INTERVIEW WITH CARL DIEHL (“Polterzeitgeist”)

On Thursday of &Now, after watching Carl Diehl’s “Polterzeitgeist” mixed video media presentation, I asked if he could spare a few minutes at some point to chat with me about his work. He graciously met up with me on Friday, 14 Oct. 2011. This is what he had to say, in a conversation that essentially stemmed from the first question I asked him.

Asked why he addresses the issues or themes that come up in his work, Diehl quickly replied, “I’m fascinated with the subjects, ” and went on to say that he addresses things that he’s curious about and wants to learn more about.

“Metaphors work well for me,” he continued; they are “a strong way of making sense of things,” for they create spaces where things can make sense. His work involves much research—is driven by research in fact, he said, which “mobilizes” the written parts of the work. This “doesn’t temper the setup” of the work, however; of his video presentations, he said, “It’s not built for maximum coherency.”

One particular point of interest for Diehl is the “production of obsolescence,” and he challenges the concept of obsolescence in his work, looking at “anomalous ways to re-use technology.” It became clear that Diehl has a thing for “anomaly”—the “wrong” path can often lead to discoveries.

“It’s important to do things wrong and to make mistakes,” Diehl said, “because that point of failure” is where we see the potential for more and better new solutions than we thought possible before. It is also important to work under many “creative parameters”—deliberately or not—because parameters help create problems, and make us find anomalies, which in turn help inspire solutions. Something he read once struck him, which he summarized as, “Anyone who’s not creating work that could fail is, basically, ‘in the wrong.’”

Finally I asked him, “How did you get into what you do?” It turned out that from the beginning, Diehl has worked under constraints—parameters set by himself and what equipment is available to him—and benefited from what some would call “failure.” “I wanted to do animation,” he said, “but my camera couldn’t ‘do’ animation. So I [ended up making] videos with friends.” In the process of experimenting with those, he learned what else he could do.

So maybe we really need to stop freaking out every time something we’re working on goes “wrong,” because it could show us new ways to make it not only right, but better.

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