Elmar Hess

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Elmar Hess born 1966 in Hamburg is a German artist.

His work includes film and video art, photography, installation and objects. Hess interprets interpersonal conflicts as a result of systemic pressure. Often an individual event is brought to mind in the context of historical events.


Hess' youth is marked by visits to the southern English coast. The proximity to the British overseas ports, he developed a strong passion for transatlantic ships. Although this topic is not the focus of his work, countless details and often metaphoric imagery are reflected, especially in his film works.

From 1988, Hess studied at the Stuttgart State Academy of Arts and the Academy of Fine Arts in Hamburg and attended the classes of Katharina Sieverding and Franz Erhard Walther. From 1998 to 2000 he studied Film at the University of Hamburg by Michael Ballhaus and others. Since 2010 he has been teaching at the Academy of Fine Arts, Saarbrücken/GER.

Ellmar Hess lives and works in Berlin.


"War Years"[edit]

Elmar Hess - Cold War

Elmar Hess, who has an outwardly apparent similarity to the U.S. actor Orson Welles, directed his artistic debut work in 1996. In his film "War Years", he styled a relationship crisis, a World War II.

A huge kitchen table turns into a battlefield on which quarreling lovers, staged in allusion to the meeting between Winston Churchill (Hess mimes) and Adolf Hitler.

Like many details in a surreal film event, the film is to be experienced from the narrative perspective of a large model ship that is involved in the turmoil of war. The film focuses on the media handling of the serious German heritage, breaking taboos: images and sounds, figures, landscapes and architecture of the Nazi dictatorship and World War II fade into the storyline of the film with a character of many.

In almost playful manner Nazi and Allied war strategies are identified as historical fund with scenes from a private relationship clinch. The relationship drama put the "War Years " as a tableau of social landscape in a soulless world: People are pressed into the intellectual cross transitions of serious seeming commentary voices and appear involved in the gluttonous machinery of a war that is raging in the vacuum between the social, historical and collateral relations.

"Freedom is not for free"[edit]

Elmar Hess - Freedom is not for free

In Hess' installation "Freedom is not for free" from 2006, the theme of his work is similar to "War Years", ending a conflict of love in front of the tribunal of a human rights committee. The case is a troubadour of grotesque stereotypes and behavior against better knowledge. Behind the individual drama the work traces a vision of society in which the fulfillment of human aspirations through lobbying and manipulation is prevented by the media.

As in most current work of Elmar Hess video sequences like in "Freedom is not for free" are in the center of his installation in which objects, photographs and records of private origin are connected with historical events. The battle of the sexes mutates into the confrontation between the two superpowers during the Cold War. Acting as historical figures acquaintances were kit out by Hess before he photographed them in known poses. Treating his friends ironically deceptively similar, Hess overstates politicians such as John F. Kennedy, Che Guevara, Mao Tse-tung, Willy Brandt and other prominent partners of the policy of the Iron Curtain. In his productions he refers repeatedly to the "wild" 1960s, in which he sees sexual taboos coded by power struggles in social dimension.

Elmar Hess - Kriegsjahre

Selected exhibitions[edit]

  • 2013 "La Mère Perdue", Saarländische Galerie – Europäisches Kunstforum, Berlin
  • 2013 "STILLS", Gallery Whiteconcepts, Berlin
  • 2013 "Money Works", Gallery Whiteconcepts, Berlin (cat.)
  • 2012 "Surf & Anarchie & Alchemie – Metaphorik und produktive Missverständnisse", Hamburger Kunsthalle
  • 2012 "The Golden Cage", Kunst Büro Berlin (cat.)
  • 2011 "cis", Blau – Raum für Kunst, Hamburg
  • 2011 "The End of the Dream", Tresorfabrik, Berlin
  • 2010, "Man Son", Villa Merkel, Esslingen, Germany
  • 2009, "Man Son 1969 - Schrecken der Situation", Hamburger Kunsthalle, Germany
  • 2009, "Expanded Realities", Gallery of the City of Pecs/CZ
  • 2008, "art Karlsruhe", Germany
  • 2008, "Seestücke - Von Max Beckmann bis Gerhard Richter", Hamburger Kunsthalle, Germany
  • 2007, "Fish and Ships", Barlach Halle Hamburg, Germany
  • 2006, "SNAFU - Medien , Mythen, Mind Control", Hamburger Kunsthalle, Germany
  • 2005, "Videothek", Galerie der Stadt Wels/AT
  • 2004, "Weiße Nächte Kiel Oben", Kunsthalle Kiel, Germany
  • 2003, "MIPDOC", Cannes, France
  • 2003, Nordische Filmtage, Lübeck, Germany
  • 2002, "Sehsüchte", Filmfestival Potsdam, Germany
  • 2001, Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen, Germany
  • 2001, "Fact-Fiction", Edith-Russ-Haus für Medienkunst, Oldenburg, Germany
  • 2000, "Ticker", Galerie Gebauer, Berlin, Germany
  • 2000, Internationales Filmfest Moskau, Russia
  • 1999, "Video und Lebensart", Galerie der Gegenwart, Kunsthalle Hamburg, Germany
  • 1999, "German Open - Gegenwartskunst in Deutschland", Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg (de), Germany
  • 1998, Balticum Video-Festival
  • 1998, Filmfest Hamburg, Germany
  • 1997, Internationales Video festival Mediopolis, Berlin, Germany
  • 1997, "Surfing Systems", Kunstverein Kassel, Germany
  • 1996, "Kriegsjahre - Some sunny day we’ll meet again", Kunstverein Hamburg, Germany
  • 1994, "Lost Paradise", Kunstraum Wien - Museumsquartier, Wien/AT

Scholarships and Awards[edit]

  • 2013 Stiftung Kunstfonds grant, Bonn
  • 2012 Rudolf Augstein Stiftung project grant, Hamburg
  • 2012 Schering Stiftung project grant, Berlin
  • 2010 Project funding of the Abt-Straubinger-Stiftung, Stuttgart, Germany
  • 2009 Project funding of the Alfred-Toepfer-Foundation, Germany
  • 2008 Project funding of the Rudolf-Augstein-Foundation, Germany
  • 2008 Project funding “Hamburgische Kulturstiftung“, Germany
  • 2007 Scholarship of the Foundation Schöppingen, Germany
  • 2006 Scholarship of the German Academy Rom Villa Massimo, Germany
  • 2005 Project funding of the Michael-Liebelt-Foundation, Germany
  • 2004 Project funding of the Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg, Germany
  • 2003 Scholarship of the county Niedersachsen, Germany
  • 2002 Scholarship of the Werkleitz-Society, Germany
  • 1998/99 Scholarship of the German Kunstfonds
  • 1997 Scholarship “New Art in Hamburg“ with a stay in London
  • 1996/97 Scholarship of the Hochschule für Bildende Künste Hamburg, Germany
  • 1996 Award of the International Videofestival Berlin “Mediopolis”, Berlin, Germany


  • Elmar Hess: „Kriegsjahre“, Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Cologne, Germany (ISBN 3-88375-234-7)
  • Elmar Hess: „Freedom is not for free“, Kerber Verlag, Bielefeld, Germany (ISBN 3-938025-34-4)
  • Frank Barth/ Dirck Möllmann in „MAN SON 1969 - Vom Schrecken der Situation“, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Germany (ISBN 978-3-938002-28-5)
  • Veit Görner/ Nikolaus v. Wolff in „German Open - Gegenwartskunst in Deutschland“; Cantz Verlag, Stuttgart, Germany (ISBN 3-7757-0904-5)
  • Barbara Steiner in „Lost Paradise“, Oktagon Verlag, Stuttgart, Germany (ISBN 3-927789-76-3)
  • Regine Gerhardt in „Seestücke - Von Max Beckmann bis Gerhard Richter“, Hirmer Verlag, Munich, Germany (ISBN 978-3-7774-3665-4)
  • Markus Brüderlin in „Kunstraum Wien - Projekte 1994-96“, Triton Verlag, Wien, Austria (ISBN 978-3-901310-52-2)
  • Martin Hentschel in „Passage“; Kerber Verlag, Bielefeld, Germany (ISBN 3-930225-14-X)

External links[edit]