Alan Berliner

The Language of Names
February-October 2002

American filmmaker-artist Alan Berliner has dedicated the majority of his work to the legacy of the family album and the personal histories embedded within surnames. During his 2002 residency at the Walker Art Center, Berliner transformed the centerís lobby wall to reflect the neighborhood surrounding the museum: the mural contained more than 18,000 surnames representing approximately 42,000 people who live within this 10 zip-code area. The artist also created an interactive installation in the Anderson Window Gallery in which visitors could research their names.

Artist's Statement

"Names are our titles, our passports to the world, the opening words to the stories of our lives. In many ways, they function as compressed histories, cultural badges that provide clues to our race, religion, ethnicity, kinship, class, and nationality. Each name we encounter is a window to a different history, an unfamiliar tradition or heritage, a new sound, sometimes even a new language. One way or another, every name offers up the promise of a unique story."óAlan Berliner


Related Links & Events

  • Film/Video Artist-In-Residence Alan Berliner

    2002 residency announcement

  • Berliner Online

    Alan Berliner and the Walker collaborated on the creation of five "experiences" related to names. Visitors could participate within the physical space of the Andersen Window Gallery or online. Each version, virtual and tactile, invited the viewer to investigate the relationships between names and self-identity, history, geography, and lineage.