Phil Collins: This Unfortunate Thing Between Us

  • Phil Collins, This Unfortunate Thing Between Us, 2011. Performance in two parts broadcast live on German public television; each 60 min. Courtesy Shady Lane Productions, Berlin and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York.

  • Intermission for screening, Phil Collins, This Unfortunate Thing Between Us, 2011. Mar 31, 2016.

  • Intermission for screening, Phil Collins, This Unfortunate Thing Between Us, 2011. Mar 31, 2016.

  • Screening, Phil Collins, This Unfortunate Thing Between Us, 2011. Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Lecture Hall, Mar 31, 2016.


  1. Mar 31, 2016, 6 – 8 pm
Level 0, Lecture Hall

The video is 120 minutes. It will be screened in two 60-minute parts with a 15 minute intermission. Introduced by James Voorhies, the John R. and Barbara Robinson Family Director of the Carpenter Center. 

This Unfortunate Thing Between Us by Phil Collins adopts the appearance and language of a televised shopping network, with repeated sales pitches, viewer phone-ins, network personalities, telephone operators, and product information scrolling across the screen. But instead of selling jewelry, bakeware, and treadmills, a crew of actors, porn workers, and musicians host a program called TUTBU TV, which offers real life experiences. For a promotional price of only €9.99, home viewers were able to call in and interview for an opportunity to play a protagonist in a Stasi-style interrogation scene, act in a Victorian-era porno, or stage their final dramatic hours in a hospital. The project was conducted in a Berlin theater in 2011 and broadcast live nationally on German public television over two evenings. On the first night, television viewers watched performances of the experiences on offer, and three lucky callers were selected by Collins and flown to Berlin. On the second evening, the callers took on the leading roles in the scenarios they had purchased⎯live on national television. 

Merging the formats of shopping channel and reality television, This Unfortunate Thing Between Us reflects on consumer obsession with lifestyles–from the rich and famous to down and out–mediated by the omnipresent digital technology of the screen. The work explores the alienating impact of our engrained desire to both create and devour visual experiences via social media, cable television, and streaming networks, raising important questions about technology's unrequited promise to connect us.

Mark your calendars: April 7! Phil Collins in person at the Carpenter Center to screen his feature-length film Tomorrow Is Always Too Long (82 min.) followed by a talk with the artist.

Phil Collins

Phil Collins is a British-born filmmaker, visual artist, cultural organizer, and educator based in Berlin and Wuppertal. His diverse practice is characterized by close engagements with place and communities, which over the years have included, amongst others, disco-dancing Palestinians, fans of The Smiths across three continents, Kosovan-Albanian refugees, the youth of Baghdad, anti-fascist skinheads in Malaysia, the homeless population of Cologne, and teachers of Marxism-Leninism from the former German Democratic Republic. Rather than static portraits, the works resulting from these collaborations articulate the nuances of relations embedded in the aesthetic regimes and economies that define everyday existence, from news and politics to entertainment and shopping. Throughout, Collins upholds a commitment to myriad forms of experience across the social spectrum, and an interest in the contradictory impulses of intimacy and desire within the public sphere. 

Collins’s works are represented in collections such as those of Museum of Modern Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; Tate Gallery, London; and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. In Spring 2016 his first feature film Tomorrow Is Always Too Long (2014) will be theatrically released in Germany.

Since 2011 Collins is Professor of Video Art and Performance at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne.