Vergessensfuge is a meditation on the psychology of obedience and submission,
in this instance springing from a handful of photographs taken in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp immediately after its liberation in 1945. The images are of young women, aged 20 - 30, who were guards at the camp - to say, compliant, obedient Germans doing as they were told to do.

Vergessensfuge obliquely enters this mental psychological landscape, in a mode which is structured as a musical fugue, and which approaches its subject by indirection. Throughout the work it remains unclear exactly what it is about, as direct reference is never made. The interior logic - heard in the Nuremberg trials after World War II, and heard anywhere in which persons comply with “(il)legal” orders - is that one was doing as the others did, one was “following orders.”

Aesthetically Vergessensfuge is poetic, theatric, and simultaneously highly electronic. It was shot in a green-screen room, and subsequently the imagery was worked with the software compositing program Combustion, such that the same actress is seen doubled, and at the end, tripled on the screen.

While specifically rooted in the historical reality of the concentration camps in Germany, Vergessensfuge is poetically “open” and clearly addresses the psychology of submission in a more universal fashion. It ends with images of Americans subjecting prisoners to abuse in Abu Ghraib, Iraq.

2004 | Digital Video | Color | Sound | 66 minutes

Camera, edit and concept: Jon Jost

Script: original English version by Jon Jost - translation into German by Geno Lechner

Actress: Geno Lechner

Music: J.S. Bach, "The Art of the Fuge" very much altered on computer

Made with the support of the Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie (ZKM), Karlsruhe, Germany