ulrich polster - report /by dieter daniels
Seven monitors transmit excerpts from television reports on the Yugoslav wars, the ten-day war in Slovenia in June 1991, and the Srebrenica massacre in July 1995. For his work, Polster recorded relevant repeats of the German news program Die Tagesschau twenty years later, as transmitted by digital station tagesschau24 (still named ARD EinsExtra until 2012). He selected the reports on Yugoslavia from roughly 200 hours of material to present them in a condensed montage on all seven monitors simultaneously.
In an unpublished conceptual note on the piece, Polster writes: “My work started from a desire to understand the events that led to the disintegration of Yugoslavia, the civil war that followed, and all the horrific consequences. I watched the nightly Tagesschau newscast, and as I occupied myself with the material more deeply, I began to understand some (media-specific) characteristics of the format. First of all, the images were incredibly brutal and direct: every evening, war operations were shown unfiltered in the news during prime time. Probably the images appear even more direct and unsparing than they seemed to the viewing public then. In retrospect, one is bothered by the disparity between the intense presentation of events and their meager effects. After all, it took the massacre of Srebrenica before “the world” decided it had to intervene. I would like to think that the mechanism of our media democracy today would provoke other (political) reactions. The second characteristic was due to the length of these reports: during the first three years it remained relatively constant (albeit with little fluctuations). Almost like a television serial. Maybe this goes some way to explain the inefficacy of the images. The sequel format allows viewers to distance themselves from the events and deadens empathy.”