To what extent does the production of art require the work of hands? And, vice versa, to what extent does an artwork enable a tactile understanding of the world? At the beginning of the twentieth century, the human hand becomes an agent, holding at bay technological progress and its implications for artistic creation. The hand revises the genealogy of modern media, which are no longer defined as pure technological innovation. Instead, they are deeply informed by the human body as the primary tool for creating a work of art. In my talk, I will briefly sketch out some of the manifold ways in which the hand emerges in literature and the visual arts in early modernism. Taking Robert Wiene´s movie The Hands of Orlac (1925) as a case in point, we will look at how the disabled hands of a renowned pianist constitute a site of cutting-edge scientific research and cinematic storytelling alike. Ultimately, Orlac´s hands may allow us to retrace the intricacies that the age of mechanization exhibited in Weimar cinema.
Regina Karl is Assistant Professor of German and Cinema Studies at Rutgers University. Her current book project reassesses technological reproducibility based on a sweeping emergence of hands in European modernism. Publications include an essay on Paul Valéry and Walter Benjamin, a reflection on the linguistics of vampirism as well as an article on the manipulative hands of Fritz Lang´s Dr. Mabuse (Screen, Spring 2023). Regina Karl serves on the editorial board of RISS. Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse. She held a fellowship at KWI, Essen before joining the Alfried Krupp Wissenschaftskolleg, Greifswald as one of the junior fellows in April 2023.
Moderation: Dr. habil. Heide Volkening