Jump directly to the page contents

106 min. German.

At the Mosaik art studio, artists with disabilities are absorbed in their work. Sabine Herpich observes the artists in the course of creation and directs her gaze at the institution itself: its processes, staff and spaces. The film succeeds in maintaining its focus on the art itself rather than the handicaps of its creators. It is around these works that the institution takes form, thus coming into view first and foremost as an institution for art, not one for people with disabilities. The idea of art becomes holistic, encompassing the people who make it as well as the places where it is created; it means looking at the works, and talking about them, but also art as work, complete with working hours and wage. The filmmaker herself is not invisible. She asks the artists about their thoughts, ideas, methods. As the artists before the camera meet the gaze of the filmmaker, a heightened sense of attention and sensitivity is produced – for the moods of the works, their creators and observers, as well as for this film about art itself, with its gentle, yet not timid, precise yet non-restrictive form. (ab)

Sabine Herpich was born in a small Bavarian town in 1973. She studied philosophy, modern German literature and sociology at the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich, as well as editing at the Film University Babelsberg Konrad Wolf. In 2012, together with Gregor Stadlober, she made her debut film Neukölln-Aktiv, which was also her graduation film. Since 2015, Herpich has been a member of the collective fsk Kino-Kollektiv and the distribution company Peripher Filmverleih in Berlin, where she lives and works freelance as a filmmaker and editor.

Outsider art is treated differently

Before I started working on this film I had no contact whatsoever with people with disabilities. Although terms like “diversity” and “inclusion” are omnipresent, our differentiated social system prevents rather than supports these contacts. The art world also differentiates between art by people without disabilities and so-called outsider art by artists with disabilities or psychological conditions. Outsider art is treated in a different way, it is exhibited separately and often sold for significantly less money than art by people without disabilities – but why is that? When you only look at the paintings or sculptures, you often can’t tell whether they are made by outsider artists or by people without disabilities. The film encourages the viewer to reflect on when idiosyncratic activity turns into art and when it is a symptom or just occupational therapy, as well as on where these spheres meet or intersect, or whether trying to differentiate them is useless given the highly individual expression that shows its qualities regardless of the form of production. (Sabine Herpich)

The Mosaik art workshop

The art workshop is located on the upper floor of the Mosaik workshops in Berlin-Spandau. The other floors house departments typical for sheltered workshops: woodworking, industrial
assembly, food processing. Those accepted into the art workshop are very lucky: no guidelines, no pressure to perform. You have absolute freedom and are supported to realise your own ideas. The art workshop was founded in 1996 and operates in a fundamentally different way than most current art therapies for people with disabilities. It was not conceived as an employment scheme but set up to nurture talented people so that they can turn their artistic ability into a profession. Today, the artists from the Spandau workshop are in demand on the art market. Curators regularly come to view their work and choose pieces for exhibitions. The artists have taken part in over 80 national and international displays; some of their works have won prizes. (Büchner Filmproduktion)

The Prinzhorn collection

Nowadays, self-taught art created by people with disabilities or psychiatric patients (called outsider art or art brut) is gaining importance on the international art market. Systematic interest for this art form only arose at the beginning of the 20th century. Hans Prinzhorn, a doctor and art historian, collected works made in psychiatric wards that were considered unimportant and destroyed by the staff. In 1922, he published the book “Artistry of the Mentally Ill”, which contained depictions of the images and sculptures he had collected. The book soon became the Surrealists’ bible. The artworks were reassessed again during the Nazi period. Some of the works from the Prinzhorn collection were presented and vilified in the propaganda Degenerate Art Exhibition to debase contemporary art.
Afterwards, the collection was put in the attic of the University of Heidelberg. It was rediscovered and catalogued in 1973 with the help of funding. Prinzhorn’s collected artworks have been publicly presented in exhibitions since 1980.
Although so-called outsider art is more visible than it used to be, it is still not considered equal to art made by people without disabilities – as if it lacked self-awareness, skill or a meaningful message; as if it were merely cheerful, childish drawings. Seeing artworks from artists with and without disabilities in large museums equally side by side is a rare sight. Why this desire to differentiate? Is there art with disability? (Büchner Filmproduktion)

Production Sabine Herpich, Tobias Büchner. Production companies Sabine Herpich (Berlin, Germany), Büchner Filmproduktion (Köln, Germany). Director Sabine Herpich. Cinematography Sabine Herpich. Editing Sabine Herpich. Sound design Marilyn Janssen. Sound Sabine Herpich. Colour Grading Florian Lampersberger. With Adolf Beutler, Suzy van Zehlendorf, Gabriele Beer, Till Kalischer, Nina Pfannenstiel, Laura Nieße.


2012: Neukölln-Aktiv (97 min., co-directed by Gregor Stadlober). 2014: Zuwandern (81 min., co-directed by Diana Botescu). 2016: David (81 min.). 2018: Ein Bild von Aleksander Gudalo (45 min.).

Photo: © Sabine Herpich

Funded by:

  • Logo Minister of State for Culture and the Media
  • Logo des Programms NeuStart Kultur