In the video installation “Roots“ I make use of the oak tree — an archetypal national symbol of strength, survival and loyalty — as a metaphor to talk about national symbols.
The videos are based on a huge archive of online collected material of the oak tree. It shows a conversation between an oak tree and me, walking through the plenty of oak streets in Germany, trying to emphasize the need to question national identity and national expression in today’s society that is shaped by fluent offers of identification.
The oak is an archetypal symbol of strength, survival, loyalty, reliability and freedom. Already in ancient times oak leaves were used as a symbol. In Germany the oak tree is considered as the national tree, that visualizes German unity. However during Hitler’s regime the oak was used to symbolize ”German nature, strength and hospitality“. Still today the oak is from relevance — an oak leave is shown on the German cent coins. But also the new far-right scene are using the oak as their symbol.
I questioned: Why identifying with something that might not be relevant and valid anymore? Are we still the same nation as when the symbol had its main origin? Is one specific specie of a tree family including more than 600 species still representing our society? Is this symbol maybe just a mirror of Germany’s definition of what it means to be German?
My aim is not to redesign or reclaim national symbols. I am considering my role to create an impulse for a societal rethink of national identity.