Point Cloud Old Growth

Solo- Exhibition at foam from November 2018 until February 2019

All of the music at the exhibiton is made by Gwendloyn Thomas & Berend Dubbe, sound mixing done by Peter Flamman, the song in Forest on Location is from Shahram Yazdani.

The exhibtion was curated by Mirjam Kooiman.

Foam commissioned the duo to develop a brand-new three-part installation
of sculptures and projections in which Europe’s last remaining primeval forest,
Bia?owie?a, is examined and dissected as a construction of the human


The exhibition was made possible by the Mondiraanfonds and Amodo.

Forest on Location at FOAM, photo Gert Jan van Rooij

see the video partly at vimeo

Through the lookingglass (and what we find there)
by Mirjam Kooiman, Foam curator
How high will the sycamore grow
If you cut it down
Then you’ll never know
– Pocahontas, Walt Disney Studios, 1995

In the video work Forest on Location, we see the avatar of the Iranian
opera singer Shahram Yazdani walking through a forest. One moment, the
forest wraps around him protectively, the next moment the trees
crumble away into loose pieces of bark, or melt into a static green
mass. At the same time, the forest as a whole floats around in
darkness, uprooted. It is a forest without a location, except on our
screen. The young man’s avatar appears to be wandering around there
aimlessly. It is a wonderland that he exits from towards the end of
the video, when his body slips straight through the green wall. This
finally breaks the spell of the illusory forest, and everything is
revealed to be no more than staged decor.
But the forest does exist as a real forest, somewhere. This virtual
green world is a digital back-up of Bia?owie?a Forest: the last
remaining stretch of primeval low land forest that once covered much
of Central Europe. Inspired by what the historian Simon Schama wrote
about Bia?owie?a in Landscape and Memory (1995), Persijn Broersen and
Margit Lukács journeyed to Poland to capture the forest suffused by
old-Germanic nostalgia and mythical atmosphere. The forest has been a
wellspring of the European imagination for centuries. The pristine
heart of Bia?owie?a Forest, with huge trees half a century old and
moss-covered fallen tree trunks, inhabited by lynx, bison and wolf
packs, is reminiscent of the sinister fairy tales by the Brothers
Grimm. It owes its near-magical status partly to the Polish nobility
of old, for whom the mythology of the untamed wilderness formed part
of their heathen hunting rituals. That is why the forest of
Bia?owie?a, unlike the regulated forests of Western Europe, was
allowed to remain wild. And while the impenetrable wilderness
frightened off many people, for others it represented a safe refuge.
Interestingly, Hitler wanted to burn down parts of the forest to flush
out Jewish partisans, while Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring wanted to
protect the forest on account of its sacred and mythical status -- as
a “heiliger Hain”.
All through its long and eventful history, the forest was assigned
various roles by people. Man’s own interests always seemed to come
first: nature is used as a sublime background decor to our stories and
fantasies, as a place to clear in order to create living space, or it
served as a political plaything. Nature is reduced to a
cultural-historical construct, and to a source of materials for our
consumption. Our notion of nature is a cultural product that we
generally experience only within a socially constructed, historically
contingent framework. We seem to have lost the ability to recognise
the difference between nature as a physical reality and our own
cultural interpretation thereof -- the rift between object and
Since the early 20th century, a part of Bia?owie?a Forest measuring
some 15.5 hectares (approximately 0.3% of the total area) has been
placed under strict protection against any kind of human activity or
influence. This area is therefore a unique piece of pristine nature in
Europe, which humans are only permitted to observe. The rest of the
forest has the status of a National Park and has been a listed UNESCO
world heritage site since 1979. Nevertheless, in March 2016 the Polish
government gave free license for logging in the forest. This would
yield some 180,000 cubic metres of wood over a ten-year period.
International experts and environmental groups suggested that the plan
was motivated by financial considerations, but this was denied by the
Polish government, who claimed that the goal was to counter an
outbreak of bark beetle in 2013. This outbreak was said to have
weakened the trees, so that the logging was actually an attempt to
save the forest. But in doing so, it is ignoring an ecosystem that has
survived for 11,800 years.1
As an oriental response to the western, imperialist treatment of
nature, the avatar of the Iranian opera singer Shahram Yazdani sings
about the forest’s oldest tree, which one day spoke to him. There are
theories that trees build and maintain social relations with each
other and have various ways of communicating, enabling older trees to
transfer their knowledge on how to survive to younger trees. Broersen
and Lukács have given the ancient forest a voice in their own fairy
tale named Point Cloud, Old Growth, by letting a tree trunk from
Bia?owie?a Forest sing a song that originated in the forest. Many will
recognise the melody as Nat King Cole’s 1948 hit song, ‘Nature Boy’.
This song was written by Eden Ahbez, a “Naturmensch” who was inspired
by the ‘Wandervogel’ movement and who spent his time camping beneath
the L of the world famous Hollywood sign on the mountainside of Los
Angeles. The melody of the song was later claimed by Herman Yablokoff,
a Yiddish composer from the area of Bia?owie?a Forest. Many artists
have since given their interpretation of the song, including the likes
of David Bowie and Lady Gaga. But the singing tree trunk takes the
song back to its origin in the forest, with Yablokoff’s original song
‘Shvayg Mayn Harts’ (‘Be Still My Heart’), which is a lamentation of
silent suffering. Broersen and Lukács take nature as a phenomenon from
which mankind is perhaps more alienated than anything else today, and
investigate the visual framework that we repeatedly project onto it as
a means to capture it, to give it meaning, or as a vain attempt to
understand it.

Phantom Bark Lightboxes

Schwayg Main Hartz, video installation


lena Alexandrova