I See Memory
Curator: Krymolowski Miri
30 Aug — 18 October, 2014
“Our life is made possible only thanks to oblivion and it is sustained by memory” (T. Carmi)
“I see memory” writes artist Varda Carmeli in the opening of her photography book, Decapsulation (2013), a compilation of her experiences in Berlin containing photographs from a visit to the city her mother and family had left in 1933, in the wake of the Nazi rise to power. Carmeli’s journey spanned several years, during which she explored the painfully beautiful city that combines the old with the new, that hides and reveals, caresses and injures. The city that even without any personal memories, one is charged with others’ memories from it.
Is it possible to see memory? According to Freud and Jung, memory is always present in our consciousness. Parts of it peek in our dreams, where we see memory and paradoxically feel it even if it is not personally ours, but of our family members and of our loved ones.
Carmeli’s memory is not only personal; it is also collective, the same type of memory that Freud discusses in his works. And therefore “her” Berlin is not only “hers” and it is not only “Berlin.” It is an existential and mental state.
Berlin reflected in the photograph of crystal ware – against a black and gray background, between the black line delineating the ground and the gray skyline; one vessel is broad, accommodating, the other is erect and stern. Indeterminably transparent or opaque, the vessels contain a lost heritage, holding a collective memory that is also the private-secretive memory of each and every one of us.
Another “quiet” series depicts house interiors: an empty chair in a room corner. Who was here? Who else will be here? Will they be here? And in the background there is always an opening – a barred window, an aperture to a different reality, plausible or gone by…
One of the works is a classic “Berlin-like” image, a landmark. Man and cigarette in an acute black and white photograph on the corner of Tucholskystrasse and Auguststrasse. Foreign names, but each of them is charged with Jewish memories. Like the majority of Carmeli’s photographs, this work is timeless. Her photographs function like coordinates that cut through time and place, memory coordinates; points delineating the path of return to life’s journey. Or as Shmuel David Luzzatto has said: “Memory sustains man in the land of the living.”