B E and N of the series Deutsch Lernen: The ABC's of Der Die Das
Mixed Media on Paper
Kyle Duske
2008

Deutsch Lernen: The ABCs of Der Die Das explores German; language, politics and culture. The ongoing series of 6”x6” painted illustrations which depict nouns from every letter in the alphabet is both practical and critical. After returning from an exchange semester in Germany Kyle Duske began the Deutsch Lernen project to keep up his vocabulary and to explore an interest in gendered language. The illustrations bare resemblance to the pages of children’s alphabet books. A hard black Helvetica letter sits in the top left-hand corner of each image. A noun is chosen based on the letter and then given human-like genitalia according to its gender prefix.

This project takes inspiration from Mark Twain’s literary explorations and critiques of the German language, notable in works such as The Awful German Language found in his 1880 book A Tramp Abroad. Though the project itself does not wish to put the German language into a negative light, it does explore the absurdity of the far outdated and de-contextualized gender pre-fixis that still exist.

The illustrations do not simply stop at a critique of gender prefixes. Through juxtaposition each illustration attempts to explore German histories and politics. This is quite apparent in the third iteration of Der BäR. In this iteration the bear takes on the posture of the iconic Berlin bear. Blood spews from its mouth as a result of gun shot wounds, referencing the graphic tongue of the berlin bear. The gun shots allude to the current fearful German attitude towards wild animals, especially bears. In the background there are three beds drawing reference to The Brothers Grimm fairy-tale of Goldilocks and Three Bears.

As a complete body of work Deutsch Lernen visually explores the strangeness of gendering within language. Each panel pushes to thicken the general argument layered with visual metaphor and iconography that take the viewer in to many tangental narratives. This project hopes to develop a better understanding of the German language, culture and politics for both its creator and viewers.