Germans Listening

My parents emigrated to Canada in the mid-50s; Although they lived in Canada for over 50 years, they remained German citizens until they died. They defined themselves as immigrants living in a country that was not their own. When I moved to Germany in 2007, I thought I was returning home as a German. I had been told I was German my entire life. Even though I had all the necessary fittings (the language, the german parents), I soon realised I was not German at all. 


This series is about expressing the idea of nationalism through paint. I wondered if I could paint German nationalism and what German-ness is. I began with the North American idea of Germans, which included themes of Oktoberfest, beer etc. I painted scenes of soccer, which has a deep connection to nationalism in Germany.


The idea for this series came soon after the European refugee crisis began. Angela Merkel’s open door policy prompted hundreds of thousands of people to cross European external and internal borders, and head towards Germany. Around this time, I met a friend of mine, a New York Jewish lawyer, for coffee. He said, ‘German still has atonement.’ Yet, even as we spoke, the schisms were beginning to appear and Germany was veering to the right. I was worried about this. I started to think about what it meant to be German and what nationalists really wanted to protect.