Hearsay of the Soul is film director Werner Herzog's first video art installation. Projected on three adjacent walls and eighteen minutes in length, the five-channel video combines selected landscape etchings by Hercules Segers (Dutch, about 1589–about 1638) with the contemporary avant-garde music of composer/cellist Ernst Reijseger (Dutch, born 1954). The juxtaposition of Segers's lush prints of enigmatic vistas with Reijseger's expressive and experimental music results in a richly layered work that is both intimate and epic.

When originally commissioned to create a work for the 2012 Whitney Biennial (an exhibition of contemporary American art in New York), Herzog was initially reluctant, claiming "I'm not an artist. I'm a soldier." Recently acquired by the Getty Museum, the work represents a growing interest in time-based media.

Hearsay of the Soul continues the cinematic concerns—evocative landscapes, sensuous experiences—that are hallmarks of Herzog's prior films and documentaries. Known primarily as a film director, Herzog favors an approach that invites introspection and rapt attention over strictly linear storytelling. He utilizes techniques that heighten perception and draw attention to the creative act. He has made over 50 films since the 1960s, ranging from Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972) to the lyrical documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010). Hearsay of the Soul, as with Herzog's other work, blurs the lines between story, a poetic sense of place and a journey across time.

Behind the Scenes

To investigate what makes Hearsay of the Soul so affecting, Getty Museum curator Arpad Kovacs and writer Anne Martens invited a diverse group of experts to articulate how they experienced this multifaceted work.

A Conversation with Paul Young, director of Young Projects, Los Angeles,
on commercial cinema versus video art.
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A Conversation with Anne Woollett, Getty Museum curator of paintings,
on Dutch art and the appeal of the imagined landscape.
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A Conversation with Nancy Perloff, musicologist and Getty Research Institute curator,
on the timeless quality of the music in Hearsay of the Soul.
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A Conversation with Glenn Phillips, video art specialist and Getty Research Institute curator, on the role of the viewer in the experience of Hearsay of the Soul.
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