Prismed Zeitgeist by Emmy Horstkamp

Exhibition Speech for Feb 26, 2015

Behance Portfolio Exhibition

An Artist can show something that other people are terrified of expressing.

Louise Borgoise

Zeitgeist:  Art by its very nature reflects the culture of the time and a place. Culture and art are intertwined, but the idea of a zeitgeist is problematic when a region is socially and culturally fragmented or too diverse.

When I returned from Asia, I wanted to interact with other artists and wanted to immerse myself into the zeitgeist of Munich.   I wanted to share ideas and be inspired by the artwork of Munich based artists and to tap into Munich culture.  I thought contemporary artists in Munich would be the zeitgeist – a product of their time in history.

Global websites which attract artists from every corner of the world could not help me tap into the Munich Zeitgeist. I needed to find a way to immerse myself in their process of Munich based artists and understand the way of Munich Artists.  I wanted to see the artists environments, to see what influenced their choice of mediums, subject matter and overall artwork. I wanted to know what it was to be an artist in Munich,Germany.

I wanted to know the hows and whys questions that many artists do not spend time pondering and could not easily answer – Munich based artists were immersed in their artwork  and so I needed to wade into their worlds and let myself sink down and experience what they were experiencing.

So I sank down and as I submerged I wondered if the artists I met were experiencing just one Zeitgeist.

The German artists in Munich were surrounded by their Heimat and like a warm blanket, their culture offered them a level of comfort from which they expressed themselves. They were secure in expressing themselves through traditional channels that would be understood by their fellow Germans.  Their zeitgeist matched the traditional idea of the artist reflecting the culture of their time. But, for artists coming from other cultures, could they also tap into this same German zeitgeist?

Artists who are from everyplace else immerse themselves in Germany but they do not have the keys needed to open the doors of understanding for themselves or the German who look at their work. They lack the cultural understanding that comes from a native ethnocentric viewpoint.   A foreigner’s artwork is an expression of the time, a zeitgeist, but can not be classified in the same category as the German artist’s work.  The foreign artist works outside his or her comfort zone and this discomfort their native cultural vocabulary refracts a zeitgeist very different than a German born artist.  The foreign artist finds a need to communicate more intuitively rather than culturally. There artwork is influenced by their ability to connect with the German audience.

A third group of artists are German and something else (the others).  German by blood, they are welcomed back to Germany as German but they do not contain the same cultural references or vocabulary. Their artwork falls in-between foreign and domestic. These artists, whose numbers ballooned with the unification of Germany and current international political changes, have various cultural identies and may not have a dominate cultural vocabulary.  The others have vocabularies which are a fusion and do not fit in with German artists nor with foreign artists.  Their artwork refracts differently the zeitgeist and may feel familiar to the German viewer while at the same time feeling alien.

The artists living in a global society may integrate global ideas but those ideas will always be reflected through an ethnocentric self ensuring that any zeitgeist will always be prism ed. 

The zeitgeist is not only refracted by the three type of artists but also by the viewers who may or may not have the proper artistic and cultural vocabulary to understand the artwork.  Explaining an art piece is essential in an era of refraction and artists must accept misunderstandings of their work if they are unwilling to provide a proper translation for the viewer even within their own cultural “heimat.”


The prism ed zeitgeist provides German based artists with an opportunity to search out artists with similar ethnocentric viewpoints or opposite viewpoints to explore ethnocentricity, cultural vocabularies and the idea of the art and artists representing the culture of their time.

Written by Emmy Horstkamp

Hi, my name is Emmy and I live in Munich, Germany. If you want to know about art me visit my art page or visit me in Munich, Germany