Christine Herzer

Christine Herzer is a poet, visual artist and teacher. Having lived, worked and studied in different cultures and environments [USA, Germany, France, India], she draws on a multitude of experiences in developing her works and programs. Herzer is the author of i cheated on Chanel N°5 [Dancing Girl Press, 2013], and i wanted to be a pirate [h_ngm-n eBooks, 2009]. Her writing appears in numerous literary journals, art reviews and online publications, such as Fence, American Letters & Commentary, The New York Quarterly, The Volta, and Drunken Boat. Most recently, Christine served as Scholar-in-Residence at Symbiosis School of Liberal Arts, Pune, India, where she taught Creative Writing. She has shown her artworks in Paris at La Cité Internationale des Arts, Galerie Evi Gougenheim/Artplace, and the Galerie Arnaud Lefebvre.  For more information please visit and

Language Room VI

we are over-retailed
we feed the birds

we assume that something is only useful if it can change the hard facts

we are not anchored


we looked at the snow, we thought of HARD LOVE

we ate buttertoast in bed

we disarmed our heart
we armed our writing

we wrote MY FEELINGS   UGLY   PLEASE STAY on burnt toast
using an orange colored marker

we placed our face on burnt toast and added a woven name tape, the name
tape said Christine Herzer. we used a fixing pin to attach the name to the object

we wrote & photographed post-it notes that said things like
Please don’t understand me.
we are sitting in soft material

I’m not trying to be difficult.

we googled ‘arm’
arm=part between shoulder and wrist
arm=a means of offense or defense

we armed bread by embroidering it
(offensichtlich ist es gar nicht gut empfindsam zu sein)

we attended our lives

we attended to our lives

we analyzed the ‘we = collective criminal pronoun’-situation

we finally admitted to ourselves how concerned we were with meaning


we became obsessed with making meaning from scratch – in the moment – because it
was the only way to forget what we knew. to this end we arranged objects on the

we saw that words lived in-between – things .

we felt    what we hadn’t been able    to speak.

we felt    the pulse of our muteness in our gut. words needed to be pushed out like

we remembered the doctor in the yellow sweater who told us that the gut was also
known as the second brain, that mood, our surroundings and the feelings our
surroundings and the people in it inspired were impacting the gut. how in turn, the
gut spoke to the brain resulting in feelings & headaches & shit. if we were formed by
our feelings, we had a long way toward understanding self/ourself/ourselves/world,
the universe and pain. the purpose of pain. ‘What you cannot feel, you cannot take care of’

our confusion augmented, we wrote: CONFUSION = FERTILE GROUND

we offered our art for consumption
(to burn something is to desire both to keep it and let it go)

we placed the burnt toast that had NORMAL written on it in a Clear Lip and Tape Self Sealing Cello Bag, we sealed the bag because we really wanted for NORMAL to experience what it meant to be seen without being understood.

we did not seal the work that said ‘UGLY’

we reflected on our refusal to subject the toasts to lifespan/life expectancy enhancing measures and declared:
“The breads communicate and can be arranged to make sense and/or no sense. Their
expiration date remains unknown = a mystery = to be experienced. The artist’s
concerns lie with exposing gestures of seeing & speaking & attending=caring &
covering [up] /hiding/controlling as well as providing instances of wonderment & joy.
By placing language, paint and her own face on what is intended for consumption and
destined to disappear inside the body, the artist offers surprising views, suggesting that
poetry, beauty and language are forces that embrace uncertainty, confusion, that love
is not dead.”

we listened to pema
you’re the only one who knows

letting the world come as it is

the way to peace is to build on the unconditional openness to all that arises…it’s an experience that’s expansive enough to include all that arises without feeling threatened

we received a rejection email that said “a no, but I really enjoyed the multimodality of
this and the attention to language; for me it was too chaotic and could use a bit more
control; not necessarily just rendering it plain prose, but some kind of bottle to help
shape the fire.”

we continued to believe that causing frustration was a gift. we didn’t want to deprive an audience from experiencing it. we thought about subjectivity, expansion versus constriction, for example. we thought of the reader and the Derrida quote that talked about the ability of knowing how to burn:

To know how to get an effect from suffering or from love is the very essence of the ignoble: not to know how to burn.

we analyzed the gallerist & commercial failure-situations at hand

we considered apologizing for rocking the boat

we decided we admired rocking

we stayed open to being at fault

we closed down

we weren’t sure which, we couldn’t know



we began to understand that a game was being played, eventually we were told the name of the game [le jeu de l’art] while at the same time being accused of not playing it correctly, of holding something back…

we understood that shaming was part of the game therefore not personal, but a learnt response to distress.
we had felt some temptation to take on the shame, instead, we watched how our refusal to hate ourselves made us feel the suffering of the shamer instead;
we would have preferred not knowing this feeling;

we felt tempted to seal the work that said UGLY

depending on context, the name of the game changed:
romantic relationship
poetry workshop
corporate job
visa application

we observed our artworks. we admired their indifference: when exposed to shaming they shone. we decided that our artworks were strong, that maybe people too could be works of art. we immediately thought of louise bourgeois,

we were not works of art.
we still wanted to belong, and because we felt respectful of rules.
we felt close to our mistakes.

we felt closest to tulips.

we thought of a line we had found on tumblr that said ‘language only deepens what we know of loss’. we felt grateful for the word ‘loss’.
we did not feel grateful for the word ‘loss.’

we missed our home, we missed things that had meant everything to us, we
preferred to keep all of this from language:
Who gives a fuck about building sandcastles when the water will erase them? How to
sustain such a person? Money does not live in drawers!

we read that a wound to the heart was also a wound to the mind. how when
wounded we were no longer trustworthy, no longer trustworthy,

we wanted to make trust and money.
money | our confusion
went ballistic;

we cut the paragraph that explained why we did not want to play the game.

we did not want to play the game because rules became apparent only after
breaking them, which was funny because we thought the
invisibility/communication-business was common ground and not something to be
used against us; we did not want to play if the game killed joy, if playing meant
having to read someone else’s mind, if playing meant suffering. we no longer
believed in suffering as a way of living. we didn’t mind working hard, we didn’t
mind ‘suffering’ for our art, we totally minded suffering at someone else’s hands. we
thought about Rei Kawakubo’s 2013 manifesto and felt uncomfortable

“This is the rule I always give myself, that nothing new can come from a situation that involves being free or that doesn’t involve suffering”

we cut sentences we no longer wanted to live with:

we felt that addressing ‘dead situations’ and ‘dead people’ was a path worth persuing artistically as opposed to privately.

we understood what compelled our art. and it certainly did not hit us just how much we loved
what we were doing, because we were no longer doing it and because we had no money and
because living

we decided to interrupt our own poem.

we still believed in it but we no longer felt certain of our capacity to disappear out of it.

we were losing authorship, we were still in labor, attached to certain outcomes, attached to
coming out whole

we kept cutting


all we could see were problems [p], and self-pity [s-p].

we felt removed from humanity because we didn’t know where we were going and
therefore couldn’t compete.

we felt grateful to all the professional shamers in the world for teaching us how
shaming is a strategy of disarmament with a twist, -the disarming of light –
triggered when the shamer is at risk of being exposed, of having his/her absence of
light exposed.

we no longer gave a shit knowing how exposing love might trigger shaming in/from people who are dead while living.

[p, s-p]
we still wanted to live but maybe not as much as before.

we wrote: loving the dead is different from loving the living but we were unable to
articulate how, if we had a preference and how this belonged to the text at hand.
what came to mind was    tulip       tulips

we interrupted the poem indefinitely;

we did not want to talk about love.
not in europe, not in germany, not in
our father’s house…heart-talk felt
totally out of place in the western
hemisphere. people talked about
illnesses, pensions, the economy,
refugees, celebrities and work.

illnesses, much like having a dog, were
a sure way to belong and/or to meet
behavior didn’t matter all that much.
consciousness didn’t matter all that

we realized we didn’t value money
because it valued only itself, like being
loved by someone who shamed us. we
didn’t see the value in that. like being
loved by someone who has no clue
what we were about. should we want

we watched our favorite french
talkshow on youtube and heard
monsieur melanchon declare that 12
million germans lived in poverty. we
felt somewhat grateful for this
information, someone had to say
something, not all was well.
melanchon went on to say that it
cannot be the goal of society to sell
BMW’s. Quel est le critère de succès
d’une société? C’est l’humanité, non?
C’est ce qu’est humain.

we were flabbergasted. we were in
bed in our small room under the roof in
the german village we grew up in.
No one came.
No one would come. for us

we were surrounded by forest.
good behavior would get us nowhere.

our gut would undergo a ct scan. prescribed by the doctor in the yellow sweater.

we listened to björk, james blake & annie lennox
When I’m broken I’m whole and when I’m whole I’m broken

and we lay nocturnal,

Do you know how I feel? You don’t know what I feel.

at midnight we received an email from K:
we want to be known, but very specifically. we want to be loved in precisely the right

excuse ‘we’