Kathleen Daniel

Video still of "Sauna," 2011

* 1945 in Minneapolis, US, lives and works in Hamburg, DE

There’s a Web 1.0 chunkiness and energy to the works of Kathleen Daniel, a.k.a. Kathleen Realness, who makes surreal digital collages, neo-soul music, and video animations. Trippy soul psychedelia, tell-it-like-it-is commentary, haunting vocals, and a shifting cast of humorously grotesque characters come together on her video and music label Duh Real, which features tales of the needy and the greedy, as one work is titled. An American living in Hamburg, Daniel blends visuals and themes native to the US—the Western, the hillbilly, the legacy of slavery, and American politics—with others that are persistent and perennial: spiritualism, domestic strife, (in)justice, and power games. A unique blend of realism and fantasy defines her frenetic, molten surfaces and far-out stories about people eating monkey brains at a dinner party, the case of Lorielle London (once a man who is now a pretty woman) or a situation, in which “home-girls fall out because one is chipping with the other’s man while grinning in her face, like all is cool.”

The 9th Berlin Biennale is presenting an online video retrospective of Daniel’s under-recognized but utterly original works. Although whimsical on the surface, Daniel’s narratives allude to complex political backdrops: longstanding histories and recent episodes of violence (especially in a racially divided America), the war in Iraq, Wall Street, inequality, and being a black American woman in Germany. Her imagery of human conflict—physical and emotional— is filled with acute topicality and urgency. With their surreal tragi-comedy, the works conjure a more erratic, more effusive, more fantastical visual world than the algorithmically generated listicles we currently encounter online—a space beyond (or before) the internet of now. Her approach is positive, empowered and, for all its dream-like flow, utterly real throughout. In one video she urges: “All you soulless vacant people, getta life.”

Click here to watch the video retrospective

List of works

Selection of videos, 2007–16

Formats and durations variable
Courtesy Kathleen Daniel