“LA is like a Big Bang Soup”

Interview with former Goethe Institut Director Bernd Desinger

Bernd Desinger
Bernd Desinger

At the end of June 2009 a prominent member of the German community bid farewell to Los Angeles: Goethe Institut director Bernd Desinger.

The dynamic director in his mid-40s headed the German cultural center for more than four years and with such passionate dedication that one expected Bernd Desinger to extend his five-year contract rather than shorten it. But fate called when he was offered the position of director at the Filmmuseum Düsseldorf. Although he had not planned on relocating before the end of his contract, Desinger, who was very involved in the founding in Los Angeles of a new German film festival, German Currents, seized the opportunity to plunge deeper into the world of film. What especially appealed to him was the fact that the renowned museum possesses not only a library, an archive, and a 2500 square meter exhibition space, but also has its own movie theater.

At the end of September Bernd Desinger returned briefly to LA to open German Currents, which in its third year drew many German celebrities to LA.

Looking back, Desinger remarked on what he believed were the most important developments during his time in LA. “I am very pleased with what has been created and what will remain. For instance, the renovation of the Media Lounge based on a concept by Graft Design has given the Goethe Institut a new, modern face-lift and thus conveys a more contemporary and multifaceted image of Germany.”

“Another important concern of mine was stronger collaboration with partners such as the Academy,” Desinger continued, “with whom we organized three exhibitions in the past four years.”

The founding of the film festival German Currents and the focus on films from a certain region is another big success that can be credited to Desinger. North Rhine-Westphalia will be the inspiration in 2009 and Northern Germany in 2010. Thanks to its partner American Cinemateque a greater number of Americans, now around 80 percent of the visitors, have become interested in Germany films.

With the science program “Current Conditions & Future Prospects,” started in 2005, Bernd Desinger approached new target groups and invited astrophysicists, aerospace scientists, and climate experts to the Goethe Institut. In 2007, Audi and BMW organized together the event series “The Environmentally Friendly Car,” and in 2009, the International Year of Astronomy is heading into space, more or less. The theme is SOFIA*, a Boeing 747 turned into a flying observatory, whose highly sensitive infrared telescope was developed in Germany and offers entirely new dimensions in planetary research.

Asked what he misses most about LA, Bernd Desinger thought for a while and responded: “The bristling creativity. This city breathes creativity, and it is an incredibly inspiring place. The unbelievable talent in the city – like a Big Bang soup that is constantly creating new things.”

This article was first published in the Winter 2009/2010 edition of © German World Magazine