"The Danube Exodus" was the title of a one hour documentary film that Péter Forgács made in 1997, in which he used film recordings made by ship’s captain and amateur film maker Nándor Andrásovits in which he recorded the refugees from World War II in 1939/40. The captain transported Jews fleeing from Eastern Europe to Palestine, sailing down the Danube to the Black Sea, and he took emigrating Germans from Bessarabia back on the return journey. He captured what he saw on deck with his camera.
Péter Forgács created this large scale interactive installation between 2000 and 2002, helped by a scholarship from the Los Angeles Getty Museum. It presents an interpretation of his earlier film and places the parallel events associated with it into a spatial dimension. At the centre of the installation is an enormous projection room, with five juxtaposed screens showing a panorama like vision of the river. Visitors to the hall can navigate between the river and pictures with the help of a touch sensitive screen. On one side from the central space are smaller rooms in which we can learn about the story of the Jews with the help of silent films, interviews and other background material. On the other side, we can investigate the Bessarabian Germans in a similar fashion.
This installation was premiered in Los Angeles in 2002 and subsequently staged at the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Arts (MACBA) and the Kiasma in Helsinki: by employing the metaphor of the river, Forgács creates a work which is both a historical lesson, a meditation on time and loss, and also a suggestive creative work that deeply moves the viewer.