I popped in today! The baloon post is great, I’m going to dig around in that for a bit. I remember Philipe Parreno’s installation at the park ave armory two(ish) years ago. It was called…(checking now)…H {N)Y P N(Y} OSIS. Found it. That one totally blew me away.

    I wasn’t familiar with Gert before today, though we did watch that version of Threepenny Opera when I was in school. Thank you, as always, for the post! How have you been? I saw what you wrote about a stressful day to Dora–so sorry to hear that. Sending you lots of good thoughts!


  10. steevee

    Thanks, David.

    I feel really guilty for not making it to tonight’s #nobannowall rally in Washington Square Park tonight. I heard about it only 20 minutes before it began and didn’t get the location; as it happens, it’s just a short walk from my apartment. Any New Yorkers go?

  11. Bill

    Valeska Gert looks amazing. Wow.

    I didn’t quite get Juliet of the Spirits when I first saw it, but that was decades ago. Will definitely revisit; I have to put out all these fires at work first though. Sigh.

    Am enjoying Edmund Gordon’s bio of Angela Carter. It definitely could be shorter though.


  12. h

    Hi Dennis:

    I hope you’re doing much better than I am. But I’m very good — my January has been sunny with occasional snow. In other words, it’s been nice.

    As I study HIV film/video/performance and literature, I came across your past show catalog ‘Against Nature’ and I love it. But then I read Douglas Crimp’s rather harsh and perhaps somewhat off topic criticism of this specific show/curation. So I was wondering of the context that made HIV activists like Crimp attack your show. I find the spirit/expression of your show uniquely political with its own desire and cultural location. Not sure why activists didn’t like your work. (I guess I’m asking this because I’m in a similar position in relation to activists I encounter more often now as I study HIV relevant literature and art in new york. Though I support them with most means I have when I feel the urgency, I think my work doesn’t seek a direct & unified public voice like theirs. Not sure where it’s coming from, but psyche in my work seems to desire quite a different thing than a public action) if you’re busy, you don’t have to answer right now. In any case, I thought Crimp’s critique of your show was rather naive.

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