A still camera opens the view on a bright and sterile room with a model-like scenery: In the center of the picture we see a white sphere, behind which a curved sky panorama covered with diffuse clouds stretches out. An insect is walking on a ball that resembles a globe. We see the animal from behind, while it aims at the supposed sky and runs purposefully in its direction – but in doing so, as on a treadmill, does not move from its place, while the globe turns seemingly endlessly. We hear the delicate tread of insect legs. In the background, faint laboratory sounds can be heard: the hiss of machine fans, a person operating a computer.Unexpectedly, the sky projection is switched to a black and white calibration grid. The checkerboard pattern contains a few scattered colored squares. The insect immediately reacts to the new environment and jerkily changes its walking direction. It now moves towards one of the colored squares. The movie title is displayed: WARNINGS TO THE DISTANT FUTURE The echoing murmur of visitors from a museum room can be heard below.
MASHED POTATOES ON MONET
Shaky cell phone shot, landscape format. The pictured environment can quickly be identified as an exhibition room: gray-painted walls, impressionist paintings by Monet in lush golden picture frames, spacers underneath, high-quality parquet flooring. In the center of the shot hangs a landscape painting with idyllic agricultural scene, you can see haystacks in a field in the morning mood. Below the painting: a woman and a man in a stooped position, late 20s, wearing orange high-visibility vests. Hectically
they grab something from a bag, the woman starts to throw it. A pulpy yellow mass splatters onto the painting.
A fraction of a second later, when the man starts a second throw, the film cuts to a 180° change of perspective. We find ourselves in the picture that is being thrown at. The mush flies towards the viewer, but is stopped by the protective glass pane. The yellow mass covers the entire image and slowly and viscously drips down the pane. A security alarm interrupts the brief silence. We can now only hear what is happening in the museum room, the flaky mass obscuring our view.
In a strained but firm voice, the activist begins her appeal. During her monologue, she repeatedly struggles to drown out the tumultuous babble of voices from the room:
« People are starving, people are freezing, people are dying. We are in a climate catastrophe. And all you’re afraid of is tomato soup or mashed potatoes on a painting. You know what I’m afraid of? That science says we won’t be able to feed our families in 2050. Does it take mashed potatoes on a painting to make you listen? That painting won’t be worth anything if we have to fight over food. When will the point be reached when you listen? When is the point reached when you listen and don’t just go on like this? »
Meanwhile, the mush on the glass pane continued to flow downward. The image, captured by a static camera, is clearing. It is reminiscent of abstract cloud formations. The museum atmosphere is slowly replaced by idyllic nature sounds, morning birdsong and crickets chirping.
The camera begins to move slowly to the right, past the glass pane covered with pulpy liquid: a 21st century agricultural landscape comes into view, bathed in a reddish light similar to Monet’s hayloft. The camera pans further until it has turned 180°, where it pauses in a still long shot, a painting-like landscape tableau: the foreground of the image is covered by a stubbly, empty arable field without people or machinery. In the distance, a complex of buildings surrounded by trees can be seen, a dirty gray nuclear power plant, three weathered concrete blocks with a smokestack, next to it a clunky cooling tower on which an Alpine panorama is painted. A jerky optical zoom suddenly catapults us into this image, directly in front of the cooling tower with the peeling mountain peaks on top. Around the tower, a crowd of people in garishly colored casual clothing billows. The subjective handheld camera becomes a part of it, we move in quick cuts and flash-like jumps in a hectic rhythm through the postatomic Disneyland: Ice cream stands and french fry stands are set up every ten meters, screaming children and fully loaded adults crowd in front of them. Wasps buzz around the smeared mayo and ketchup taps. Overtired youths in neon-green Wunderland-Kalkar shirts hand out plörriges soft ice cream and chips in cardboard coffee cups, all inclusive and all you can eat: Coke, Fanta, Sprite, semi-transparent filter coffee. Half-full ice-cream-cola-fries cardboard cups stand and lie around everywhere, spilling out of grinning cartoon trash cans. The part of the power plant next to the painted cooling tower is a windowless ruin of musty gray concrete, pigeons and crows perch on the walls. Between two blocks stands a brightly colored plastic slide, children slithering down it on worn fake oriental rugs. Next to it is a hotel block, painted dirty yellow, in front of it a beer garden, pop songs on cue, a rodeo contest, an overdriven presenter, drunken company excursionists in uniform T-shirts. A sweaty saxophonist with smeared makeup performs in front of a flower border. Diagonally behind him stands a filthy, hysterically laughing man-sized plastic pineapple. Loudspeakers are hidden in the spherical bushes that cover the entire area, from which synthetic barrel organ music plays in an endless loop, and a dense babble of voices wafts above it.
The camera enters the interior of the cooling tower and stops in a steady long shot. A gigantic chain carousel is installed in the center of the tower, it is fenced in with a metal grid. The concrete walls, painted with the Alps on the outside, are bare on the inside and seem dizzyingly high. On the floor is a rust-red artificial turf with pigeon feathers caught everywhere. The room is deserted, yet a distant reverberation can be heard, indicating human presence. An echo of distant footsteps and choppy distorted snatches of pop music, overlaid with feedback noise as if from an online conference, float in the air. A voice sings « … they dedicate their lives » and abruptly breaks off. Somewhere it gurgles. Individual fragments of speech can be heard: « … where the gentleman is standing, that’s our director by the way, he will then unlock the microphone for you. So far so good. In 3 minutes we will start and then it runs as it runs. Good entertainment. »
FORUM REPOSITORY SEARCH
A video conference window can be seen, in it the seconds of a countdown animation are running full-screen, black numbers on a white background, above it a hand-drawn logo with the lettering Forum Endlagersuche. At the top and bottom of the screen, the online participants are connected from their homes and offices; there are 126 people in total. The countdown has expired, the screen view changes to the recording of the face-to-face event in an exhibition hall. A woman stands behind a white, pedestal-like lectern in front of a black wall, behind her hang empty metal frames of various sizes. Black light lamps are placed in and around these frames.
Bettina Gaebel begins to speak into the microphone: « Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to invite all of you here in the hall, but also those who are online … er, who cannot participate, I would like to welcome you all here on behalf of my entire planning team and my colleague from civil society to the first forum on the search for a repository. »
The screen view switches to a long shot of the exhibition hall. The display of metal frames, black light tubes and white boards with the logo Forum Endlagersuche becomes completely visible. In front of the display are seven white lecterns, above them hangs a video screen on which this display and the front part of the hall can be seen once again. There is no audience present. The tables, on which the screensavers of one identical laptop per seat glow blue, are all empty. There are 5 speakers on the podium. Bettina Gaebel continues: « … we are looking forward to spending the next two days together with stakeholders from municipalities and associations, with interested citizens and with the actors* to get a little closer to the questions about the best possible location for high-level radioactive waste. The corresponding warnings about the dangers of the repository, the so-called warnings to the distant future, also play an important role. So how do you prevent future generations from digging up the nuclear waste again? »
The screen view shows Ina Stelljes at the white lectern: « Experts have concluded that safety from these highly hazardous materials is ensured primarily if these waste materials are buried deep underground for a period of one million years. And I think that this conclusion is more significant for us today than ever before. The Russian war of aggression in Ukraine shows that peace in Europe cannot be taken for granted and that with wars come dangers in the safety of nuclear facilities. Geology is more stable, reliable and predictable than political systems and societies. »
Among the thumbnails of conference participants joining the forum from their homes or offices is a sparsely furnished windowless room with no people in it. The room suddenly steps forward, into the full screen view of the speaker*s mode.
On the room’s grimy whitewashed walls are sloppily plastered holes and traces of violence. The
lighting is artificial-yellowish. The place looks like a rundown post-east living room from the 90s. In the center of the room is a table, octagonal, rustic oak with beige marbled tile tabletop, completely but lovelessly set. The tableware looks thrown together, slightly dusty onion pattern stands next to semi-transparent square pressed glass plates on a white tablecloth with industrial embroidery. A white and pink artificial rose bouquet with acrylic dew drops is placed in the center of the table. Surrounding the table are chrome metal tube chairs with abstract airbrushed seat cushions. Behind the dining table is a black pressboard shelf, some shelves missing. Next to it, a glass TV board with a tube TV and a red blinking clock radio on it juts into the room. The muted atmosphere of the room is barely audible, a very subtle beeping sound lies in the background. The motionless long shot is only there for a few seconds.
In a close-up we look from above at a praying mantis, which is fixed to a tabletop with a modeling clay spirally wrapped around its body. The lighting is dull and colorless. Two human hands in purple disposable gloves enter the image from the sides. On the table are utensils reminiscent of a laboratory or workshop. Tiny drop-shaped pieces of foil in red and green lie ready on a white cloth. The steady hand-held camera follows how one of the pieces of foil is attached in front of the insect’s right eye with the help of a brownish adhesive mass. The human hand grasps
MOSEL BOAT RIDE
Cut to a landscape still: a river meanders through hilly nature, lined with lush greenery on the banks. Vineyards and forests rise in the distance. An excursion boat sails into the picture. Fabric banners are attached to it – clearly visible are a pace flag and a spray-painted banner with the inscription Atom Frei Fahrt 16 Uhr. Guitar sounds come from a loudspeaker, slowly approaching.
Dissolve. We are on the upper deck of the excursion ship. The camera observes the scene in a static, central perspective.
wide shot: A string of lights hangs in the center of the frame, leading up to the skipper’s cabin at the far end of the deck. To the right and left, passengers, dressed in casual clothes, most gray-haired, sit at tables with coffee sets. The lovely cultivated landscape with its steep vineyards passes by the ship. In front of the skipper’s cabin stands a man in his mid-60s with long gray hair tied in a braid. He wears black jeans and a washed-out T-shirt and plucks an acoustic guitar hanging around his neck, covered in stickers. Over the ship’s PA system, his protest song echoes across the deck:
« In Büchel, Ramstein, Nörvenich you have very bad cards When in Büchel, Ramstein, Nörvenich bombers take off
Nuclear weapons are threatened short-sightedly. When bombs explode they bring death.
In Büchel, Ramstein, Nörvenich murder weapons are stored. In Büchel, Ramstein, Nörvenich it’s time to abolish them. They have their purpose, they say, to deter enemies.
But when they are used, people die miserably. With what logic is destruction planned
That no conscience warns us to pause? »
Cut: View from the side into the ship’s captain’s cabin. Next to the captain, a middle-aged man in a dark polo shirt, with a short gray beard and narrow reading glasses, speaks into the shipboard microphone: « I’ve just been told that it’s my turn now. My name is Karl Heinz Bläsius. I hope you can all hear me correctly now. I have been engaged in… (voice buzzing), since 1983 with early warning and decision systems and nuclear war by accident from the perspective of AI and computer science. » Gently rolling vineyards pass by, gnarled willows bend over the riverbank. Some passengers wave a rainbow flag on the upper deck. Meanwhile, Prof. Bläsius continues with his lecture, « Early warning systems have the goal of detecting an attack with nuclear weapons at a very early stage, i.e., during the flight of course. These early warning systems consist of sensors, complex computer networks and central command centers to evaluate such reports and possibly take measures. The problem is that errors can occur in these systems, and this can lead to false alarms, i.e. the report can come that nuclear missiles are approaching although there is no threat at all. And that could then lead to nuclear war by accident. »
Reflected in the glass door of the skipper’s cabin is a woman in a white disposable protective suit. She wears a construction helmet with a radiation warning sign painted on it in black felt-tip pen and listens intently to Professor Bläsius’ voice over the ship’s loudspeakers:
« The risk of accidental nuclear war also existed in the 1980s. At that time, it was very popular, and there were also many reports about it. These risks are likely to increase. Because the new developments that are coming make the whole situation much more complex. In addition, there are many new nuclear powers compared to the 1980s. The new technological developments include space weaponry and, of course, cyber attacks. We’re just at the beginning of that, and it can continue to grow, become more and more serious, and eventually develop into cyber wars. Are there any other comments or questions up to this point? »
In the video conference of the Forum Endlagersuche, a questioner in her 30s, sitting in her private living room in front of an unplastered concrete wall, enters image-filling speaker* mode:
The view changes to Karsten Leopold. Next to him, the words Langzeitdokumentation BASE are superimposed. He is sitting with headphones in front of a superimposed garish yellow background with a honeycomb structure, on which the pixelated logo of the Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Disposal (BASE) can be seen. The question seems to irritate and amuse him in equal measure.
« Yeah, uh thanks for that question too. Um. Who’s reading this in the future? Uh, if you’re honest, we can’t even tell from today. Just, it’s like, it has to be someone who understands language, or who understands characters, or preferably both. From my person, I’m just going to assume that it’s going to be humans, human-like beings. Um, we haven’t thought about any other, um, concrete forms of appearance. It’s important to us, yes, um, and that’s actually also the only way that we keep this information on quite a few different storage media. »
The view changes to Christoph Haman, the moderator of the Q&A session. His hand appears hugely in the picture, a gold wedding ring is on his finger. He scrolls through the chat: « Then I would now like to call on Mr. Schlegel with his question, please Mr. Schlegel! »
The moderator goes into full screen mode: « Mr. Schlegel, thank you very much for that comment. These questions, indeed, that is to be read again and again also, this, I call it times Narrativ also in the East German Lands of the Federal Republic partly. We are following this with particular interest at BASE. Mr. Leopold, your comments on this?! »
Mr. Leopold can be seen filling the picture, his headphones creating artifacts as the yellow BASE background fades in: « Thanks for the question here, too, because it raises another aspect that perhaps doesn’t always play such a big role. But I can tell them about this, for long-term documentation, the way we’re doing it here … the political environment is not going to play a role. »
FUTURE CENTER FOR GERMAN UNITY AND EUROPEAN TRANSFORMATION
Hard cut to the livestream from the hall of a press conference. Five men and one woman sit in a row on a light wooden podium with a minimalist design in front of a gray-blue wall bearing the words Bundespressekonferenz. In front of them are rows of upholstered chairs in matching colors to the podium, with a microphone attached to each seat. The camera zooms in on Katrin Budde, her name is faded in, next to it committee chairwoman. She wears her long blonde hair loose, along with severe black glasses and black clothing. Around her neck hangs a coin-sized round piece of jewelry, somewhat reminiscent of the Nebra sky disk. « First of all, I would like to start by thanking all the sites that have applied in this competition. And I would like to say that the decision of the jury was very, very difficult, because basically each site had its own strengths and ideas, advantages and weaknesses. In the end, the decision was made by a majority in favor of Halle, and the jury did this, among other things, with a view to the coincidence of several location criteria. Firstly, the location where the Future Center is to be built, Riebeckplatz, as a truly typical place of transformation itself. The city of Halle itself, which has had many transformations. »
Basil Kerski takes the floor. The camera pans to him, his name fades in, next to it European Center of Solidarność. He is the only one of the male panel speakers not wearing a tie, the top button of his white shirt undone. « The collapse of the Wall, of the Iron Curtain, is remembered by many people – now this is not an accusation – it is simply a cultural fact, been seen as the victory of a system and the transformation of Central Europe. The unification of Germany has also been seen in economic political terms as an adaptation of existing systems. I think what we have not taken into account enough: the whole of Europe has changed. We don’t really have a pan-European identity because we simply lack the knowledge. »The camera pans to the Minister President of Saxony-Anhalt, Dr. Reiner Haseloff: « But we also see quite clearly that Europe is at a crossroads, both in terms of Western Europe, Central Europe, but also Eastern Europe.And that is why this East German approach is also a bracket, in order not to let these centrifugal forces that currently exist become stronger, but to level them. Europe must be held together, and the different biographical and historical experiences are an opportunity on the one hand, but also a danger if we don’t dismantle certain things. » Dissolve. A wide shot of the Federal Press Conference hall is faded in. From one of the back rows of the audience comes the question of a journalist, the questioner is not to be seen in the picture: « What would you say, what awaits my aunt from Wuppertal when she travels to Halle in 2028 to visit the center there? What will be on offer there? What can actually be expected there in concrete terms? » The camera turns away from the speaker’s stand and looks for the questioner, the teleoptics scans the rows of chairs in the press audience. It finds no one. On the floor in front of the first row of chairs is a round wormhole carpet with a chessboard-like black and white illusion pattern that simulates a mathematical hole. The camera zoom gets tangled in the checkerboard print and gets stuck in the autofocus’s futile attempt to determine focus. The camera falters.
Dr. Reiner Haseloff’s response, half-swallowed by feedback noise, can be heard as if from a distance: « At least first of all, a considerable aha effect, which it would probably already have if it came today, but in 5 or 10 years this effect would be even more clearly the case… »
The camera falls to the ground. At the moment of impact, the optics seem to be damaged; as with a visual defect, the image suddenly doubles.
NEW YEAR’S EVE 1989/90
We see a shot with a red-green offset – an anaglyphic image that one normally wears illusion-producing 3D glasses to view. A black-and-white gridded pattern, noisy and highly magnified, moves up and down. Distorted explosion sounds mingle with a cosmic tapestry of sound.
Jerky zoom-out: the black and white pattern turns out to be David Hasselhoff’s scarf, performing on a lifting stage above the Berlin Wall. He wears a black leather jacket with flashing LED lights, below him cheering crowds, gold foil confetti, German flags. New Year’s Eve rockets explode in the sky. In the background, the Brandenburg Gate against a smoky night sky. The scene is underlaid with a dark piece of noise music composed of scraps of broken furniture, New Year’s Eve firecrackers, electromagnetic radiation translated into the acoustic. It has no clear melody, beat and rhythm are aligned with the movements of the crowd celebrating to « I’ve been looking for freedom ».
In a close-up we see the face of the praying mantis. In front of its eyes, a pair of red-green 3D glasses made of cut pieces of foil is glued on with beeswax. The mantis looks directly at us without averting its gaze.
In the forum Endlagersuche a picture disturbance occurred. The conference window multiplies in an endless pyramid that gets smaller and smaller towards the center of the screen. Voice transmission can still be heard, but with a delay due to the connection.
« … Once we know what information is the really important information and know that we have it without gaps, then it’s the smaller problem. » The sound breaks up more and more under the motionless conference window pyramid. It sounds almost rhythmically choppy. « Man
just have to be aware that a marker like that…. If you look at the long-term safety analyses for repositories, it basically lasts until the next ice age….wipes it all away. … long-term safety analyses for repositories assume, based on the last ice age, that the earth above the repository will be eroded over hundreds of meters… »
A noise that sounds like a flock of birds flapping their wings and screeching in confusion interrupts the distortedly transmitted scraps of words.
The excursion boat is in a lock and sinks down between gray concrete walls overgrown with moss, as if it were entering a bunker. Some passengers have stood up, someone is filming the rising lock walls with a smartphone. The rainbow flag lies rolled up on a cleared coffee table.
Prof. Bläsius’ voice can be heard through the public address system: « The question came up earlier whether you can simulate such a nuclear weapon attack. Yes, there is software on the net that can simulate a nuclear attack. You enter the location, you enter the strength, and you enter the detonation height. And you can set the strength up to 10 megatons, which is 1,000 times that of Hiroshima. I once simulated it over Büchel, in an area close to the earth, because the bunkers are supposed to be hit… uh… that’s devastating, you can’t imagine that. And the nuclear fallout goes at least well beyond northern Scotland. We have 8 billion tons of TNT right now. Nuclear. That means every citizen of the earth has a ton of TNT, is carrying a ton of nuclear TNT. That’s a cube of 80 cm edge length. It’s unimaginable. From babies to old people. »
With a hard cut we switch to a moving hand-held camera and find ourselves in a run-down 90s living room with three people: a tall drossy 16-year-old, a black-haired woman in her 60s, a short stocky man in his mid-40s. They wear red construction helmets and black eye protection visors over their everyday clothes, all of the same type. Their hands
are in orange protective gloves. The woman is holding a baseball bat, the teenagers and the man are equipped with neon orange axes with price tags stuck to them.
Suddenly, the group starts hitting the furniture. The camera circles them as they do so. Their faces look neutral and concentrated. The logo of CRASH ROOM BERLIN is spray-painted on one wall. The blows and the shattering of the furniture and the dishes can be heard over loud.
We sit on the chain carousel in the cooling tower and look down through the wide-angle lens of an action camera, at the tower floor covered with red artificial turf, which is rapidly moving away. The carousel gondola sways ominously, spinning past the bare gigantic concrete wall on which the shadow of the carousel is depicted. It looks like a giant spider cyborg. The image shakes, flickers, the camera is overwhelmed. The ride accelerates with each revolution, like in a centrifuge. Orientation is lost, wind disturbance noises from the overdriven camera mike can be heard, then suddenly the sound of a liquid slapping a glass surface. Cut.
BEHIND THE SCENES
A calm static long shot shows the farmland in Kalkar. The nuclear power plant, which has been converted into a theme park, can be seen on the horizon. In the foreground are two tripods, between which a glass plate is fixed vertically with clamps, like a frameless window in the landscape. A pulpy yellow mass drips down the glass pane. Behind the pane, through the mush, a camera on a tripod can be seen. Far back in the picture, the chain carousel spider spirals out of the cooling tower of Wunderland Kalkar.
Dissolve. The hand-held camera, staggering slightly, seeks its way through the conference display of the Forum Endlagerersuche. It is dark, the scenery is only sparsely lit by a few flickering black light tubes. A whirring and electrical crackling can be heard, in between rustling wings and screeching birds. It sounds distorted and compressed,
like a bad transmission from an online conference. The room is obviously deserted, the lecterns are dusty and covered with bird droppings. The camera cautiously approaches a group of budgerigars that has settled on the decorative metal frames that are quietly rocking back and forth. Their feathers fluoresce in UV light in surreal colors, iridescent purple, pink, bright light blue and luminous green, like a coral reef in the deep sea. They screech and scatter.