Daniel Mann and Eitan Efrat

Installation / Commissioned work


Forum Stadtpark

Production specifics
Commissioned and produced by steirischer herbst ’19

Supported by Flanders State of the Art

Wellness has an uncanny past, as one sees in the new installation by Daniel Mann and Eitan Efrat. Through films and objects, it tells of a Heilstollen(healing tunnel) near the southern Austrian spa town of Bad Gastein, originally dug with forced labor in 1942 by the Nazis in an effort to find rumored deposits of gold. Instead of gold they discovered temperatures of over forty degrees Celsius and high concentrations of radon, a radioactive gas assumed to be beneficial to the treatment of rheumatism and other ailments. After World War II this unusual mineshaft was repurposed into a therapeutic facility that is still in use, even if there are no proven health benefits. Mann and Efrat move beyond the sublime beauty of the Austrian mountains—whose glorification classically stands for national spirit, whiteness, and, possibly, fascism—to explore and subvert them as cultural and physical material. Through shifts in scale from microscopic imagery of the body to the enormity of the mountain terrain, they challenge the body-landscape relations and the reverent weaponization of nature particular to Nazi biopolitics. Descending into Bad Gastein’s therapeutic mine shaft, they dig ever deeper into the landscape’s geological layers, opening the dominant timescales of modern history to much wider temporalities.

Film credits:
Executive Producer: Sirah Foighel Brutmann
Location manager: Christina Jauernik
Sound: Laszlo Umbreit
Production: Messidor, Brussels
Stone design and production: Sina Ahmadi

Archival footage: Thermalstollen Gastein-Böckstein, 1956, courtesy of the Heilstollen Health Center, Bad Gastein
Excerpts from a promotional video, 2009, courtesy of the Heilstollen Health Center, Bad Gastein

Dr. Martin Gaisberger, Head of the Research Institute Gastein and of the Institute of Physiology and Pathophysiology, Universität Salzburg
Dr. med. Markus Ritter, Professor of Physiology, Director and Chairman of the Institute of Physiology and Pathophysiology, Universität Salzburg
Dr. Med Liane Weber, Physician, medical doctor, Heilstollen, Bad Gastein
Prof. Dr. Fritz Gruber, Historian, Bad Gastein