»It was like vultures picking over the bones. Look and capture. Frequently photographed and brought to view in color or black and white: the photos intended to illustrate reports on the state of the forest nevertheless remained unbelievable. Anyone can take photos. Who would actually trust a photo?«
Günter Grass, for one, does not trust the prosaic images on photos. He starts traveling in the summers of 1988/89 to make drawings of the native forests. The lithograph »Mit Oskar ins tote Holz gehen« (»Entering Dead Wood with Oskar«) attests to the devastating effects of air pollution poisoning the soils with acid rain. Grass's works show bleak wooded landscapes that block the observer's view. Many treetops are defoliated or mutilated. Frequently, the trees are no longer supported by the forest soil and are uprooted; woodlands have turned into wastelands. Even thirty years afterward, the forests are only slowly recovering.
The volume Totes Holz (Dead Wood) (1990) compiles Grass's drawings from his journeys through Central Germany. The works are accompanied by fragments of poems and exerpts from the State of the Forest Report from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, 1989. The factual language is in stark contrast to the full-page drawings of the devastated forest landscapes and the lines of the unfinished poem. Grass deliberately dispenses with photos and instead uses charcoal, ink, or lithographic chalk in order to express his horror, outrage, and speechlessness in view of the dead woods. It is only by using artistic means to deal with his personal emotions that he is able to bring these pictures »to speak«.