Night Herons
2020-2021, Film 4K, 5.1 surround sound, 37’18”, multimedia installation

steirischer herbst '20

Night Herons
a film by
Joanna Rajkowska & Robert Yerachmiel Sniderman

Directed by: Joanna Rajkowska
Written by: Robert Yerachmiel Sniderman, Joanna Rajkowska
Director of Photography: Leszek Molski
Edited by: Marcelina Górka
Voiceover: Matthew Daniel
Music by: Mutant Goat (Ola Kozioł, Andrew Dixon, Suavas Lewy)
Sound design and mix: Franciszek Kozłowski
Marionettists: Andrew Dixon, Basia Ciacek, Joanna Rajkowska, Viktoriia Tofan
Marionettes created by: Joanna Rajkowska, Lili Bargłowska, Basia Ciacek, Andrew Dixon, Viktoriia Tofan
Animals created by: Viktoriia Tofan, Lili Bargłowska, Joanna Rajkowska
Sets: Andrew Dixon, Basia Ciacek, Viktoriia Tofan
Costumes: Wiesława Rozwonkowska, Konrad Pietruszyński
Props: Lili Bargłowska, Joanna Rajkowska, Konrad Pietruszyński, Rosa Dixon
Pottery: Danuta Jarecka
Colorist: Marcelina Górka
Visual effects by: Marcelina Górka
Marionette design consultant: Basia Poczwardowska
Production manager: Joanna Rajkowska
Production support:
Publicity photography: Marek Szczepański
Executive producers: Agnieszka Sobocińska, PADO Studio Film – Dorota Przyłubska
Commissioned and produced by steirischer herbst ’20
Source texts: Magicians, Theologians, and Doctors: Studies in Folk Medicine and Folklore as Reflected in the Rabbinical Response by H. Jacob Zimmels (Goldston, 1952), The Ethics by Benedict de Spinoza translated by Edwin Curley (Princeton, 1994)
Thanks to Theodore Block, Andrzej Rajkowski, Mariusz Widliński, Dori Midnight, Gunila Plank and her mother, Adrian Shirk, Katarzyna Górska, Andreas Staudinger, Uli Vonbank-Schedler, Arnold Rack, and Christian Berg for sharing knowledge, time and memory.
Joanna Rajkowska and Robert Yerachmiel Sniderman ©2020
Filmed in Nowogród

Joanna Rajkowska and Robert Yerachmiel Sniderman in conversation with David Riff

Night Herons is a film which considers the relationship between humans and forest animals – and all non-human nature, represented by Poland’s woodlands and swamps. The narrative draws on Poland’s history and literature as well as on some ancient traditions and rituals – it collapses the past and the present, seeking redemption for atrocities against animals and men.

The film by Joanna Rajkowska and Robert Yerachmiel Sniderman affirms a communion with non-human beings, with the world of animals, and with nature, of which humans are part, not the opposites. Their vision refers to posthumanism, a philosophical direction developed in response to emerging technologies and discoveries in bioscience that have eclipsed the traditional model of the human established by Enlightenment philosophy. It is a vision of a posthuman condition that challenges the concept of man as the fixed center of the universe and the measure of all things. A prominent theorist, Donna J. Haraway argues, “Movements for animal rights are not irrational denials of human uniqueness; they are a clear-sighted recognition of connection across the discredited breach of nature and culture.”1

Night Herons is also a reflection on nature as a silent witness to history. The swamps with their nourishing roots became a shelter for Dzidek and his mother escaping imminent death during the Holocaust – similarly to wetlands nourishing Maroon communities of runaway slaves in the Americas. Yet, nature is indifferent – Dzidek must survive among other living bodies, in the wilderness where night herons, said to escort the dead to the afterlife, hunt after dark. Their anthropomorphization introduces the main theme of the work, referred to in its epigraph “All bodies agree in certain things”2 (Spinoza). In Night Herons – a reflection on human history and timeless nature – the human and animal deaths are one. […]

The whole version of the text above by Monika Fabijanska is available here.

1 Haraway, Donna J. Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge, 1991: 152

2 Spinoza, B. “Ethics,” Part II, Proposition 13 (E IIP13L2). The Collected Works of Spinoza., ed. E. Curley. Vol. l. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985.