"The Burning Child"
Haunted by his father's portrait of his grandparents who vanished in the Holocaust, Joseph Koerner returns to Vienna to solve their mystery. Completed eighty years after the Anschluss, the film is a moving, visually-stunning journey through Vienna's urban and psychic interior to a buried past, when dreams of home became, for a city's most ardent homemakers, an unimaginable nightmare.
Joseph Koerner teaches and writes about the history of art and architecture from the late Middle Ages to the present day, with an emphasis on Northern Renaissance art, as well as Dutch seventeenth-century art, German and English Romanticism, and Viennese Modernism. He has written books on the myth of Daedalus and Icarus (Suhrkamp 1983), the landscape paintings of Caspar David Friedrich (Yale 1990), word-image relations in Paul Klee (Columbia 1991), self-portraiture in German Renaissance art (Chicago 1993), art and iconoclasm during the German Reformation (Chicago 2004), Albrecht Dürer (2006), and the art of Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel (Princeton 2016). Widely reviewed, his books have won the Mitchell Prize (1992), the Wittenborn Memorial Award (1994), and the ACE/Mercers Book Award (2005). He is currently completing a book on art in states of siege, focused on the work of Bosch, Max Beckmann, and William Kentridge (forthcoming Princeton University Press). He has curated or co-curated exhibitions at Harvard Art Museums, the Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe (with Bruno Latour), Chatham University, and the Austrian National Gallery.
Koerner wrote and presented the three-part series "Northern Renaissance" for BBC Television, as well as the feature-length documentary "Vienna: City of Dreams," also for the BBC. He wrote, directed, and produced the documentary film "The Burning Child" (released 2019 by Seventh Art Releasing), which explored, through interviews and visual montage, the dream and nightmare of homemaking in Vienna from the city's emergence as a metropolis around 1900 until Hitler's annexation of Austria in 1938. Funded by an Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Achievement Award (2009), the film was an official selection at the Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival and J-Film Pittsburgh, and has been screened in museums and universities throughout the USA and in Austria. In the 1990s Koerner was a frequent reviewer for "The New Republic" and has subsequently written for the "New York Review of Books," the "Los Angeles Review of Books," and "Granta". In 2020, his non-fiction “Maly Trostinets” (a coda to "The Burning Child") was selected as “Best American Essay” and re-published by Houghton-Mifflin.