MONIKA WEISS, SHROUDS–CALUNY (2012)
In Shrouds–Całuny, consisting of public project, film projection, sound, and photography, Weiss choreographed and filmed from an airplane local women performing silent gestures of lamentation on the site of the forgotten concentration camp for Jewish women in Grünberg, now Zielona Góra in Poland. The project employs performative lamentation as a form of postmemory, set in opposition to acts of conquest and power. It also addresses the issue of public memory and amnesia in the context of the space of a city and its urban design. Shrouds–Całuny was commissioned by the BWA Gallery in Zielona Góra. A publication followed the exhibition.
Weiss’ formative works addressed events during World War II and highlighted violence perpetrated against the human body, specifically the female or ill who are often the most vulnerable to casualties. [...] Weiss questions how one should remember the events that have transpired when the present sites are banished to entropy or, in the case of this specific site, might be transformed into a junk space shopping mall. – Vanessa Gravenor, Monika Weiss’ Two Laments, in: n.paradoxa, vol. 37, 2016
[Weiss] is interested in projects of commemoration and memory, raising questions about how an artist—not a witness or a survivor—should react to the traumas of history and what constitutes post-memory. In Poland, where disclosure of the atrocities at Jedwabne (...) has created an ongoing crisis in Polish-Jewish relations, there’s excruciating sensitivity about memory of the war years. To whom does memory belong? Who has the right to respond to it? […] – Frances Brent, The Lamentation Project, in: Tablet Magazine, June 2016
The title’s shrouds do not heal, do not dress, and do not calm. They are signs of memory’s clinical death, a condition where we are still able to turn back. – Wojciech Kozłowski, in: Recall: Roland Shefferski and Monika Weiss, BWA Zielona Góra, Poland, 2014
FROM MONIKA WEISS' NOTES ON Shrouds–CaLuny
Do cities remember? Maps of cities are flat, yet their histories contain vertical strata of events. Where in the topography and consciousness of a city can we locate its memory?
Maps of the Polish city Zielona Góra depict an unmarked empty square near Wrocławska Street, across from the Focus Park shopping mall. Located centrally within the city, it looks abandoned, strewn with broken masonry and wood debris. Inquiries to citizens of Zielona Góra indicate that many of them do not know its history, including those who grew up near the site.
Before the war, Zielona Góra was in Germany, known as Grünberg. During the Second World War the site was a forced labor camp mostly for Jewish women, which later became a concentration camp. It was developed next to the German wool factory, Deutsche Wollenwaren Manufaktur AG, which supplied the German war machine with military uniforms (its buildings across the street have since been converted into a shopping mall.) During the war about 1,000 young women who were made to work there as seamstresses eventually became inmates of the concentration camp complex administered by KZ Groß-Rosen. Towards the very end of the war the prisoners were sent on one of the most tragic of death marches and many of them died.
On June 9th, 2012 I flew on a small airplane to film this territory and its surroundings. [...] we see well-kept buildings surrounding the ruins of the former camp, as though it were an open yet forgotten wound in the body of the city, right in its center. I choreographed and filmed from the airplane a group of young women from Zielona Góra who spent time in silence on the site of the camp, performing minimal gestures of lamentation and evoking the absence of the prisoners through their own presence. They left their black scarfs in the debris. On the left side of the split-screen, a young woman wraps bandages around her chest in a gesture of defense, or perhaps caress. Her body stands for our common body, anonymous as if it were a membrane between the self and the external world. Awareness of our marginality becomes elevated into the realm of meaning through our brief encounter with memory and history.
[...] Shrouds addresses aspects of public memory and collective amnesia in the context of the space of a city and its urban design. As part of the project, citizens of Zielona Góra are invited to propose how we choose to remember, or not to remember, the women prisoners who perished there, and how the non-memory accomplishes the Nazi goal of systematic destruction of an entire people. [...]
- Monika Weiss, Zielona Góra, June 15, 2012
RECALL: Roland Schefferski & Monika Weiss
Published by Muzeum Ziemi Lubuskiej /Lubusz Land Museum & Biuro Wystaw Artystycznych (BWA) Zielona Góra, Poland, 2014
Hardcover, 120 pages
Languages: Polish, German, English
Essays by: Axel Feuss, Julia P. Herzberg, Jakob Huebner, Leszek Kania, Wojciech Kozłowski
The publication results from two individual yet thematically connected exhibitions by two artists born in Poland who live and work in New York and Berlin respectively: Monika Weiss and Roland Schefferski. Caluny by Monika Weiss took place at the BWA City Gallery in Zielona Góra, and From the Live of Europeans by Roland Schefferski at the Muzeum Ziemi Lubuskiej in Lubusz, Poland, 2012.
The publication was launched during international conference "Culture and Politics of Culture in Poland and Germany After 1989. Conclusions, Debates, Perspectives" at the Western Institute in Poznan, Poland, in collaboration with Kulturpolitische Gesellschaft e.V, June 11-12, 2014