Exhibition: Péter Forgács – Looming Fire.
Stories from the Netherlands East Indies (1900-1940)
From 5 October to 1 December 2013 EYE’s main exhibition space will be exclusively devoted to Looming Fire, the latest work by filmmaker and artist Péter Forgács.
Based on EYE’s extensive collection of home movies, Forgács (Budapest, 1950) takes us through everyday life in the Netherlands East Indies at the height of the colonial period. Supported by quotes from original letters, the footage shows daily life as lived by Europeans in the colonial era in full glory: the etiquette, the almost forgotten traditions, family life, the colours and the scents. Thus Looming Fire is able to add an extra dimension to the historiography of the Netherlands East Indies. Forgács: “I put my films together like musical pieces. I make compositions on the basis of the material I’ve found. They are personal interpretations of history, not documentaries aiming at objectivity.”
People who leave their native soil are cut off from their past. But for the former inhabitants of the colonies, there is something else at play as well: the old places no longer exist. Although memories are kept alive, the accuracy of those memories can be called into question. The Netherlands East Indies, too, has become an imaginary country. The professional films produced there for trade, industry and the government were generally always biased. The amateur films made in the Netherlands East Indies, by contrast, show intimate family highlights, but also offer insight into everyday activities, the home, the landscape. EYE holds an extensive collection of these ‘eye witness reports’, which were made with the purpose of sending them home.
Looming Fire is a multiple screen installation that offers an impression of the life led by the European elite and Indo people in colonial society, from the beginning of the previous century to the onset of the Second World War. Found footage filmmaker Péter Forgács drew on EYE’s rich home movie collection from the Netherlands East Indies, adapting the amateur footage and supplementing it with quotes from letters held by the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT). Visitors of the exhibition pass through seven spheres, shown on more than fifteen large screens with projections. Together they offer an extraordinary and varied picture of everyday life in the former colony. Although we witness the happy moments of colonial life: birthdays, parties, family outings, a trip to a native village, shops, schools, the contact with servants; controversial issues are not shunned. Looming Fire sheds light on the complex structure of colonial society. The work questions and investigates the concepts of colonialism, memory and migration.
About Péter Forgács
The Hungarian filmmaker Péter Forgács (Budapest, 1950) is considered to be one of the most outstanding found footage filmmakers. He is best known for the way he ingeniously compiles new work based on amateur films. Forgács created a genre of its own, one which serves to put historical events in a new perspective. Forgács himself says about his adaptations of found footage: “I put my films together like musical pieces. I make compositions on the basis of the material I’ve found. They are personal interpretations of history, not documentaries aiming at objectivity.”
His highly individual adaptations of authentic family and amateur films, including those made for the series Private Hungary (1988-2008), were once described by a critic as a mix of ‘anthropology, theatre, documentary and private diary’. In 2007 Forgács was awarded the Erasmus prize for his contribution to the ‘culture and historical consciousness of Europe’. So far he has more than forty films to his name, including The Maelstroom, Angelos’ Film, Miss Universe 1929 and El perro negro, as well as three major installations.
His installation The Danube Exodus – The Rippling Currents of the River was shown amongst others in the Jewish Museum in Berlin, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, CCCB in Barcelona, Bozar in Brussels and Kiasma in Helsinki. Forgács recently finished a project for the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw entitled Letters to Afar, Polish Jewish life of the 1920-1939, an installation based on amateur films shot in the Interwar Years. With 22 of his films, EYE owns and preserves the largest Forgács collection in the world. His work has been acquired for the collections of other leading museums like MoMA in New York, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie in Karlsruhe.
Looming Fire is a Lumen Film production made in co-production with EYE. The installation was realized with the financial support of the Mondriaan Fund, VSB Fund, SNS REAAL Fund and the Prince Bernhard Culture Fund. The exhibition was realized with the financial support of the European Cultural Fund / Doc Next Network.
(Source: EYE Film Institute the Netherlands)