Thursday, July 04, 2013

in denmark's soil

out in the ål klitplantage near oksbøl, there is a very interesting exhibition going on. there in the forest, in 1946, just after the war, there was a camp with 35,000 german refugees. artist kate skjerning and her husband, photographer niels linneberg (who is a flickr friend of mine) have created an exhibition entitled i danmarks jord (in denmark's soil), that's a memorial of sorts to those refugees. guided by poet agnes miegel's poignant, sorrowful poem of the same name to 4,132 children who died in 1945 on their way to the camp, the 1km route through the cool, quiet forest features larger-than-life photos of 175 contemporary residents of the area, fixed around the trees, as if they're standing there in the forest.

i love that this guy was actually photographed in front of this tree originally - even the bark matches up!

there's something piercing and intense about her eyes.

the portraits are striking, but there's no real connection, other than location, between the people depicted and the german refugees - no indication that they stayed behind and made their lives in the area, producing descendants who are still here.

it was quite funny with this family group, because we had seen them in real life at the beach about 15 minutes before we visited the exhibition.

at the beginning of the route, there are people here and there, one at a time, but then it opens up to a wide area with many people on many trees. the effect is striking and a little bit eerie. the girls said that they wouldn't want to walk out there at night.

mostly, i love the idea of a photography exhibition out in nature and i think it was a brilliant means of accomplishing that. the fact that at least some of the people were photographed in front of the very tree where their photo is displayed is really cool. i don't think all of them were, but on those that were, the effect was somehow strengthened.

but i will say that it didn't provoke me think that much about the german refugees. despite the sorrowful words of the poem guiding our way, i couldn't really conjure them or their ghosts in that place. maybe it just affects me less, growing up as i did so removed from the war. even after all this time, it's just so much more present for europeans than it is for me as an american (not to mention that i wasn't even thought of at the time it occurred).

what it did make me think about is all of the talk of udkantsdanmark - the outlying areas, where it's hard to keep people because of a lack of jobs and opportunities in the smaller towns of the periphery. these faces of those who stayed are a fascinating essay of sorts into which all sorts of sociology could be written. i might have to go back and ponder it some more.

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i've just updated my photo portfolio blog with a cool new pinteresty template.
i'm liking how it looks.


will said...

Denmark's World War II history is, in today's lingo, checkered... samarbejdspolitikken ... I think that's the word, remains controversial. Despite that, Danish Resistance did stand up to the Nazis.

celkalee said...

This came across my reader late last night when I was signing off for the day. I needed to think about it.

Haunting in a sense but also hopeful. Life goes on and these persons, some smiling, some not, all ages, are testament to endurance. Politics aside a very provocative statement.

Thanks for sharing, hope you are feeling better.

will said...

Actually, I find the life-sized photos against trees rather disturbing. I've watched a considerable amount of World War II movies - those made during the war.

In some melodramas, to show how bad the Nazis were ... there were scenes of people being rounded up by Nazis then taken into the woods and shot - often the victims were standing near trees.

julochka said...

bill - you're right, the Danish relationship to WWII is not uncomplicated. the resistance only really grew once it looked like the Germans might lose. funnily enough, this is downplayed in Danish accounts. they were, after all, a repository of the Aryan race...and profited from "selling" their Jews to safety in Sweden. another downplayed moment in Danish accounts.

celkalee - I'm also not done pondering it. it is haunting.

bill - you're absolutely right. and it is disturbing in person as well. tho' I sincerely don't think that's the intention behind it, the shadow of those atrocities looms large. Sabin and her friend found it quite disturbing even without knowing that aspect. they shivered and said they'd not like to walk out there after dark.

Molly said...

Logistically - what do you think happens when it rains?

julochka said...

molly- they're printed on some plastic like is used for outdoor signs, so they weather the rain well. they'd have to in this country!