Petra Bauer. Der Fall Joseph

27 November 2004 – 13 February 2005

Petra Bauer, Der Fall Joseph


Petra Bauer's video "Der Fall Joseph" starts at the point where the German media gave up the story. The video deals with a tragedy that took place in the summer of 1997. A six year-old boy was found dead at a public swimming pool in eastern Germany. The boy's German mother and his Iraqi father suspected that their son did not drown but that a gang of neo-Nazis murdered him. As no one would believe them they started their own inquiry using standard legal parlance and methodology in order to gain credence. Their inquiry was still in progress three years later when, in November 2000, the "Joseph case" became the subject of enormous publicity in the German media. There was speculation as to whether the family had, in fact, invented the murder theory themselves. The public prosecutor finally concluded that the boy had died of a latent heart disease and thus was not the victim of a neo-Nazi gang. The local officials could relax and claim that the prosecutor's conclusions showed that there were no neo-Nazi gangs in their town.

"Der Fall Joseph" is constructed from ten different narratives: the family's, the prosecutor's, testimony from a witness, a police cross-questioning, excerpts from reports in the media and others. All of the narratives seem coherent, logical and credible but they all differ markedly from each other. The only thing that everyone can agree on is that on the 13th of June 1997 at ten to three in the afternoon a six year-old boy was found dead on the bottom of a swimming pool in a little town in eastern Germany.

The complexity of the event becomes evident in the sense of frustration that grips one as one views the video. With each narrative one has a feeling of getting closer to the truth but at the end of each narrative one is just as confused as ever. Whose are the motives and aims that influence our own attitude to the case and how is the law to treat the matter objectively? With her video "Der Fall Joseph" Petra Bauer has chosen to emphasize the fact that subjective motives can contribute to creating an event and that an individual interpretation can become the accepted truth. Instead of blindly trying to establish the truth, her video discusses the entire process of looking back on a series of events and seeing how the choices made at the time underlie and influence the final result. For whose opinion is it that finally wins the preferential right of interpretation?

Kurator: Åsa Nacking