“Are you familiar with American poetry?” The question sounds like an accusation as posed by Hanns Eisler in a heavy German accent during his interrogation in 1947 by the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Simultaneously Veronika Eberhart's GARTEN SPRENGEN shows a man (performer: Ian F Svenonius) wandering down a virtually endless hotel corridor.
Yet it is the elaborate blue, yellow and cream colored pattern of the hotel's carpet floor that sticks out. Its haptic quality becomes directly translated into imagery during a different montage sequence: a hand sensitively glides along a window ledge, another likewise touches the neck of a guitar, and a third caresses the armrest of a sofa. These images attempt to grasp the ghosts of an historical place, specifically the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. This previous site of the Academy Awards was also where Eisler's hearing at the beginning of the McCarthy era took place. In Eberhart's film the hotel serves both as shooting location and crux of the film's matter.
In this endeavor Eberhart is concerned with the exile and twofold expulsion of the composer; possible collective alternatives to capitalism, belief in art, music, poetry, and their revolutionary potential. She interweaves footage from Hollywood films of the 1980s, archival shots of the Hearings, as well as scenes of Los Angeles she shot on 16mm film. She is interested in the texture of the historical that she finds in all of these images, especially in their empty spaces which she imbues with further layers of meaning, conjuring rumor and observations of everyday life – like by Eisler's wife Lou – to which she attributes a veracity equal to that of her archival finds.
Last but not least, the artist also reactivates the "emotional memory" (Tony Morrison) of the footage through her composition of the score. For Eberhart moves the soberly considered opening of Eisler's musical adaptation of Bertolt Brecht's eponymous poem, "Vom Sprengen des Gartens" to grow into a cascade of water drops. And as it is so beautifully expressed at the end of the aforementioned song, "Replenish you also the naked earth!" (Claudia Slanar)
Translation: Eve Heller
Artist Film, Avantgarde/Arts, Experimental