Julian Rosefeldt | Film
Datum: 2021-09-09
Öffnungszeiten: Di - Fr | 11:00 - 18:00 Uhr, Sa | 11:00 - 14:00 Uhr
Ort: Galerie Helga de Alvear | Calle del Doctor Fourquet 12 | Madrid | Spanien & Burno Múrias Lisbon | Rua Capitão Leitão 10-16 | Lissabon | Portugal


Rosefeldt's new work Penumbra on view for the first time.

What does the past of a distant future look like? A distant future to which humankind will be driven by the forces of neoliberal capitalism, climate change, populism, and the pervasive intrusion of one’s private sphere through digital technology? Julian Rosefeldt’s 90-minute film Penumbra is not a work of science fiction. Instead, it points to our current situation, albeit within a fictious framework that paves the way for a paradoxical enigma: who will we be when we are gone?
The new work follows on from 43-minute film In the Land of Drought, 2015/17 – the condensed version of Rosefeldt’s filmic interpretation of Joseph Hayden’s oratorio The Creation. In a similar vein, Penumbra originates from a film work, planned as a visual backdrop for Robert Schumann’s oratorio, Scenes from Goethe’s Faust, at the opera houses in Antwerp, Ghent, and Montpellier (postponed to 2022).

For his two key works of German literature, Faust: A Tragedy, Part I and II (1808 – 1832), Johann Wolfgang von Goethe created a visionary protagonist in the scientist and entrepreneur Dr. Faust. As a character, Dr. Faust anticipated the great issues of our time: capitalism, post-colonialism, the exploitation of nature, and environmental disasters. For the oratorio, Schumann selected a few fragments of Goethe’s masterpiece to compose music for, and for Rosefeldt’s filmic adaptation, he fragmented Schumann’s romantic composition to use as a soundtrack.

Akin to In the Land of Drought, Penumbra focuses on the notion of the “after us”. Looking back from a distant, imagined future upon the post-Anthropocene – the aftermath of significant human influence on our planet – the film addresses this problematic relationship between humans and their impact. Humankind appears to have left Earth for good. A computer-generated visualisation introduces us to their new territory, where they’re found trying their luck on a faraway planet, the desert plains congested with urbanisation. But once again, failure prospers and only some frantically built space settlements seem to grant shelter. On the planet’s surface, abandoned megacities linger within the dystopian landscape whilst artificial circular plantations lurk at their peripheries, nourishing their last inhabitants. The camera hovers meditatively over the desolate landscape and the ruined megapolises. Connoting surveillance, the satellite/drone/bird’s-eye view removes human perspective, keeping us onlookers at a distance.

When writing Faust I, and especially Faust II, Goethe possessed a clairvoyant vision of our time. He foresaw the destructive power of greed, capitalism, and globalisation, and simultaneously celebrated a utopian vision of a better world. Zooming in on this foresight, the searching camera abandons its reliance on computer-generated images to gradually reveal the remaining tenants of the barren landscape. Angles shift, perspectives enlarge, and slow motion accentuates the movements of a herd of raving youth, lost within their state of trance. A hint of optimism unfolds; their escape tentatively weighs against the threshold of their own extinction.

(Text E. Lapper)


Produced by Opera Ballet Vlaanderen.
Co-produced by Fondazione In Between Art Film and Sammlung Wemhöner.

Parts of the computer-generated segment were produced at the Animationsinstitut of Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg.


Penumbra will be on view at Burno Múrias Lisbon simultaneously to the exhibition at Helga de Alvear in Madrid.


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