Turtleneck Phantasies

Gernot Wieland

Screening format


Turtleneck Phantasies is dedicated to the murmuring, the illegible, the unspeakable, the sketches and doodles, fragments of childhood memories, the stumbling that looks like a dance, the absurd moments. The film tells the story of a German writer who spent over 30 years in psychiatric institutions tattooing his fellow inmates. Born in Germany shortly before World War II, he wrote poems and worked as a sailor on a British cargo ship. In the 1980s he was one of only four people to survive a serious shipwreck. Severely traumatised, he was committed to a psychiatric clinic in England for several years and later moved to a home in West Berlin, where he lived until his death. In the homes he began tattooing words and (mostly illegible) texts and drawings on the skin of his fellow patients. The phenomenon of tattoos runs throughout Wieland’s video as a leitmotif, bringing together various biographical levels with memories and episodes from the artist’s childhood. Tattoos reveal different facets—they appear as a kind of obsession, as a protective “second skin”, anchor point, and pictorial medium of location and reorientation in the wake of traumatic experiences. Turtleneck Phantasies continually deals with the theme of who is situated in society and who is excluded. What stories do I tell myself, whose stories are told, and what remains? The ubiquitous presence of the past, which resonates in a specific way in the subject of the tattoo, is always linked to real, phantasmatic longings. “Phantasies, phantasies, I have phantasies. I have turtleneck phantasies …”