The Wind on the Heath, 2020
Video work; HD video with stereo audio
(duration 12:05 minutes)

The Mountain Stream, 2020
Video work; HD video with stereo audio
(duration 11:52 minutes)

Excerpts each 2:00 mins
Interrogating the medial materiality of online found-footage, the paired videos rework the  Heimat (homeland) films Rot ist die Liebe (1957) and Wo der Wildbach rauscht (1956), isolating the cultural-political and historically loaded imagery associated with an idealised but fragmented German-romantic landscape, and exploring sentimentalism, kitsch, desire, repression and anxiety. 

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Heimatfilm (homeland film) was a genre popular in German-speaking cinema from the roughly the 1950s until the late-1960s. The films depicted melodramas that played out in a idealised concept of German homeland, one almost exclusively rural-based and populated by what could be described as either a pre- or anti-industrial milieu, and set at a vaguely defined point in history that is impossible to exactly pin down but most probably prior to the First World War- this is latter marker is important. The timing of Heimat film’s emergence was in the post-war era, when the degradations, trauma, upheaval and guilt of the Nazi-era and the Second World War were still fresh in the collective memory, when the physical traces of ruins and rationing were still, to an extent, present. Heimat films offered not only a distraction in their lush domestic landscapes and relatively harmless romantic drama but directed the imagination to a Germany that was pre-Nazi and even an imagined version prior to the devastation and humiliations of World War One. A conception of Germany that one was permitted to love, before it had “lost its way” (the concept of Sonderweg (special path) is a concept in German historiography that attempts to account for the political catastrophe after the end of World War One that allowed for hegemony of Nazism.)

Heimat films depict a notional time-space connected to the foundation of the German state, that is to say, the latter part of the 19th century. In the USA they have their parallel in the Western genre, which takes place in a roughly similar timeframe, and similarly depicts dramatic, locally-specific landscape as a broad cinematic character in itself and as a scenic tableau in which operatic conflicts can play out in depictions flattened for ease of consumption and largely in the service of validating ideologies and world-views prevalent during the films’ era of production  – the post-War period up to the late 1960s (for example, in the context of Westerns: white supremacy and American exceptionalism), but also, like in Heimat film, the storylines and filmic images in Westerns contain undercurrents that signpost the traumas, conflict and upheaval in the history of the respective states’ creation. In the specific case of Heimat film, it is as if the Nazi-era never existed, the film audience leapfrogs over to an imaginary, pre-Nazi or de-Nazified time, however the films do regularly depict themes of flight, oppressive bullying, the threat of destruction and various kinds of displacement, speaking to the conscious and subconscious of an audience for whom the Nazi era, the Second World War and the travails of the immediate post-war era were a living memory.

Heimatfilm have a history in the “mountain film” genre of the 1920s and early 1930s (c.f. Arnold Fanck, Leni Riefenstahl) which connected the Germanic landscape trope with mysticism, but their lineage stretches further back, to the German Romantic era of the early 19th Century, itself a reaction to the Napoleonic occupation of the Rhineland, the globalist objectivity of Enlightenment, and the encroach of Industrial Revolution. The films were themselves popular at a time of increasing modernisation, capitalist progress and consumerism – what became known as the Wirtschaftswonder (Economic Miracle) in post-war Germany – as well as questions over the role of the new, post-Nazi nation in among increasingly globalised paradigms, and reflecting collective unease with change and national identity issues for the new Federal German citizens. Heimat film allowed audiences to covertly enjoy much of the quasi-mythic natural imagery tainted by association with Nazi myth (Heinrich Böll remarked that his temporarily adopted home in Ireland was a place a German could enjoy landscape without guilt), representing a return to the bosom of the feminine heimat, rather than the stern, paternalistic Fatherland. This tendency also represented an early example of what Polish socioloigist Zygmunt Bauman would more recently term retrotopia, a flight to an idealised construction of the past as a reaction to irreconcilable socio-political problems with the present and insecurity around the future. This links the films to the current socio-political and cultural climate to today.