Footage from exhibition in 2003
Big fishes come alive in the mud during the last expedition. We are exploring an area with deep craters. This time we have no scanning equipment. We only have the sound of the diver on a communication radio in the middle of the platform. We hear his laboured breathing when he comes across things, like the fish. We hear his brief comments about what he touches with his hands and feels under his feet.
It’s an oral mediation of images. The sound of his breathing reaches us loud and clear, the bubbles on the surface indicate his whereabouts. Right now he passes under the rowing boat where I’m sitting.
This waterway has many branches. In theory we might build a dam and redirect the stream, drain the area with the craters, to finally see.
Like the time when I got to see the ponds in Pildammarna in Malmö without water. It is impossible to forget the smacking noises coming from the fish in the oozy mud at the bottom of the pond. It was May. I stopped for a while to look at the sunset. That time they also found a murder weapon, which they had suspected to be there, and which the police had been searching for earlier.
It is only recently that I read through the notes that my father left. They were jumbled together with photos, in paper-bags. After his death I was the only one who had the strength to clean out his cave, the basement room that he had the use of in the building where he lived. It was a big room full of things that could perhaps be mended or things with parts that might come in handy. You could pass through the room along a narrow path. The path led to his favourite armchair. Beside were several radio sets. He liked to listen to odd stations on medium wave or long wave from England in Polish.
From the piles I sifted out letters, notes, photos. They took up two paper bags. I chucked the rest into a dumpster in the yard. For the next fifteen years the paper bags remained at my mother’s. I found them last year, untouched. I sorted out the contents into boxes.
The texts fill a shoebox: drafts of letters, job applications with negative answers, beginnings of a tale about a life.
The closest I come to the treasure is a list he wrote just one year before he died. It’s a list of everything he was going to buy in case he became a rich man. A sailing boat is number two from the top. It was to be made of hardwood (hardwood is underlined) and have a sail of 12–15 square meters.
I also find a note about spiritualism, about the ability to leave one’s body, about his belief in body and soul. So couldn’t he help a little now? Or is he just pleased to see that I’m playing the games he invented?
Caputh changes every time we come here. The eastern part of the country is being renovated. My search for the treasure is most unprofessional. I’m a clumsy beginner, an inexperienced amateur. I try to ensure success through the know-how of others, other people who know about diving and scanning. I’m dependent on their interest and good will, on their plans. Every expedition requires a major initial effort, every time I repeat the mistakes from the previous ones. For some reason all the expeditions take place in the autumn, just before the onset of winter. Days and nights when the cold comes creeping upon us – I thought the heat of summer would last longer.
There’s also something haphazard about the nautical charts of the area. I can’t find any reliable charts; I learn there are none. Nobody uses GPS for determining their position; everything is done by instinct only I lack confidence.
2002 Expedition No. 5, manual search.
2002 Expedition No. 4, scanning of the other lake, two new wrecked boats, Gustav Forsberg’s film is shown on TV.
1999 Expedition No. 3, search of the other lake, no result.
1998 Expedition No. 2, salvaging of the boat we thought was the one we were looking for, shooting of the film.
1998 Expedition No. 1, scanning of the first lake, charting of landmarks, discovery of a wrecked boat.
1993 The third visit to the site, test of the water’s muddiness.
1992 The second visit to the site, snorkelling in the summer.
1991 The first visit to the site.
1990 The reunification of Germany.
1989 The fall of the Berlin Wall.
1987 Kazimierz dies.
1969 My family comes to Sweden.
1959 I was born.
1945 The end of the war, Kazimierz invades Potsdam as officer in the Russian army. He blows up the mayor’s safe, gets a sailing boat, takes in the loot and leaves. He is forced to return as he cannot pass a blown-up bridge that has fallen down. He sinks the boat with the treasure.
I suddenly realized that my father and I were exactly the same age. He was 32 years old when he sank the treasure, and I was 32 years old when I began my search for it. I can only report what I remember of the things he told me. I can’t be certain that I remember correctly. I think I do. The site seems unchanged since the end of the war, preserved in its rural decay. Cobblestone streets, houses in disrepair, rank vegetation, wetlands, lakes, slow and friendly people.
The sign with the name Caputh was what he saw when he stepped ashore. He interpreted Caputh as kaputt; as something that is completely broken and gone forever. Nobody knows for sure what Caputh means, not even the tourist agency in the town. For my father Caputh was kaputt as his trip with the treasure ended there. In Caputh I find pictures of Einstein in a small sailing boat by his summer cottage; a little old man in a wooden sailing-boat. I have a similar photo of my father. Einstein built his summer cottage in 1929 and spent his last three summers in Germany here. He wrote to his son, “Come to Caputh and forget the world”.
Another clue that I follow is “in the middle of the lake”. I’m pretty sure that he said that. It seems simple: in the middle of the lake near Caputh. Seen from the shore you think you know where the middle of the lake is. When you are out on the water, the middle of the lake is almost everywhere. The middle of the lake is where you are at the moment.
I don’t know if he swam ashore. Another possibility was that he had a small dinghy which he could row ashore. I seem to remember that he sounded the depth to see that it was deep enough before he sank the boat. He also removed the mast. Seems sensible. Did he say that he did that?
I’m probably a coward. Father wanted to go back and pick up his treasure. He thought he could do that when eastern Germany was still East Germany. Luckily enough he never tried, perhaps because my sister and me protested wildly. We’d rather have a poor daddy than a daddy lost behind the Iron Curtain. That was also the reason why neither of us wanted to listen to his tale. Nobody asked him to draw a map, nobody wanted to know more. Out of fear, and this was also my reaction when I wouldn’t let the fox walk by. In the middle of the chaos round our failed searches I withdrew, just sat there looking at the lake. The fox came walking along the slope, on the path near which I was sitting. He walked along, lost in thought, or perhaps just drowsy; anyway he didn’t notice me. I got worried: Perhaps he’s got rabies?
I hemmed, making my presence known. The fox looked up, turned off from the path, disappeared down the slope and into the vegetation along the shore with somewhat quicker steps. He probably didn’t have rabies.
The muddiness is a problem. The muddiness can be read on the white necks of the swans. When they dip their heads under the surface of the water only a little bit of the neck remains visible.
On my second visit I make a test. It is winter and the water is perhaps a little clearer. I submerge a white object tied to a string to measure. It disappears after half a metre. Is it Berlin’s sewage that is the cause of the muddiness, or is it the soil? Thick, black, odourless, pulverized mud forms thick deposits. In other places there are sandbars.