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The Unofficial Histories of Peter Forgacs, Part 3 of 3

Wednesday, November 09, 2005
7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Event Type:
Location Details:
Pacific Film Archive
2575 Bancroft Way
Between College and Telegraph
Berkeley, CA 94720

History is typically brought to us in its official form—the sponsored version, validated by power and assembled by authorized agents. But the visual evidence of history has its unsanctioned and overlooked sources, troves of images from elsewhere. The exacting Hungarian artist Peter Forgacs has plundered one such trove, that of home movies shot primarily in the thirties and forties by Hungarian Jews. “The films became more than evidence, more than fact,” Forgacs has said. “They became a complex cultural and archaeological site for me.” Forgacs shapes the footage into elegiac “family sagas” that have the specificity of particular people yet bear, through poetic resonance, an unofficial history of a time-bound culture. Forgacs’s minimalism is a vital attribute: subtle cues, a word placed in the frame identifying a notable person or poignant moment, ride gently upon restrained waves of image manipulation. Composer Tibor Szemzˆ’s haunting soundscapes further accentuate both visual detail and emotional strains. Private Hungary, a series initiated in the late eighties, now includes a dozen works; in the mid-nineties, Forgacs began resurrecting home movies from other countries such as Spain, the Netherlands, and Greece, adding breadth to his “private” world. These three programs offer an official look at an unauthorized history that demands our recognition.
-Steve Seid

Part 3: Wednesday November 9th
7:30 Wittgenstein Tractatus and Meanwhile Somewhere
Peter Forgacs (Hungary, 1992/1994)

In Wittgenstein Tractatus (32 mins) each of Forgacs’s brief essays, seven in all, refers to one of the philosophical propositions from the famed 1921 text. Forgacs shows through these writings how his delicate home movies, used like torn photographs, can bear the weight of pure sense experience. Meanwhile Somewhere (52 mins) gathers together home movies from numerous countries to present the persistence of the everyday in Europe in the forties—celebrating weddings, indulging in picnics, ice skating in a frosty mist—while elsewhere the war rages. Puncturing the oblivion, Forgacs includes amateur footage of an act of public humiliation at the hands of the Nazis with townspeople as indifferent witnesses. This chilling work compels viewers to find merit in their own distance.—Steve Seid (Total running time: 84 mins, B&W/Tinted, Beta SP, PFA Collection, permission of the artist)

[This series is presented in conjunction with the Judah L. Magnes Museum exhibition The Danube Exodus: The Rippling Currents of the River, coproduced by Peter Forgacs and the Labyrinth Project, on view through January 22, 2006. For information, visit]
Added to the calendar on Mon, Oct 17, 2005 5:39PM
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