Julian Rosefeldt is internationally renowned for his visually opulent and meticulously choreographed moving-image works, presented as compelling installations that carry viewers into surreal, theatrical realms.
Rosefeldt’s latest work, a forty-three minute, single-channel film In the Land of Drought, 2015/2017, is set in an imaginary post-Anthropocene world and confronts the relationship between humanity and its impact on the earth. Shot entirely by drone, the camera’s bird’s-eye view observes an army of ‘scientists’ emerging to investigate the archaeological remnants of civilisation after humanity has made itself extinct. Rosefeldt, known for using unexpected locations and ambiguous narratives in his films, shot In the Land of Drought in abandoned film sets near the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, which appear like ruins of ancient cultures. The second half of the film is shot in the Ruhr area, a vast industrial landscape and historic centre of Germany’s coal production. The ‘scientists’ dressed in white lab suits resurface to roam abandoned steel mills and coal pits before congregating in an amphitheatre. The figures perform a surreal, ritualistic choreography in the circular structure as the atmospheric sounds increase to a climatic rhythm. Resonating with current concerns about environmental damage and climate change, In the Land of Drought is a condensed version of Rosefeldt’s filmic interpretation of Joseph Haydn’s The Creation, which he conceived for the Ruhrtriennale Festival of the Arts in 2015.
Julian Rosefeldt was born in Munich, Germany in 1965. He studied architecture in Munich and Barcelona, graduating in 1994, and has lived in Berlin since 1999. Rosefeldt was a Guest Professor at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, Faculty of Media Art, from 2009 to 2010. Since 2011, he has been Professor for Digital and Time-based Media at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Munich. In his early works, Rosefeldt explored hidden and forgotten urban spaces, and dealt with Germany history through photography, film and found footage. Stadt im Verborgenen (City in Concealment), 1994, created as a graduation project in collaboration with Piero Steinle, surveyed the concealed function and history of buildings around Königsplatz in Munich during the Nazi era and highlighted the lack of information accessible to the public about these structures.
Since the late 1990s, Rosefeldt’s film and video works became increasingly cinematic, with complex narratives, meticulous production and opulent imagery, while also questioning familiar filmmaking techniques and patterns of narration. He continued his early enquiries into hidden industrial and post-industrial sites in his multi-channel film installations The Shift, 2008 and Manifesto, 2015.
Rosefeldt has a collaborative approach to working; his film projects during the last decade have become increasingly complex. In the Land of Drought was shot in twelve locations across two countries and created with a thirty-person crew including drone pilots and an animal trainer. Rosefeldt’s architectural background has provided him with a wider perspective on the process of creation and has contributed to his multidisciplinary approach to art-making, in which he considers sociology, urbanism, and design alongside art history.
Katharina Prugger, Assistant Curator, Contemporary Art, National Gallery of Victoria