Hearsay of the Soul

It is time that we make a pilgrimage to the work of Hercules Segers, the father of modernity in art. Sometimes great visionaries appear who seem to anticipate the course of our culture, like the pharaoh Akhenaten, who, in addition to creating a new style of art in ancient Egypt, was more than a thousand years ahead of his time as the first monotheist. Or like Carlo Gesualdo, prince of Venosa, who, four hundred years ago in his Sixth Book of Madrigals, created music that leads straight to the twentieth century. This list is extendable: Hölderlin, who as a poet went to the outer limits of human language, or Turner, predecessor of the Impressionists.

Segers's images are hearsay of the soul. They are like flashlights held in our uncertain hands, a frightened light that opens breaches into the recesses of a place that seems somewhat known to us: our selves. We morph with these images. Caspar David Friedrich recognized this for himself: "I have to render myself to what surrounds me," he said. "I have to morph into a union with the clouds and the rocks, in order to be what I am."

Personally, I owe Hercules Segers a lot. An installation of projections of some of his small prints, together with the music of composer/cellist Ernst Reijseger, should transform images into music, and music into images. Segers’s and Reijseger's ecstasies morph into each other.

I have a suspicion that a distant echo resonates in a few moments of my own work. Hercules Segers's images and my films do not speak to each other, but for a brief moment, I hope, they might dance with each other.

—Werner Herzog