HD video, sound, 21'
Introduced by Stefanie Hessler
Interweaving various layers of imagery and text, Europium analyses history’s repeating patterns in the complex interplay of culture, economy and ecology. The rare earth element lending the work its title literally makes the film appear to viewers as it does, pointing to the material traces of human interventions in geological strata as defining properties of the things and technologies we surround ourselves with.
Europium is structured like a nautilus shell, in which sequential narratives are nested within one another. Evolving around the eponymous rare earth element that will soon be mined from the ocean floor, Lisa Rave’s film draws intricate connections between ecology, currency, spiritism and commodity fetish as well as persisting colonial dependencies in the Pacific.
The phosphorescent features of Europium cannot be imitated artificially, and its radiating brilliance is used as a marker of authenticity on Euro banknotes. It is also used in the displays of phones and computers—like the screen of the laptop I am writing this text on and the monitor you are watching this video on.
Europium will be screened on occasion of TBA21-Academy’s The Current Convening #2, which takes place in Kochi, India.
Stefanie Hessler: Colonial history has been the topic of several of your works. What brought you to the subject or subjects of Europium?
Lisa Rave: I work with film and ultimately with images being displayed. Europium is not only the title and the subject of the film, it literally plays a role by making the images appear to the viewer as they are.
The first deep-sea mining intervention is very likely to happen soon in the Bismarck Sea, a place with a significant German colonial past. Yet, Europium is not found in the European continent after which it is named. This is remarkable—it is a continuation of exploitation, grounded on colonial ideology that still persists all over the world.
SH: The film interweaves many narratives, like the tabu currency from Papua New Guinea, which European colonisers tried to forge, and the Europium extracted from the same areas, which is used to authenticate the Euro currency. Can you say a few words about these recurring patterns?
LR: There are many connections that can be drawn throughout the film: the reappearing motif of the frame containing the image, the essence within things that determines their value, systems of exchange, the storage.These kind of structural patterns are perfectly exemplified in the shape of the nautilus itself, where previous elements reappear, growing continuously, but questioning the idea of progress.
One important layer is the voiceover, written with the artist Erik Blinderman and narrated by Hanne Lippard, that moves viewers from one place to another and brings the different elements together.
SH: The film intersects archival material, shots of pages of consumer electronics catalogues, newly filmed documentary interviews and 3D animation. Can you speak about your decision to combine these materials?
LR: We planned to travel to Papua New Guinea to film, but did not have the means to do so back then. Instead, we travelled through Germany: Bremen, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hannover, Kiel, Münster... In the end, this constraint actually made it even more interesting to me. The German perspective on that landscape became part of the formal concept of the film.
I was working with ethnological museum archives. Some footage was a hundred years old while other documents were only from ten years ago. When combining these materials, some appeared smaller in resolution, so I left them as they were. There is a progression in size and quality of images within the film, from first documentations in Papua New Guinea, to extremely saturated images of nature, to 3D animations illustrating the mining operations.
Another observation I made was the imagery used in advertisements for TV screens. The monitors illustrate their brilliance mostly by showing images of nature absent of any human intrusion, landscapes too crisp to be called “real”. This made me think of the massive exploitation in the South Sea, the material from these places hidden inside the monitors, resurrecting those landscapes in form of supernatural representations.
Director: Lisa RaveWritten by: Lisa Rave and Erik BlindermanAssistance: Anna Vetter1st camera: Nicola Hens2nd camera: Erik BlindermanCamera operator: Moritz FehrMontage: Lisa RaveSound editing and mixing: Christian ObermaierColor grading: Moritz FehrProduced by Whole Wall Films