Artist Statement: Monotony is Nourished by the New

From To Archive the Shape of Memory

In 1984  I initiated a change in my art practice, diverging from printmaking and photography to installation. The installations, ¡Guatemala! The Road of War, 1986 and The Global Menu of 1989, examined the relationship between so-called developed and developing countries. I subsequently moved to a more implicit placement of myself in the work: as a Jew, I reexamined my kinship with the Palestinian people in Diminish Your Cup, 1992 and Once Upon a Body  of 1995 took stock of all that I had inherited from my female forebears. Five years ago, at the age of sixty, in a desire to understand the forces that formed me, I began Cassandra: An Opera In Four Acts. It is an autobiographical narrative that underscores the degree to which the weightiness of gender, class, place, and history, impacts on a life.

Perhaps because I am Jewish and grew up during World War II, I knew early on that things could and did happen that were terrifying and even apocalyptic. I understood that there was a profound and intimate connection between my small life and historical events. I was aware, too, at some level of consciousness, that authority, power and violence could be fascinating, dazzling. Often, I have wondered how I would have behaved had I been a German in Germany as the darkness closed in.

It is such thoughts and questions that have engendered a desire on my part to do a work that looks backwards at the 20th century, entitled “Notes From the 20th”. Walter Benjamin wrote of the necessity of an ‘awakening’ from history as the only way that the world could move out of cycles of barbarism and despair. One of the issues I would like to address, one that particularly haunts me, is that of the enthrallment of masses of people by totalitarian regimes in the earlier half of the 1900’s. My installation would constitute an attempt at an accounting, a re-view and a query into the aestheticization of political violence then and now. As with Cassandra: An Opera In Four Acts, I will draw on historical and family source material.

A common thread in my work has been the use of relics of communication technologies and popular visual playthings, as a way of bringing the past back into the present. Anamorphosis, an early European adventure in the metaphysics of optics, is a process in which drawings and paintings were conceived in a mathematically determined, distorted fashion. These images could be magically restored to their true perspective within the infinite depth of a cylindrical mirror, or if the viewer positioned her/himself at a fixed point of truth. For one component of the work, I have begun some preliminary experimenting in the use of the anamorphic construct (slides 15-20 ) as a metaphorical device through which the viewer may position her/himself to see the past and remember in a renewed way.