With a plethora of technology that unceasingly quotes, references, embeds and re-tweets, the distinction between the making of ../images and the way we look at them has profoundly changed. Production and experience are increasingly blurred, propelling narratives to be continually in flux and fluid. A perpetual resurrection that is either always becoming or, conversely, is becoming undone. Much of Broersen and Lukács’ practice is informed by these questions, deeply rooted in the interest in (the workings of) media and technology, intertwined with the politics of depicting landscapes, culled from political, mythological, (art)historical and filmic sources. This interest culminated lately in the video ‘Forest on Location’, a virtual replica of the last remains of primeval forest Bialowieza. The 11,800 year-old Białowieża forest, located in the border region between Poland and Belarus, has been a wellspring of European imagination for centuries, forming the backdrop for legends, myths and fairytales. Throughout its history the forest has been assigned various roles: from a cultural and historical construct to a fought-over economic resource and a political hot potato. Despite its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, its continued existence, until recently, was threatened by extensive logging.
Using footage shot on location, Margit Lukács and Persijn Broersen created a digital ‘back-up’ of the disappearing forest, converting two-dimensional photographic documentation into a three-dimensional environment that
forms the backdrop for the performance of Iranian opera singer Shahram Yazdani. He has created a Farsi interpretation of Nat King Cole’s 1948 hit song ‘Nature Boy’.
Nature Boy was composed in 1948 by Eden Ahbez, a 'Naturmensch' who was one of the first proto-hippies living
in California. Soon after its success the song was claimed by Herman Yablokoff, a Yiddish Broadway composer
who grew up in Białowieża. His lamentation Shvayg Main Harts (Be Still My Heart), tells a story about a Russian
immigrant who left for New York where he silences his heart and becomes isolated.
>In Yazdani’s Persian version, a wise tree talks to the lost boy, as an antithesis to the often imperialist relationship
with nature in Western culture. The song, in its endless transformations, becomes the protagonist of the forest as
a virtual construct, levitating between the mythical and the actual. The overwhelmingly magical and picturesque
world we enter in the beginning of the film gradually gets deconstructed in layered, fragmented parts of the digital
Still, Forest on Location maintains a degree of documentary weight, which is related to the claim of the photographic image to be true to the reality of its object, to capture its material presence, to freeze it in time. Next to being at
the heart of the concepts of evidence or document, concepts that are intimately related to our understanding
and reconstruction of the past, photography is a medium with an extraordinary plasticity and with its own history,
which now changes very fast.
We photograph more and more, and the ../images shared on screens, permeate and in fact define our experience,
our self-../images and memory. The digital surface of photographs is no longer an image to contemplate or simply
to look at. It replaces the hard outlines of objects and is endowed with a different potentiality; no longer a still
that registers a moment in the past, but a surface that folds the past into a malleable present, in which the image
becomes a tactile surface, which invites one to zoom and scroll, edit, layer and share.