Werner Twertzog– he dead?

TwertzogProfileWayback
Internet Archive snapshot of Werner Twertzog’s Twitter page on February 27, 2015.

Werner Twertzog (@WernerTwertzog) is a persona that performs a parodic homage of German filmmaker Werner Herzog on Twitter. This humorous account does an admirable job of capturing Herzog’s voice in (necessarily) brief, aphoristic tweets that express his existentialist perspective and wry humor.

Performing a celebrity’s persona for artistic, humorous, and/or political purposes has recently become a social media trend. Some notable examples are @SlavojTweezek, @TheTweetOfGod, God (on Facebook), and Kim Kierkegaardashian. Werner Herzog’s inimitable verbal style has even been the subject of a series of YouTube videos by Ryan Iverson, such as “Werner Herzog Reads Where’s Waldo?” The Twitter account, Werner Twertzog, has been so successful that its last name has become a term (“Twertzog: To tweet (verb) or a tweet (noun) in a dark, German style that seems erudite, absurd, and possibly morbid.” see this recent interview), a hashtag #twertzog, and a day-long celebration on September 5 (see image below) in which people try to tweet like Werner Twertzog (see image below).

twertzogday

As of June 18, 2015 Werner Twertzog has gone missing. As of this writing, a visit to his Twitter page, reveals the following results (see image below).

twertzogdoesntexist

And while Twitter’s denial of existence might prove to be well attuned to Twertzog’s nihilist sensibilities, the fact remains that a vacuum is created when an account is either suspended or terminated by Twitter or deleted by the user. Beyond the nostalgia left in the followers who enjoyed reading its witticisms, the interactions, retweets, and links to this content are retroactively invalidated and rendered useless by a social media service that denies their existence. Fortunately, traces remain of the content in the form of Internet Archive snapshots of the site, the Library of Congress Twitter Archive, the content generated by other social media services when the content is shared (see image below), and manual screen captures and textual quotes by its followers.

Werner Twertzog
Facebook preview of the Werner Twertzog account.

To offer a taste of his tweets, I have put together the following image gallery created from screen captured images of selected tweets that survive in the Internet Archive.


Other third party services can be used to capture some of the content produced by a now-defunct account, such as Topsy (Thanks, Jacob!), which offers not only a selection of about 100 of his tweets, but preserves their connected responses. That way, the social dimension of this network survives, even when the original tweet that caused so many responses and interactions has been toaded along with the account. So while there may be no more new material coming from Werner Twertzog, there’s a record of a remarkably popular and smart social media performance.

twertzoggone

Werner Twertzog’s disappearance provokes curiosity and we naturally seek to make meaning from the void left behind. Did Werner Herzog become aware of this account and request it be taken down? Perhaps Twertzog was mesmerized by and got too close to @BearsActHuman or got lost exploring @_cavebot seeking prehistoric cave paintings? I like to think he simply deleted his account on midsummer night, leaving the silence of retroactive nonexistence as his mic drop.

The title to this entry is a play on his epitaph, offered in his Overhead Compartment interview, which makes a fitting reference to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

OC: Do you have an epitaph picked out?

WT: Werner Twertzog—he dead.

My change in punctuation in the title is hope that perhaps he is not.

Editor’s note: On Thursday, July 2, 2015 Werner Twertzog’s Twitter account came back online. Read about it in this follow up entry.

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