The Swimmer and the Forest
The Swimmer and the Forest (2010) uses sound, film and text to examine what happens when someone is unable to construct a rational account for a persistent and deeply troubling memory.
The film shows a swimmer struggling through dark water, intercut with sweeping images of a dark forest. We hear the voice of a Soviet conscript recounting details of a terrifying exhaustion, which induces a dangerous state of hallucination, while on night patrol at the edge of a vast snow-covered pine forest.
Fragmented memory details surface: the heat of the searchlight on his back, the cold casing of his machine gun, shadows moving through the trees. As he struggles to form a clear image of that terrible night, other memories intrude and the distinction between the real and the imagined becomes increasingly unstable.
Two recordings of the same memory made over seven years apart reveal distinctly different accounts, which correspond with deeper political shifts in an evolving relationship with the past.
Images above: Digital video stills
Images: installation, Loughborough University Library
Commissioned by RADAR, Loughborough University’s contemporary arts programme, the work was shown as a solo site-specific art installation at Loughborough University, 3 December 2009 – 23 January 2010, accompanied by an interdisciplinary symposium, Remembering Painful Pasts, January 2010, organized by Emily Keightley and Michael Pickering, which explored how painful pasts are negotiated and communicated in their capacity disrupt and complicate the process of remembering and the products of memory. A further screening took place at Wimbledon Space, Wimbledon College of Art, curated by Artprojx and WorkinProgress.