meet britta thie, the woman hailed as germany's answer to lena dunham
Berlin-based artist Britta Thie's web series 'Translantics' chronicles the lives of 20-somethings in the European contemporary art world, a project which has earned her comparisons to Lena Dunham. Ahead of the show's screening in Brooklyn, we catch up...
German artist Britta Thie is an integral part of Berlin's young art scene. For her latest project — the episodic web series Translantics — she collaborated with the Frankfurt exhibition space Schirn Kunsthalle. The series, which has some serious mockumentary vibes, follows three young German women as they navigate their lives through the Eurozone -- encountering privileged peers and interacting with digital communication technologies in their art work. Ahead of Translantics' screening at the Migrating Forms Festival at Brookyln's BAM Cinema tomorrow night, we met the artist in her Berlin studio and talked about the making of the series, nostalgia, and what she thinks about being compared to Lena Dunham.
What is Translantics about?
I show excerpts of my generation. The first episode takes place at a fictional vernissage. In another episode, we're going to visit the city in which I grew up — my granny is part of that episode. The story becomes clearer with every episode; it's like a computer game. Each episode is like a new level, even the style is different and, at the end, everything is going to make sense.
How do you cope with the attention?
I feel a bit exposed. I was used to posting my videos on my Vimeo channel and existing within the art world. Now, the videos are being presented on mainstream platforms like YouTube. I am extremely neurotic and read all the comments.
How does it feel to be criticized?
My work was — up until now — only interesting for people within the art world, either for people in art schools or in galleries, but never for audiences on mainstream platforms. There are comments on YouTube — and I read them all — and sometimes I take them too seriously. Sometimes I identify a hundred per cent with my work and, of course, there are times when I question myself and my work. I miss the protective environment of an exhibition. If you put video art that is exhibited in galleries without the context and without any filters for an art audience on the Internet, the comments would be completely different. But, of course, this is also exciting, since it creates new possibilities for art.
What do you think of the contemporary art scene in general?
Art talks to the academic elites; the target audience consists of a few collectors. There is a certain arrogance in the scene. I did not want to create entertainment per se, but rather create an in-between space for others who might find access to the art scene through my web series. I thought I could create something bigger with a narrative that's more accessible and enjoyable for a broader audience, compared to a gallery somewhere on the fifth floor in Berlin Schöneberg.
How would you describe our generation?
I can't answer that. We live in a digital age, but we still stick to the analog. This web series is a portrait of a generation that exists within the art world. Maybe others find it interesting to be able to look into this scene and see what's going on there.
When you look back, does it surprise you that subcultures are often being used to characterize a certain era?
Yes, but on the other hand, this web series is also deeply personal. I use my friends.
Maybe that's why people compare you to Lena Dunham and your web series to Girls?
Yes, I read that, too. I haven't written as much as she has; her TV show is fantastic. My show is more chaotic and not that polished. The whole web series has got a Big Brother vibe to it. We didn't have time to prepare anything. A lot of it is improvised and we create the story during the editing process. No one knows what's real and what's not.
Talk us through the casting process.
I simply asked people who wanted to take part in it; there wasn't any random choice. The two main characters are also my best friends in real life. We wanted to do a project for some time now, and it was just perfect. We all play a modified version of ourselves. Lily McMenamy stars also in it. She just moved to Berlin for her studies and she is one of the most pleasant and modest people I've ever met. It was great fun to work with her. Filming felt like theater class in school.
Why is video such an interesting medium for you?
Web series are nothing new. When I was a little girl, I filmed with 8mm cameras. What else was there to do in a small town? You'll see this footage in the episodes. It symbolizes the self centered nostalgia of our generation — a generation that misses itself — combined with a nostalgia for technology. Web series are phenomena of our times. I know 20-somethings in New York City who have their own web series. We all think that we need to write our own biography at 25 and then make a film out of it, just to entertain people.
What does your mother think about your success?
She's really proud but has got a different point of view. She's part of generation that grew up believing what they saw on TV was the truth and that it has more value than anything you find on the Internet. For her, TV is curated and that's why the things being shown there have a greater value than anything on the Internet, because it's open for anyone and anyone can become Insta-famous. That's a different mindset.
How did the show develop from your point of view? Did your perception change?
The show was a work in process. I never learned in art school how actual film production works and had no idea about all the steps it takes to get to the final cut. I approached the project form a fine arts point of view and coming from a video art background I thought, "I can just produce one episode per month — easy." But in the end I realized that wasn't so easy. You can see by the different vibes and looks of the episodes, how the editing develops, how things get different, edits tighter, the colors richer, the sound design sharper etc. I think each episode has its own charm and represents its own little word.
Would you do it again?
Definitely. It was a wonderful experience and I worked with such an inspiring team. Kevin Klein, my DoP, is so talented and we worked almost telepathically together. Same goes for my co- and art director, Julia Burlingham, who was amazing at creating looks and set design. Of course the soundtrack by Ville Haimla gave the show its atmosphere.
What are your plans for the future?
I am currently working on two projects: First, a theater play in the form of a sitcom that is going to be both a "live drama" and later edited into a short film that plays with the aesthetics of 90s. And then I am also working on a new TV show.
Text Alexandra Bondi de Antoni
Still from 'Translantics'