22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Norman M. Klein

Portrait Norman M. Klein
© Hartwig Klappert

Norman M. Klein was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1945. He began his academic career with stops along the way at the University of California, Los Angeles, Otis College, Southern California Institute of Architecture and the University of Southern California. A historian in the fields of architecture, media, and culture, he has been a Professor of Critical Studies at the California Institute of the Arts for over thirty years. Memory and all of its socially relevant functions are at the core of Klein’s interests. By exploring a multitude of issues and themes, Klein pursues traces of the past and critically investigates how selective the memory is and how facts and fiction are combined in history. In doing so, Klein moves between various genres and techniques. »The History of Forgetting: Los Angeles and the Erasure of Memory« (1997) is a »melding of archival research with critical theory«, as observed by the media researcher Peter Lunenfeld. »Klein cannot help but transgress: he moves from personal memoir to a theoretical exegesis; binds between two covers essays, a novella, and a form he calls the ›docufable‹; and refuses to accept the branding – historian/critic/theorist/novelist, take your pick.« Klein’s exhibition, »Scripted Spaces: The Chase and the Labyrinth«, was presented at the Rotterdam Centre for Modern Art, Witte de With, and in the Künstlerhaus in Stuttgart. In addition to his theories on Scripted Spaces, the exhibition was modelled on Klein’s earlier book about »controlled anarchy« in animation, across media and architecture: »Seven Minutes: The Life and Death of the American Animated Cartoon« (1993). The Californian metropolis again became a focal point in his next work. »Bleeding Through: Layers of Los Angeles, 1920-86« (2003) is an interactive CD with accompanying book, which was developed in association with the Karlsruhe Centre for Art and Media. The work contains historical and theoretical texts, photos, maps, film clips, interviews, as well as a background story of a murder case, whose story the reader has to construct himself – although there is no definite order to the documents, rather a range of possible ways of combining facts and memory fragments. Old and new photographs of the same city views, which are blended together – called, as suggested by the title, »bleed throughs« – visually typify Klein’s understanding of history. His next book, »The Vatican to Vegas: The History of Special Effects« (2003), is a depiction of the cultural manoeuvres of deception, with which actual power relationships were concealed. It documents in rich abundance astounding examples from the Renaissance up to the American Presidential Election of 2000 and the political reactions to the events of 9/11. Klein recently published a fictionalised memoir on forgetting and the hollowing out of America, entitled »Freud in Coney Island and Other Tales« (2006). He currently works on another DVD-ROM database novel, to appear in 2007 – a science-fiction journey through the Twentieth Century as it was imagined before it took place: »The Imaginary Twentieth Century«. Norman Klein lives in Los Angeles.

© international literature festival berlin