Berlin: Theater of Memory | forthcoming project
After 30 years exploring how Jews in the Diaspora lived with a portable identity and another 10 years questioning the promise attached to the Land of Israel, I have discovered in Berlin a new and surprising chapter in my journey to trace and untangle the dissonance of Jewishness. Spending a year in Berlin as an artist-in-residence was like stumbling into a theater, finding myself in a drama of redemption, at once sincere and carnivalesque, part morality play, part masquerade—all performed above an abyss.
That Berlin is a city bent on redemption—and that the figure of the Jew represents the key to this new kingdom—is evident from the way Jewishness is being staged and celebrated everywhere, from theater to klezmer to Jewish cooking. But this “Jewish revival” often feels less like an act of healing than some novel form of disfigurement. In the prophetic words of the poet Paul Celan, “They have healed me to pieces.”
Poised between German redemption and Jewish reinvention, Berlin is experiencing an historic moment, but is it the beginning of something or the end? Are Jews already losing their symbolic function for the Germans? Have Jews dared to dream of Germany just as the world has begun to turn its back on the memory of the Holocaust and indulge in a new frenzy of ethnic and religious hatred? What is clear is that the questions posed by Berlin resonate far beyond its borders. Berlin today is emblematic of something larger, a kind of Theatrum Mundi, a universal drama of otherness that takes on a particular vividness and tension in Berlin.
The past, the void, the ghosts, victims, perpetrators, exile and migration, otherness, sameness, inversion, conversion, redemption, appropriation, commemoration, celebration, performance, identity, fear, territory, trompe l’oeil, entertainment, tyranny of representation, commodification, fragmentation, confusion, disintegration, chaos, disfigurement . . . how to do justice to all of this and still resist the temptation to make sense of it? I wish to move with my camera through this constellation of unresolved tensions and dissolving boundaries—immersed in narratives and interpretations, but not bound by any of them—embracing an invitation to listen to the “murmure de l’invisible” – a whisper of the invisible – and dare to lean on the void.