Photo: Patrick Alan Banfield
Still of Escapist Room

„Escapist Room“ shows the painter Fritz Zuroff working in his studio for the Mossad in the late 1980s, hunting down old Nazis. He speaks into the camera and breaks the fourth wall. „Escapist Room“ examines aesthetics and typical Hollywood narratives of secret agents and spies – a thematic field in which we are extremely experienced in pop culture.

Escapist Room, experimental film and video installation, 2019-2023

Funded by Ministerium für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Kunst Baden-Württemberg

Experimental film (one screen) + video installation
Red Epic Helium 8K + VHS

8 min, 4K, stereo audio

Courtesy: Patrick Alan Banfield

Cinematography: Nicolas C. Geissler

Soundtrack: Sascha Blank

It was not the BND, it was not the Verfassungsschutz, it was the KriPo (German criminal police) that was responsible for the operation. The alleged son of Mr. Zuroff had already been shadowed days before and there was the suspicion that a missing person was in the cellar. Zuroff was probably able to take some canvases and paintings with him.

His filthy basement studio remains a mystery to this day. He never came back. Fritz Zuroff, artist and painter, travelled via Budapest to Moscow and then landed at Ben Gurion Airport in autumn 1983, where he lost his trail. Even Jonas Zuroff, who regularly introduced himself as his son, disappeared without a trace. Both spoke German with an Eastern European accent, rarely Hebrew, but only broken. Almost all of his paintings have been considered lost since the eighties.

The film is based on the room installation ‚Escapist Room‘, which was exhibited in 2019 in the premises of an old factory – a steam carpentry workshop – in the Weststadt district of Karlsruhe. The walk-in installation was reminiscent of a film set from a spy movie: a secret office – presumably from the late 1980s – used for secret service activities.

Visitors could interactively explore the entire space, including office equipment, furniture, documents such as slide films and data tapes, radio technology and an old Macintosh. The props and scenography suggested that a Mossad spy was working here with other Western services to track down former SS functionaries in hiding. The only way into the secret agent’s room was to bend down and walk through a hole that appeared to have been cut in the wall.

Trailer of Escapist Room
Stills of Escapist Room

DAMPFßCHREINEREI Karlsruhe, Germany „Dampfßchreinerei“, 19.10.2019 – 09.11.2019 Photo: Klemens Czurda Installation view of „Escapist Room“ at Dampfßchreinerei Escapist Room, 2017Room Installation Courtesy Patrick Alan Banfield Artists: Anand Stadtländer, Ayla Pierrot