A cloud forest is an evergreen forest region between two elevation formations, where the meeting of different climate zones leads to perpetual cloud banks and to extra-zone vegetation. Cloud or fog forests with small flora are often called elfin forests – which explains their fascination in legends and myths.
The video Cloud Forest starts with an imageless black sequence, instructions and questions can be heard from offstage. We find ourselves in a sound studio situation. After a cut, used to show the title of the work, the actual action begins. All of the rooms shown hereafter seem very intimate, whether it is a varieté-like wardrobe or a bedroom. The camera closely follows the five protagonists, who appear in alternation, sometimes illuminated by an invisible light source, sometimes by the flashlight of a smartphone in a strong play of light and shadow. It is a joint illumination, recording, listening, telling, remembering in a very personal and pleasantly peaceful atmosphere.
What appears so positive in the visual language, experiences an abysmal depth in the soundtrack. Not superficial in volume and choice of words, but in the content of the women's stories, who listen to sound recordings of their own family stories again after a period of time. They are stories of unasked questions, unspoken sadness, loss, inexplicable fears, struggles for survival, exposure. The scene describes the attempt of the next generation of refugees from the Yugoslav wars of succession (1991-99) to face the inherited traumas. The women talk about their parents' silence and their nebulous accounts of their past, about their experiences, which their daughters have mostly learned about through third parties or through YouTube videos. This gap in the family history is like a rift that leaves the younger ones in a niche existence between the present and their ballasted origins.
The video ends as it begins, with a black screen and a soundtrack. As if from a far distance, the women experience their own reports – real and unreal at the same time.
Cloud Forest was inspired and staged by Elma Čavčić, a former student of Eliane Bots. Her family history and that of her friends, against the background of her parents' war experiences from the former Yugoslavia, are the basis of this video. (Elisabeth Wynhoff)
I am fascinated by the stories people construct and tell, to themselves and to others. Stories that help us to make sense of the world and give meaning to life, or likewise, burden us with their disruptive character and unwillingness to leave us.
In many of my filmic works I focus specifically on the way family functions as an independent narrative generator, changing and distorting narratives over time and through different generations. I investigate how (life-changing) experiences and conflict influence the construction of our narratives. And the way we establish intimate connections to that what is (no longer) present in our lives by oral storytelling or making use of existing narrative structures like poems, prayers, songs, diary entries, notes and letters.
In this context I am intrigued by different narrative positions, the interaction between body and mind and the fact that intangible narratives can have a lasting impact on our physical and mental well-being and existence. (Eliane Esther Bots)
Images: Eliane Esther Bots, Cloud Forest, 2020 © Eliane Esther Bots/ Courtesy EYE Experimental