Alba D’Urbano (Germany/Italy) and Jörg Brombacher (Germany)
Alba D’Urbano (Germany/Italy) and Jörg Brombacher (Germany) »Natura Morta«
In “Natura Morta”, the forest is seen as a cultural landscape, a projection screen for human imagination, and, in particular, this project explores the theme of media entertainment and fear.
From Ancient Greek myths to Romanticism, from popular fairy tales to high-brow literature, music and the fine arts, the forest has repeatedly been assigned different meanings in Western culture.
There is a large range of notions that interpret the forest as a place of refuge, but also as a threat. For the alternative movement of the 1960s and 1970s, which stood up against the Capitalist destruction of “nature”, the “forest” represented a natural element in need of protection. Today, in our ‘mediafied’ society of the spectacular, it has been reduced to a media backdrop. As a recreational park, the forest is a picturesque setting for special experiences of nature – sometimes artistic experiences too – or a place for healing practices, a platform for orgies of all kinds of sports activities. As a frightening, uncontrollable environment, it is often also set and crime scene for atmospheric action. Yet this strained natural area was never as controlled and populated as it is today…
To realize this project, Bessunger Forest in Darmstadt was partly transformed into a scenic “Laboratorium”. The complete orchestration consisted of a series of different stations forming a show-jumping course. A very special kind of path, which alluded to the film and entertainment industry by means of its narrative character, and carried visual associations with the Disneyland aspect in today’s understanding of the forest. The individual stations were constructed from simple elements, designed to “maybe” evoke past or frightening events or criminal activities.
Paul Hermann Gruner, a journalist and crime novelist from Darmstadt, wrote “Fiat Lux”, a short fairy tale-cum-crime story for the installation. The “crime scenes” of the story were the police headquarters, the pond, the Goethefelsen, the tower, the “U-Boot” and the US Army barracks; the invisible actors were an old lady, a 14 year-old girl on a bike, a master glazier, two elementary school pupils, a student and an American soldier.
As regards the reception of the project by the audience, strategies were used that were based on the abilities of the eye and the processes of interpretation in the brain linked with them. From a distance, the installations were integrated into their natural setting to such an extent that the illusionary power of the “forest images” generated by them left the observer mostly seeing these as crime scenes of “real” events. It was only on closer inspection that the stations revealed themselves as constructions. The realistic appearance of the stations from a distance often awoke in visitors unconscious feelings or fears. This also led to occasional negative reactions and calls to the local police. Moreover, minor instances of vandalism of the stations and theft transformed the fictive into real “crime scenes”: Even before the opening of the exhibition, a file was opened for the project at the Darmstadt police bureau. The psychological aspect of the project was pushed to the fore by the reactions of the public. In attempting a visual localization by means of simple intervention in the forest area, the intention of the project was to draw visitors’ attention to their own inner images and to their origin in the media. These images refer to a transformation of the current concept of the forest in our mass-media and entertainment society and draw attention to the climate of fear that has increasingly been anchoring itself in our imagination in recent years in medial terms.