review by Hito Steyerl [08/2005] - home


Politics of Truth – Documentarism in Arts


[…] A newer work, which dodges the widely spread representation of the aethetics of poverty, is the video Forst (forest) by Ascan Breuer, Ursula Hansbauer, and Wolfgang Konrad (A/D 2005). The black and white film primarily shows images of an impenetrable, dark teutonic forest. Off screen we hear voices, which describe the experience of the forest. The forest becomes an existential metaphor for exclusion, precariousness and abandonment. Gradually the clues increases that the voices off screen come from refugees, who live in the camp "Forst" in East Germany. The feeling of Forst, a mixture of dark romanticism, existential exposure, and freedom, remains in the balance, as a universial metaphor, which does not only apply to particularisable groups such as refugees, but represents a new universal conditio humana (human condition). In the second part of the film the atmosphere changes. The forest is no longer just a dark desert of solitude, but becomes a place where new collectives and new collectives may emerge, just as much as new solidarities. In a forceful shot, figures in white t-shirts come slowly towards us, we cannot really make out their faces. The forest is not only a cipher of atomisation, but also the place where opposition can form. The new collectives recall memories of earlier forest inhabitants, Robin Hood as an outlaw in Nottingham Forest, the Tito partisans in the Bosnian mountains, or the partnership of the last book-readers in Truffaut’s film Fahrenheit 451. It concerns universial ciphersof oppositional solidarities. The refugees are not written into ethnic or cultural traditional lines, they are not social cases, rather they count in a tradition of freedom fighting, for which the forest offered the necessary seclusion. To this extend, Forst refuses radically dominant documentary truth politics, which control the public image of migration. The video does not admit the ambivalent reinterpretation of occupied metaphors, rather offers access to universal validity of the experience of refugees. […]


text-clipping taken from: “Politics of Truth – Documentarism in Arts”, published in the reader (S.116ff) of the exhibition MOV!NG ON: Border Activism – Strategies for Anti-racist Actions, Aug. 13th – Sep. 11th 2005, at NGBK Berlin;  curators: Insa Breyer, Claudia Burbaum, Maja Figge, Alex Gerbaulet, Farida Heuck, Birgit zur Nieden, Mark Schiffner, Zala T.S. Unkmeir

Hito Steyerl (PhD) is filmmaker and professor for Cultural and Post-colonial Studies at Goldsmiths College, London