Teufelsberg (The Devil's Mountain)
The view is one of observation, perhaps that of a person hidden. Behind the dense vegetation one anticipates an incipient change in height. A hill. We are observing a hill. The title of the little image is Teufelsberg, or the Devil's hill in English and it indicates the point of departure for a journey back in time, where places, documents, languages and witness accounts constitute the layers of the archaeology of the memory which the work of Ulrika Gomm accomplishes for the contemporary period.
Today, in the western part of West Berlin, on the summit of Teufelsberg, lies the ruins of what, during the cold war, constituted the American and British surveillance organisation's central monitoring station. It was built on the entirely man-made hill which came into existence when they were forced to remove the building debris after the end of the Second World War.
It's a new world now
In 2007 a press conference was held where long-term plans for transforming the dilapidated area to a university campus for transcendental meditation was presented. As a devoted follower of the movement, and as a popular attention drawer, the American director David Lynch met the press together with a spokesperson for the movement; Raja Emanuel of Germany. It's a new world now is a transcription and translation of Raja Emanuel's speech given in German, the reaction of the audience, as well as David Lynch's attempt to understand and meet the feelings of indignation which the speech evoked. The plans for the university for meditation were immediately shelved but the charged words had reactivated the soiled history in the collective memory.
Fakultšt (The Faculty)
With the feverish zeal to rebuild Germany there was also a desire to conceal every trace of Nazism, its ideology along with its expression. Teufelsberg's location was nothing haphazard, it was raised over the incomplete Wehrtechnischen Fakultšt (The Military Technical Academy) designed by Albert Speer and envisaged to be included in Hitler's Universitetsstad. Utilising original drawings, images and other historical documents, Ulrika Gomm has recreated the building in the form of a model. The film Fakultšt is a dolly shot through a monumental, but empty, building shell. The size of the projection sucks in the observer but the processing of the film material, which adds an animated expression, breaks the suggestion effectively.
What remains? Language remains, retorted the German-Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt to the question of what remains within her of the Germany she grew up in; before the Second World War, before the flight from that country. Hardly anything remains of the German village of Waltersdorf, Polish Wlodowo after 1945, other than the robust concrete roads, a leaky church and the pond. An unfailing spring to the memory even if they are difficult to articulate. The aged man who relates his childhood memories conveys the stretched out hand of a drowning man. The body and head are gone, but the hand still plead for rescue. It is hopeless and heavy, tramping water, speech is dumb and tears meaningless. He abruptly recounts an outrage, inconceivable and impossible for a child to express in words, too old for the aged man to be able to pull up from the depths and formulate today. In 1946 Stig Dagerman wrote and series of articles on bombed-out Germany where he bears witness to the great silence of the domestic refugees. "They loomed large, perhaps not despite their silence but because of it, for nothing which takes utterance can seem so charged with menace as the thing not uttered." In the bilingual text work, Waltersdorf/Wlodowo, based upon a transcription of a filmed witness narrative, Ulrika Gomm liberates wording from imagery, allowing language instead, German and Swedish, to reflect, one upon the other. I see it as a challenge that we have to get used to talking about that which is difficult, first by means of thought, then with words, and then by looking each other in the eye as we talk. No matter what country we live in or language we speak. Time is an enemy for all of the Second World War survivors and soon we will not have anyone left who can relate the thing which has always left its mark on their lives and, unuttered, has continued to mark the lives of generations. History has a strong tendency to repeat itself in the strangest, most deformed and absurd manner.
Dammen (The Pond)
I am sorry if this is not enough to believe in. But it is real, it moves, look! It is alive. It is an unfailing spring, fresh water constantly replenishes itself from below, from the depths. An eternal circulation. But it is seizing up now, and continues to seize. But I promise that it will never die. You just wont be able to hide yourself in it any longer.
Diana Kaur, January 2010