Panoptic dispatches: an interview with Werner Twertzog


In Cave of Forgotten Dreams, our German, all too German guide through the underworld of time offers a stirring, proto-cinematic image: paintings of beasts whose superimposed legs trap them in movement. Is it not also possible, then, to find a similar primordial imprint of animal life within the 140-character enclosure of our own era?

Whether pictorial or written, such records seem a momentary protest against the relentlessness of time, a testimony of nature perceiving its cruelty. Some ur-Twitter connecting us to the animal kingdom will one day be uncovered. Perhaps its ancient Tweets will take equally wild forms—a dawn chorus, or a dancing chicken, or a bluebird in flight.

Twertzog: To tweet (verb) or a tweet (noun) in a dark, German style that seems erudite, absurd, and possibly morbid.

Fortunately, we have been afforded the pleasure of posing our mad inquiries to an avian-to-German-to-English translator par excellence. Werner Twertzog is the deranged penguin persona of social media’s subterranean cinema. However unheimlich nature may be, he reminds us nothing could be as unsettling as a Twitterverse that perceives itself.

We interviewed the man himself with the hope of learning something, or nothing, or possibly neither:

OC: We’re delighted to feature you on Overhead Compartment and appreciate you taking the time to answer a few questions for us. Do you have any noteworthy obsessions?

WT: The inevitability of death. The indifference of the universe to our pain. Penguins. Bears. Insanity. Brutality. Mountains. Klaus Kinski. The sentience of yogurt. And cinema.

OC: What do you find yourself most often daydreaming of?

WT: Nonexistence.

OC: Describe the memory of your first experience with commercial flight. If you were to found your own airline, what would it be called?

WT: I dreamed of flight as a child, during aerial bombardments. To pilot is sublime. But flying as a passenger has become vile. Vile and debased, like toaster strudel.

I would name it: Woodcarver Steiner Airlines.

OC: What was your introduction to the internet?

WT: WarGames, starring a young Matthew Broderick. As we all know, human civilization must be digitized so that, with one stroke, it can be deleted.

OC: If you were forced to paint all the surfaces of your home in a single, uniform color, what would it be? Describe your life in this monochromatic world.

WT: White, of course. All colors and the absence of color. The cold of space, the arctic dream. I wander into its vastness, frozen in a lake of ice, beyond the forgiveness of God.

Also, white goes well with modern furniture.

OC: We’re rather sensitive to our surroundings here at Overhead Compartment. Are there particular settings or rituals that you feel to be most conducive to finding concepts for your tweets?

WT: Cinema and all arts are birthed in pain, terror, and madness. Often it is helpful to see what’s on “Arts and Humanities Daily.”

Sometimes, though, I will look in forgotten places. Under the sink, perhaps.

Once, I recovered a bottle of gin. Fly-specked, shrouded in dust. I swam in seas of nostalgia, nauseous, then torpid. The tweets were memorable, some say immortal.

OC: Does Twitter offer anything in the way of critical insight that you think perhaps some other mediums lack?

WT: Twitter is the long-awaited panopticon. A self is constructed, judged, and quantified. Immediately, and irrevocably. It offers limitless possibilities for the illusion of love.

OC: Do you have an epitaph picked out?

WT: Werner Twertzog—he dead.

For further lamentations, perplexities, and apothegms of a German persuasion, you can find Werner Twertzog on Twitter @WernerTwertzog.

Everyone here at Overhead Compartment (except for a few interns who are too young to remember Twitter) is eagerly awaiting the second global “Tweet Like Werner Herzog Day” — scheduled for September 5th, 2015 — and hoping to muster up something clever enough by then.