Persijn Broersen and Margit Lukács: Forest Fictions

15 février 2024 – 13 mai 2024

About the Exhibition

Programmed By

Crystal Mowry


Shumiatcher Theatre

The forest has figured prominently in folklore and mythology for as long as humans have been telling stories. As home to more than 80 percent of the world’s plant and animal life, forests are familiar symbols of order outside of human civilizations. Over time and with the emergence of cinema, they have evolved from being a setting – a background against which a conflict may unfold – to being a character, capable of representing a collective subconscious. Despite their cultural resilience, UNESCO protections, and essential role in sustaining human life, forests remain vulnerable to the twin perils of climate change and extractive industry. 

For Dutch artists Persijn Broersen & Margit Lukács, the representation of landscapes often reveals a tension between reality and fiction. Using a combination of strategies such as still photography, digital collage, appropriation, and 3D animation, the artists invite us to consider the relationship between the scrim and the screen. In the three works that comprise the Forest Fictions program, we see an emphasis placed on monumental, yet unstable, locations that have inspired other art forms for generations – the rugged mountains of New Zealand, the Białowieża forest on the border between Poland and Belarus, and the ruins of Palmyra. Seen together, they function as a contemporary parable for a human desire to instrumentalize nature and time to serve dominion narratives. 

Works on View

Establishing Eden, 2016, 10:00 min 

Sound: Berend Dubbe & GT Thomas 

Courtesy of the artists and AKINCI, Amsterdam 

In Establishing Eden, Broersen & Lukács focus on the establishing shot: the moment a landscape is identified and becomes one of the main protagonists in a film. In blockbusters like Avatar and the Lord of the Rings films, these shots are used to capture and confiscate the nature of New Zealand, to serve as a new evergreen and unspoiled Eden. Here, fiction turns back the clock and takes over reality: mountains and forests exist under the name of their cinematic alter-egos. Creating an architecture of fragments and flat planes connected by the camera’s movement, the artists show this Eden as a series of many possible realities, an illusion that comes together as easily as it falls apart. 

Forest on Location, 2018, 11:45 min 

Song & Lyrics Sharam Yazdani | Music Berend Dubbe & GT Thomas | Sound Design Peter Flamman | Made possible by the Mondriaan Foundation, Foam Amsterdam and AMODO | With thanks to Kevin Bray, Arek Szymura, Fabian Loew, Rumiko Hagiwara 

Courtesy of the artists and AKINCI, Amsterdam 

Forest on Location is set in a digital replica of the last remains of the 11,800 year old Białowieża forest, a UNESCO heritage site currently under threat from logging. In the film an avatar of the Iranian opera singer Shahram Yazdani performs his Persian interpretation of Nature Boy, a song made famous by Nat King Cole, though its melody was claimed by Herman Yablokoff, a Jewish Broadway composer who grew up in the region of Białowieża forest. In Yazdani’s version, a wise tree talks to the lost boy, offering an antithesis to the Western world’s often extractive relationship with the natural world. 

Stranded Present, 2015, 6:00 min loop, silent 

Courtesy of the artists and AKINCI, Amsterdam 

During their research on the durability of classical motifs, Broersen & Lukács came across antiquarian Robert Wood’s 18th-century illustrations of the ruins of Palmyra, Syria. Named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1980, Palmyra was one of the most important trade centers of the ancient world, resulting in a dynamic blend of Asian, Persian, and Roman cultural traditions. Over time and in the wake of war, civic ornaments have been looted, salvaged, and even restored with the help of 3D printing. Created before the destruction of Palmyra by ISIS, Broersen & Lukács reconstructed one of its temples, depicting it as an endlessly evolving liquid form.