Daniel Theiler

What’s your background?

I have a background in architecture, which certainly explains my interest in the aesthetics and proportions of our built environment and its influences on the people inhabitating it. However, I am also particularly fascinated by the utopian and auratic potentials of architecture to embody and manifest new social ideas. We are strongly influenced by our surroundings, relationships and living conditions. I therefore try to fundamentally question orders and systems and find their potentials. The examination of spaces and atmospheres, site specificity and their embeddedness in historical and cultural contexts are important anchor points of my work. I try to break down systems to make their parts and features more accessible and to expose their absurdities.

What influences you artistically?

I like the big things in small things, so I am influenced by the events and things that surround me every day. I like to dive deep into stories to break them down, turn them around and put them back together again. Especially a city like Berlin, with its diverse history, tells us a lot of stories and myths, which I use as inspiration for my work. I have long and intensively studied the development of Berlin Mitte, its architectural transformation and the creation of a historical copy of the lost original. I was particularly interested in the history of the Berlin Palace, which has now reopened as an uncritical reconstruction of the demolished palace in the form of the “Humboldtforum”. After a whole series of works on Berlin’s Mitte, which drive the absurdity of this Disneyland of reconstruction and history to even further extremes and the publication of the book “Reconstructing Tomorrow”, which was published this year by Hatje Cantz, I currently turn to new topics.

How do you start a new work?

Usually after I find a topic that fascinates me, I start writing a concept and make some drawings. My work is usually preceded by intensive research. To do this, I study the history of the place, go to archives and conduct interviews. For example, for my work Top Down Memory, I visited the ZDF television archive in Mainz, the federal archive in Berlin, and I conducted interviews with historians and relatives of contemporary witnesses. After I identify what exactly interests me about the topic, I think about which story I want to tell and in which way. I subsequently develop an idea about which material or which medium is most suitable for the work. I often use a combination of different materials. In my working process I always try to take different perspectives, to change the scale, to zoom in and out again and to take apart and put the parts back together. The process is very analytical. I think this comes from my training as an architect to always look for the ideal solution. For me, however, it is clear that I cannot provide the ideal solution and certainly no answers – I rather try to raise more questions. I try to provide viewers with points of reference to the themes, which are often humorous, sometimes ironic but always very inviting.

What are you working on right now?

Right now I am working on two video projects, one is about the relationships between migration and mobility and the other one deals with the challenges of a reunited Germany more than thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. At the same time, I am turning more to drawing and painting, for which I have a great passion. I want to create a new perspective on architecture and the artificial built environment, of course with a touch of humor.

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