Having gained recognition for their freelance work in some of the world's main conflicts areas, in recent years Robert Knoth and Antoinette de Jong’s work has seen a shift towards a more autonomous and contemporary approach with a focus on longer term documentaries.
In their highly personal work they aim to show the layered complexity of various social, economic or political issues and the effects they have on the lives of ordinary people.More Information
Robert Knoth and Antoinette de Jong undertook multiple trips to Japan following the tsunami and nuclear disaster of 2011. In the deserted landscape around Fukushima, at times they felt like archaeologists from the future: trying to understand what happened in a distant past when a mysterious force resulted in the evacuation of villages, buildings, fields, and forests, and only a residue of human presence was left behind.
Two centuries earlier, the medical doctor, scientist, and naturalist Franz Philip von Siebold gathered artefacts, plant and animal specimens, block print images, and paintings in Japan. His collection illustrates how Japanese culture is deeply rooted in and inspired by nature. Siebold’s work is exemplary of the “Age of Exploration” in which explorers travelled the globe to discover and uncover the secrets of the natural world and all its treasures for the use and benefit of humankind. This age can be seen as a prequel to “the Anthropocene”, starting roughly in the mid-20th century, during which Planet Earth has been profoundly changed by human activity.
Distinctly present in Japanese visual storytelling is the recurring theme of natural disasters like tsunamis, proving time and again that nature’s forces are all powerful, despite human attempts to tame them. In Fukushima the story comes full circle: here the impact of a natural force is exacerbated by the uncontrollable forces created by humans: nuclear power. The ties between humans and nature are severed, and a vast area where generations raised their families has become inaccessible.
In the 21st century, globalization has opened up the world for better and for worse. While we all welcome the virtues and advantages of an open society, Poppy, tells a different story: of a world facing destabilization as a result of multiple threats. Drugs, armed conflict, transnational crime, corruption, chronic poverty, and the spread of HIV/AIDS; Poppy shows how closely they are all intertwined.
Robert Knoth and Antoinette de Jong documented the trails of Afghan heroin for two decades, covering the rise of the Taliban, the American intervention after September 9/11 and the recent surge in opium production. Poppy uncovers the relationship between ‘far-away’ places such as Kandahar, Bishkek and Tirana, and the day-to-day events in our own neighbourhoods, such as street crime, drug addiction and even terrorism.
In 1949, Beria, Stalin’s chief of the secret police, was so excited about the first successful atomic test that he embraced the leading scientist and kissed him on the forehead. “Did it look like the American one?” he supposedly asked. Nuclear power today gets promoted as if it is clean and green. However, millions of people in the former Soviet Union live in areas contaminated by nuclear testing, accidents or deliberate dumping of radioactive materials. Chernobyl has come to represent nuclear catastrophe, but it was not the only or even the worst nuclear disaster. Between 1999 and 2005 Robert Knoth and Antoinette de Jong traveled through Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Belarus, the Urals and Siberia collecting stories of people who still live in nuclear disaster zones of the former Soviet Union.
POPPY Interactive: War and Organized Crime Gone Global by visual storytellers Antoinette de Jong and Robert Knoth is a protracted investigation spanning over 20 years covering the global nexus of drugs, war and organized crime. It combines analysis and factswith intimate personal stories discovered on three international drug-trafficking routes. As we find out in POPPY Interactive, the nexus between war and organized crime is tight and complex. The user is invited to unravel an impressive and elusive global network of insurgents and terrorists, drug cartels and other criminal organizations. We see families who grow the poppies, heroin addicts in prison in Kyrgyzstan, a downed plane full of cocaine in Mali, luxury villas in Dubai and more. It is all interconnected. POPPY Interactive merges photo, video, radio reports and found footage on interactive maps. The interactive documentary has a layered form of nonlinear storytelling that bridges various locations and timesand that blends the forms of documentary and visual art.
POPPY Interactive is a Submarine Channel production.
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