Lectures and Talks

“Reflections on the Life and Times of Christopher Isherwood (1904-1986)”
Jörn Jacob Rohwer interviewed about Isherwoods worldview, the influence his works have on contemporary life and Rohwer’s own outlook.
“Exit Exile” – A podcast series initiated by Villa Aurora and Freie Universität Berlin, guided by Dr. Vito Pinto. 01/14/2022, currently in postproduction. To be released in spring 2022

“Leadership in the Arts or Failure is what it’s all about!” An online conversation about the book. Panelists: Lilian Haberer, Mischa Kuball, Steven D. Lavine, Jörn Jacob Rohwer. Kunsthochschule für Medien Köln via Zoom, 05/12/20212

“A Life devoted to Leadership in the Arts” An online conversation about the book. Panelists: Annette Jael Lehmann, Steven D.Lavine, Jörn Jacob Rohwer, Peter Weibel. Zentrum für Kunst und Medien, Karlsruhe) via Zoom, 03/24/2021

“Failure is what it’s all about” Presentation and discussion of the book. Panelists: Steven D. Lavine, Jörn Jacob Rohwer, Janet Sarbanes, Colleges of Arts Association, Chicago) via Zoom, 02/17/2021

“Das Wunder des Fragens oder Was ist Wahrheit?” A conversation portraying the author. Diplomatische Landesvertretung Schleswig-Holsteins in Berlin, podcast, 11/12/2020

Speech given before high school graduates on the occasion of the ‘Day of the Freedom of the Germany Press’ (Initiated by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Bonn). Rendsburg, 05/03/19
> To read excerpts from the speech (in German) click here.

“Biografietage 2016: Matthias Grenda in conversation with Jörn Jacob Rohwer, discussing his biography and his work, contemporary journalism and why failure can turn into fortune.” – Herrenhaus auf dem Bispinghof Nordwalde, 09/25/2016

“Die Seismografie des Fragens – Kurt Aeschbacher in conversation with Jörn Jacob Rohwer, discussing Rohwer’s carreer and his latest book.” – Kaufleuten, Zurich, 06/05/2015

“Lifelines: New York-Berlin. – A biographical exchange between Edmund White and Jörn Jacob Rohwer”, moderated by Dr. Bernd Feuchtner. A cooperation between Villa Aurora and Gay Museum Berlin. – Berlin, Gay Museum, 10/28/2014

“The Artist Don Bachardy in Berlin. A conversation with Jörn Jacob Rohwer” Berlin, Rotes Rathaus, 10/14/2014

“Die Seismografie des Fragens. 25 Jahre im biografischen Gespräch” (Lecture): Kammergesellschaft Berlin, Kaisersaal. – Berlin, 05/16/2014

“Die Kunst des Gesprächs” (Lecture and reading): Freie Akademie der Künste. – Hamburg, 10/19/2006

“The Art of Conversation” (Lecture): California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, 09/20/2006; New York University (Deutsches Haus), New York City, 04/ 2006; City University of New York (College of Staten Island), 04/2006

“A Tribute to Terry Sanders” (Lecture and retrospective on 50 years of Sander’s cinematic art). In cooperation with Villa Aurora and Goethe Institute. – Los Angeles, 09/2006

“Traum und Deutung. Zum 150. Geburtstag von Siegmund Freud.”
3. Wissenschaftssommer Sylt. In conversation with Prof. Dr. Claudia Benthien, University of Hamburg. – Isle of Sylt, 07/26/2006

“The Art of Conversation” (Lecture): New York University (Deutsches Haus), New York City, 04/ 2006 & City University of New York (College of Staten Island), 04/2006

“The Art of Conversation” – Author Bernhard Schlink interviewing Rohwer about his subject. Villa Aurora Night, Berlin, 12/16/2005

Participant in panels, talks and literature festivals. Guest lecturer at various media academies.

About the Author

Selected Sources

Writer’s Life Magazine (A personal account of the author in relation to his 2020-book), 06/2021

„Das Wunder des Fragens oder Was ist Wahrheit?“ A conversation portraying the author. Diplomatische Landesvertretung Schleswig-Holsteins in Berlin, podcast, 12.11.2020

Meet & Greet Authors (Archive M-R)  https://suerovens.com/meet-greet-author-q-as/, 04/2021

“Der Mann, der sie alle bekommt: Jörn Jacob Rohwer” – Portrait about the author and his work. By Gabriele Knoop, Schleswig-Holsteinische Landeszeitung, 01.07.2014

“Der Publizist Jörn Jacob Rohwer”. 90-minutes-interview by Dr. Joachim Scholl. (Live radio broadcasting) “Zwischentöne”, Deutschlandradio. 25.05.2014

“The Art of Conversation“ Portrait about the author and his work. By Tom Dessalat. Washington Square News, New York, NY, pg. 2, 5.4.2006

“Jörn Jacob Rohwer” Introducing essay written by American writer/ photographer Janet Sternburg, California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, 2006

“Ein Meister des Nachfragens” Interview with the author, by Susanne Wiemer. Schleswig-Holsteinische Landeszeitung (‘Montagsinterview’), pg. 14, 17.10.2005

“Aeschbacher” Television talkshow. Schweizer Fernsehen DRS, Broadcasted on 25.08.2005

“Der liebenswürdigste Peiniger” Portrait by Susanne Wiemer. Schleswig-Holsteinische Landeszeitung (Die Illustrierte), pg. 1, 30.4.2005

“Der Vorbereiter.” Portrait of the author and his work. Insight – das Magazin der Medienbranchen, pg. 39-41, 5/ 2001

“Im Grunde gleicht kein Text dem anderen” Analysis of the authour’s linguistic technic. Thesis by Wiebke Zimmermann, University of Hamburg, 6/ 1996


Laudation by Janet Sternburg

on the occasion of Rohwer’s lecture at CalArts, Valencia, Cal., 9/ 20/ 2006

You are to meet a kind of worldliness, breadth of culture and well-furnished mind that many of us associate with what it means to be a European intellectual: Jörn Jacob Rohwer, who is an exemplar of these qualities. He was born in Nothern Germany, where he received his diploma based on interviews about Jewish Life in Contemporary Germany. He found his way to the University of London where he received his M.A. In Jewish History and the Humanities. He works and lives in Berlin, and often travels to the United States where he has been a fellow at Duke University and at Villa Aurora, here in Los Angeles. In 2006 Steidl, the eminent German publisher, brought out his book „Hinter dem Ruhm“, Behind Fame – a book of conversation-interviews or perhaps better, portraits, between Rohwer and many eminent others. (…) Surprisingly, this is the first book of its kind in Germany, an intervention in German culture – perhaps, as some reviews have suggested, because the conversations touch on intimate matters that Germans can’t or don’t want to deal with. (…) Rohwer has known firsthand – growing up in postwar Germany, several decades after the war – an atmosphere that said implicitly ‘don’t inquire, don’t ask questions about the past, it’s done with.’ Rohwer in contrast asks questions. But he is not interested in collective guilt – he is firmly rooted in the individual, the idiosyncratic, in the slow revealing – or to use his word „unfolding“ – of the inner life.

You are about to have an interesting proposition put to you: that conversation can be an art form, one that links art, intimacy, cultural depth, and informed and meticulous journalism. His conversations are „portraits“ of the private and interior lives of figures who are usually seen in public, from an exterior viewpoint. His methods are quite different from the standard interviewer who, sitting with tape recorder at the ready, keeps carefully calibrated distance.
To mention one or two qualities that distinguish Rohwer’s work and which I believe he will explore this evening: an idea of questions and questioning that is not based on the need for clarification, nor on trying to find out more and thereby accumulate knowledge, – no, instead his questions are explorations of the unfamiliar, of the complicated, of the contradictory. I am quoting Rohwer: „The person who is being interviewed should feel that he or she is not opening up to a stranger but to themselves.“

How does this relate to you, and what you are doing? I think that Rohwer’s work will encourage you to consider the essentials of character – in the sense of „a“ character – for in some ways this is what all we writers excavate and create: the „I“ character of memoir; the muliple characters of a novel; the being, acting, thinking characters with whom Rohwer too works, in his „conversations“.
Then there is the persona – again, as writers in whatever genre, we need to understand what ‘face’ a person chooses to put forth in the world. Rohwer’s portraits walk the line between the investigation of character, and the inquiry into persona, – why would someone choose to present himself this way? His work is capacious enough to understand the need for both.
Lastly – and very important – something to mediate on for the rest of our lives – is the thrill, the risks, the danger of empathy: the capacity to feel what someone is feeling. As we all know, this entrance into an other, this attempt to incorporate – the word is indeed, „incorporate“, to take into the body – the inner life of another person within one’s own life, is at the heart of writing. The writer must make space inside himself fot those others, let them live there, and risk the blurring of boundaries, the flood of feeling that might obliterate one’s own self – a kind of takeover, a necessary ambush. This is what distinguishes Rohwer’s work, he must walk subtly continually, back and forth between borders.

Finally – and before I turn this over to him, I met Joern Jacob Rohwer last year in Berlin. He had written an essay for a catalogue of a show of my photography. We didn’t know one another when he wrote the essay, but he found out that I had been sick a lot as a child, and this led him to write, „She was a talented child,… who would later recall everything adults sought to hide from her.“ Yes! He gave back to me a description – even more importantly a realization – that the recall of the hidden is exactly at the core of my artistic life doing… This is his gift, and I am grateful to be among the recipients.“

Janet Sternburg
American writer and photographer, Los Angeles

List of Conversation Partners

Allende, Isabel, *1942, Chilenian-American novelist
Barlog, Boleslaw, 1903-1999, German stage intendant/ film director
Bartoli, Cecilia, *1966, Italian belcanto singer
Beck, Gad, 1923-2012, German member of resistance/ author
Begley, Louis, *1933, Polish-American author/ advocate
Bennent, Anne, *1963, German stage/ film actress
Berggruen, Heinz, 1914-2007, German-American art collector
Bumbry, Grace, *1937, American soprano singer
Caballé, Montserrat, 1933-2018, Spanish soprano singer
Carter, Elliott, 1908-2012, American composer
Childs, Lucinda, *1940, American dancer/ choreographer
Dönhoff, Marion von, 1909-2002, German writer/ political journalist
Feidman, Giora, 1936, Argentine musician
Feltrinelli, Inge, 1930-2018, German-Italian photographer/ publisher
Fry, Steven, *1957, British actor/ author/ entertainer
Gabler, Neal, *1950, American journalist/ writer
Giddens, Anthony (Baron of Southgate) *1938, British scholar/ sociologist
Glanert, Detlev, *1960, German composer
Goldhagen, Daniel, *1959, American sociologist/ writer
Grünberg, Arnon, *1971, Dutch writer
Gundlach, Franz Christian, 1926-2021, German photographer/ collector
Hannover, Heinrich, *1925, German defense attourney/ author
Heiliger, Bernhard, 1915-1995, German sculptor
Hockney, David, OM, CH, RA, *1937, British fine artist
Huber, Lotti, 1912-1998, German author/ underground diva
Heller, André, *1947, Austrian singer/ writer/ entrepreneur
Herzog, Werner, *1942, German film director
Keilson, Hans, 1909-2011,German-Dutch writer,psycho-analyst
Kertész, Imre, 1929-2016, Hungarian writer, Nobel laureate in literature
Knef, Hildegard, 1925-2002, German-American actress/ singer/ writer
Lavine, Steven D., *1947, Pres., The California Inst. of the Arts 1988-2017
Lehndorff, Vera von, *1939, German super-model / performance artist
Lemper, Ute, *1963, German singer/ performer
Lessing, Doris, 1919-2013, British writer, Nobel laureate in literature
Ludwig, Peter, 1925-1996, German industrialist/ art collector
McEwan, Ian, *1948, British novelist
Miller, Arthur, 1915-2005, American dramatist
Neumeier, John, *1942, American ballett dancer/ choreographer
Ono, Yoko, *1933, Japanese-American fluxus artist
Oz, Amos, 1939-2018, Israeli novelist
Penderecki, Krzysztof, 1933-2020, Polish composer
Picasso, Paloma, *1949, French designer
Pilcher, Rosamunde, 1924-2019, Scottish novelist
Pulver, Lilo, *1929, Swiss stage/ film actress
Riefenstahl, Leni, 1902-2003, German actress/ film director
Roehler, Oskar, *1959, German author and film director
Rothschild, Guy de, 1909-2007, French private banker/ philanthropist
Rubinstein, Hilde, 1904-1997, German poet/ painter
Sacks, Oliver, 1933-2015, British neurologist/ writer
Sanders, Terry, *1931, American film director, ‘Oscar’ awardee
Salomé, *1954, German painter
Schell, Maximilian, 1930-2014, Austrian actor/ director, ‘Oscar’ awardee
Schlink, Bernhard, *1944, German scholar/ writer
Schlöndorff, Volker, *1939, German film director
Richard Sennett, *1943, American scholar/ sociologist
Sontag, Susan, *1933-2005, American scholar/ journalist/ writer
Sowa, Michael, *1945, German painter
Tabori, Georges, 1914-2007, Hungarian dramatist/ stage director
Thalbach, Katharina, *1954, German stage/ film actress
Tournier, Michel, 1924-2016, French writer, Prix Goncourt awardee
Ungerer, Tomi, 1931-2019, French artist/ writer
Upward, Edward, 1903-2009, British writer
Westwood, Vivienne, *1941, British fashion designer
White, Edmund, *1940, American novelist/ scholar
Wilson, Robert, *1941, American stage director / artist/ entrepreneur

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