Lars Laumann’s latest film Berlinmuren centers on a highly unusual relationship: the love affair between Eija-Riitta Berliner-Mauer and the Berlin Wall. Mrs. Berliner-Mauer describes their relationship explicitly as sexual and emotional. Berliner-Mauer now lives in Liden in northern Sweden where, besides running a museum that displays models of guillotines and the Berlin Wall, she moderates a number of websites about the wall and the phenomenon of human love for objects. Lars Laumanns film is not primarily documentary but is guided by a respectful interest in the idiosyncrasies of marginalized social phenomena.
Can you describe, what your video is about?
The video is about a Swedish woman who has founded an interest organization for Object Sexual – people who fall in love, and maintain relationships with objects. They experience that the objects have souls and that they are able to communicate with them. Since she first went online in 1996 dozens of people have come out of the closet, loving any number of objects imaginable.
What did you think when you saw the homepage of Eija-Riitta Berliner-Mauer the first time?
I first found her webpage in the late 90s. I got really obsessed with it, and went back to check for updates a few times a week. I could not stop going back and was totally thrilled when she added things like instructions for how to pronounce her name. After a while I joined her web forum where we got to know each other, and in 2001 I decided to go visit her in northern Sweden.
Did you have any ideas about how you wanted to present her and how you wanted the video to look (in form and content), before you visited her?
In the beginning I did not know what media to tell the story in. But over the years I just started to collect visual documents and text from our chats on the Internet and transcriptions of interviews. After a while I realized that video was the only media in which I was able to communicate. To learn video editing I made the project called ‘Morrissey Foretelling the Death of Diana’, which is also inspired by a website.
How much time did you spend filming Eija-Riitta and how was it to be there?
I do not know how many hours I have of video but since 2003 I have been there 3 times. Pretty early in the process I realized that I wanted to base it mainly on photos rather than video. Mixing the photos from my trips to go see her with her photos of her trips to Berlin in the 70s and 80s to meet the Berlin Wall.
How did the Project develop in cut and postproduction?
All along I imagined the text as the main structure, using the same themes as she has on her webpage. But what photos and footage went where was really the biggest challenge. I had 20 or 30 hours of video and more than a 1000 photos. Swedish musician Dan-Ola Persson wrote and recorded 7 tracks for the project, it was a totally new experience to adjust the images to music that I enjoyed very much. The music is half the video really, so full of melancholy and bitterness.
The pavilion, which shows your video in Sculpture Park, seems to be very thought out through in its placement and the symmetrical presentation of the German and the English version of the video. Can you say something about your considerations with the design of the pavilion?
The video is about juxtaposition and composition, so when the biennale asked for German subtitles I felt that it would be unfair to the photographs to have text over them. It also somehow feels quite brutal when you hear the tenderness of Eija-Riitta Berliner-Mauer’s voice. I wanted a raw but plain outside, that did not stand out too much on the terrain and that contrasted an inside that had quite an intimate feel.
In former works you are often relating to pop culture (Fleetwood Mac, Morrissey, Lady Di). Do you see the portrait of “Mrs. Berliner-Mauer” in the same context or is it a new direction in your work?
No. The inspiration for making these works is not pop culture in itself, but the accessibility to the outskirts of our culture that is made possible by the Internet. If you are interested in weird but beautiful conspiracy theories, Fleetwood Mac tribute bands or marginal sexualities it is so easy to research and meet other that share your enthusiasm.
by Sebastian Quedenbaum, 2008