Topography of Terror

with Elisa Caldana and Diego Tonus

  • Still frame from the film Topography of Terror (19.12.2016), 2017, CGI film, full HD, color, surround sounds, 31 min. © Elisa Caldana, Diego Tonus.

  • Still frame from the film Topography of Terror (19.12.2016), 2017, CGI film, full HD, color, surround sounds, 31 min. © Elisa Caldana, Diego Tonus.

  • Never Again, 1st edition, 162 pages, Hardcover, English. © June 2020 Elisa Caldana, Diego Tonus, Mousse Publishing, and the authors for their texts.

  • Installation view of the exhibition Topography of Terror (19.12.2016), ar/ge kunst Kunstverein, Bolzano, 08.09-18.11.2017. Photo Guadagnini, 2017. © argekunst, Bolzano.

Past Event

This event was on Thurs 15 Oct, 7pm

Film and Book Launch

Please note: The films will not be broadcast during the event, but will be available free to view on this page of our website from 7 – 16 October.

Marking the launch of their major monograph Never Again (Mousse Publishing, 2020), artists Elisa Caldana and Diego Tonus will be in conversation about their multi-dimensional project exploring the CGI making of the never-realized Berlin building Topographie des Terrors, by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor, in conjunction with their research on the role and effects of violent imagery in terrorism spreading through news, social media and the nonplaces of the Internet.

The publication Never Again comprises images and research related to the making of the works, and it brings together written contributions from different authors instigated by the films and their main themes, such as post-truth and journalistic storytelling, among others, taken as a starting point for further reflection.

The artists intend Topography of Terror as an open-ended cycle. Its conceptual center will produce, over time, a series of new works expanding on the idea of mental images and repetition, taking into consideration the nature and forms of contemporary terror that are part of recurrent historical processes and an eternal return of violence. 

Supported by the Italian Council (7th Edition, 2019), Hessische Kulturstiftung, ROZENSTRAAT, Amsterdam. Special thanks to Directorate-Generale for Contemporary Creativity of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, Acme Studios, London, AGI Verona Associazione Culturale and ar/ge kunst Kunstverein, Bozen.

About Elisa Caldana

Elisa Caldana studied at the Städelschule in Frankfurt, where she was a student of Simon Starling (fine art class) and received her BA and MFA in visual arts from IUAV University of Venice. Her work has been exhibited in exhibitions and presentations internationally, including at ROZENSTRAAT, Amsterdam (2020); Tokyo Arts and Space Hongo, Tokyo (2019); MAMbo Museum, Bologna (2018); ar/ge kunst Kunstverein, Bozen (2017); Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation, Turin (2016); and Museum für Moderne Kunst MMK, Frankfurt (2013). Her public sculptural interventions include Shutterstreet, presented within the inner court of Palazzo Carignano, Turin (produced by Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation, 2019) and Monuments to Nonexistent Streets (winner of the In Sesto Award, 2020). Caldana was awarded the Hessische Kulturstiftung (Cultural Foundation of Hesse) studio grant in London, a one-year residency administered by Acme Studios London (2016–17). She has been an artist in residence at the Tokyo Arts and Space, a division of the Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art, Japan (2018); Jan Van Eyck Academie, Maastricht (2020); and “ROSE” Residency Programme – Villa delle Rose, promoted by MAMbo Museum of Modern Art, Bologna (2021). She is the recipient of the VII edition of the Italian Council Award (2019), nctm e l’arte (2018), Portikus e.V. (2013), and Moving Up (2013).

About Diego Tonus

Diego Tonus studied visual arts at IUAV University of Venice and received an MFA from Sandberg Institute, Amsterdam. He has had solo shows and presentations at STROOM Den Haag (2019); Van Eyck Maastricht (2019); Ellen de Bruijne Projects, Amsterdam (2018); ar/ge kunst Kunstverein, Bozen (2017); Stedelijk Museum Bureau, Amsterdam (2013); and Danish Pavilion, Giardini Biennale, Venice (2011). He has participated in group exhibitions including at the MAMbo Museum, Bologna (2018); Moscow Biennale (2018); Saal Biennaal, Tallinn (2017); 16th Rome Quadrennial (2016); WIELS, Brussels (2015); De Appel, Amsterdam (2015); CCA Singapore (2014); Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2013); Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation, Turin (2013); and Kunstverein Nürnberg (2013). His films have been presented internationally, including at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2016); Whitechapel Gallery, London (2015); and Kunsthalle Gwangju (2011). Tonus has been awarded residencies at Jan Van Eyck Akademie, Maastricht (2017); WIELS, Brussels (2014); and Spinola Banna Foundation, Turin (2011), among others. The artist has been nominated for the Italian Council Award – MiBAC (2018); Performance Act Award, Trento (2015); and Add Fire – Furla Foundation Art Award, Bologna (2012). Among his publications are Five Cases of Intrusion (Archive Books, 2014); I, the Dog of My Master (MER. Paper Kunsthalle, 2015); The Presidents’ Hammers (Roma Publications, 2018), and Fragments of a Conversation with a Counterfeiter (Roma Publications, 2019). His works have entered the public permanent collections of MAMbo Museum Bologna and MMoMA Moscow.

About Topography of Terror

Topography of Terror (19.12.2016) is a film set in the unrealized building of the Topographie des Terrors, in Berlin, which was initially planned by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor in 1993. Zumthor’s design won a competition for the construction of a documentation center on the site where the Gestapo, the SS, and the Reich Security headquarters were all located during the Nazi era, but the project was never realized. Starting from Zumthor’s original drawings and plans, Caldana and Tonus produced a CGI rendering of the Topography of Terror building: an image of a present-day future that never came into being and therefore provides the perfect stage for a narrative that asks how forms of terror operate now and how they might operate in the future.

A key point in the film is the virtual space of the nonexistent building filled with the fictive first-person account conveyed by actor and activist Khalid Abdalla’s voice-over, recounting the story of a news agency journalist affected by secondary traumatic stress disorder as a result of overexposure to violent imagery in the newsroom. Informed by a series of conversations with psychoanalysts and journalists from Reuters, the BBC, and the Freud Museum, the story focuses on ways of constructing information in contemporary journalism, articulating a reflection on the role and the value of images as tools to perpetrate terror and manipulate our perception of reality. Torn between the ethical implications of becoming a perpetrator of terror—by spreading fear through fake news and sensationalism—and the social responsibility of his role, the journalist asks himself the recurrent questions: how do we tell a story, and why should we tell it in a certain way?

Through the interplay between images and storytelling, a reflection emerges exploring the unsettling and devastating impact of terrorism practices on daily life and how those practices may act upon the collective imagination. The empty building is resignified via the impossibility of defining a unique topography of terror, the schizophrenic nature of contemporary terrorism echoing through the nonplaces of the Internet and the media. In these terms, says Gareth Evans, film producer and adjunct moving image curator at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, Topography of Terror (19.12.2016) “is at once an entirely compelling reconstruction of a seminal building that never was, a profound investigation of our damaged and damaging mediation of conflict, and a striking exploration of the complex relationship between personal and public ethics.”

About Never Again

Never Again is Caldana’s continuation of the first film of the cycle, Topography of Terror (19.12.2016). Both films are set in the unrealized building for Topographie des Terrors Foundation, in Berlin, which serves as the virtual scenery and conceptual platform. A silent film, Never Again uses camera movement to investigate this first iconic building deprived of its colors and material references, as if to deconstruct the essence of a voiceless character. Adding new elements into the virtual scenery, it further complicates its empty spaces through the juxtaposition with a different architectural ghost, which occupied the same site during a different historical period. This comprises the virtual reconstruction of the southern wing of the former Gestapo headquarters at Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse 8, including a collapsed air-raid shelter, the “House Prison” yard, and other underground rooms from the archaeological site. The CGI reconstruction of the first unrealized building intersects with the virtually recreated ruins of the past, in a ghostly landscape, and the two architectural settings blur into each other, collapsing in a suspended time and space. The film is shot with a single camera moving around the buildings, passing through their transparent surfaces. The way the architectural settings overlap and contain one another is an attempt to represent visually the critical effort to avoid the repetition of history and violence through strategies of remembrance and understanding.

Project supported by the Directorate-General for Contemporary Creativity by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism under the Italian Council program (2019).

Access Information

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About This Event  

  • This event takes place online only.
  • You can access this event for free through this web page and also on the Whitechapel Gallery’s YouTube Channel, here 
  • This event is suitable for those over the age of 16.
  • Please be aware that this film contains descriptions of trauma that may be disturbing to some viewers.
  • We are unable to provide British Sign Language interpretation for this event.
  • We are unable to provide live closed captioning or CART for this event.
  • As the event is scheduled for a total of one hour, we will not take a rest break.
  • As the event is being live streamed, you can access it from your home if you have access to an internet connection.
  • The event will be available to view afterwards from this page. We would like to thank the speakers for agreeing to this. 

This information will be updated where required.