Following the recent exhibition of Ori Gersht’s photographs titled Liquidation, CRG devotes its space to Gersht’s new film; The Forest. Like the photographs, the film was shot in the remote regions of Galicia in southwest Ukraine, a place where the artist’s family once found a temporary refuge from Nazi persecution during WWII. The artist made his way into the Ukrainian forest with his film crew and the aid of local lumberers who assisted in a region already scheduled for harvest. The film begins with a slow pan beneath canopies of leaves twinkling with the obscured sunlight. It could be the very definition of tranquility and yet, in this stillness where the only noise is the faint murmur of a cicada and the only movement the swaying branches from a subtle breeze, a tree falls in the forest. As though a lone victim shot dead in a crowd of unfazed onlookers, it breaks the idyllic monotony of the scene and falls to the ground with a deafening roar followed by a slow shower of falling leaves. The camera continues on and between moments of arboreal calm another tree falls and again another. Gersht creates a space that engages the notion of place and memory. The continuous movement of the camera might suggest a strictly linear sequence or perhaps, aside from the actual looping of the film as typical of a gallery installation, the time in this space becomes somewhat cyclical, wavering back and forth as though it were a meditation between the serene but uneventful present and splintered glimpses of the past interspersed therein, as if flashes of memory brought about by the place itself. The forest as it is experienced here has two sides; a place of both prehistoric beauty and a place that was, in this case, once host to appalling acts of horror. The blurred long exposures typical of Gersht’s still photographs give way to the slowed motion of the projected image.
“When I was looking at the landscape in the Ukraine I was seeing all these houses and trees that were there 60 years before and are living there now with total indifference to the human horrors that took place but somehow bear within them the memory of those events. Our sense of time as human beings is limited to 70 or 80 years but all these landscapes spread over a cosmic or geological perception of time. Some of the trees are hundreds and hundreds of years old, they bear with them the memory of all previous events and at the same time keep a certain silence and are impenetrable.”
– An excerpt from an interview with Ori Gersht by Camilla Jackson, Senior Curator at the The Photographers Gallery in London Film Credits Artist / Director – Ori Gersht Head of Production – Bevis Bowden Production Co ordinator – Daniel Kovzhun Project Co ordinator – Nina Ernst Cinematographer – Teddy Testar First Assistant – Alex Taylor Additional Photography – Location Extreme Sound Recordist – Ross Adams Production Assistants – Voloshin [ POPEYE ] Alexander – Alyona Filimoshina – Andrey Grichishkin – Hramchenko Michael Foresters – Vasil Mikolayovich – Vasil Vasilyovich – Kolya Yurko Editor – Bevis Bowden Sound Design – Ross Adams Colourist – George Kyriacou Online editor – Andrew Sawyer A very special thanks to Vitally Pavliuk for his hospitality. Thanks also to Ross Culligan at Blue Post Production and Caroline Douglas at the British Council. We gratefully acknowledge the kind co operation of the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Ukraine and the National Preserve of Galichina without whose permission this film would not have been possible.