Lost in Jüdischer Friedhof Weißensee / There is a Mirror in My Heart: Reflections on a Righteous Grandfather
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There are two distinct installations brought together here, There is a Mirror in My Heart: Reflections on a Righteous Grandfather by Sebastian Mendes and Lost in Jüdischer Friedhof Weißensee by Robert Yerachmiel Sniderman.
Born a generation apart, the two artists never met despite overlapping for a time in Bellingham as well as in Berlin, Germany, before Mendes’ untimely death in 2018. They are different in many ways, but what connects them is their use of ritual action as a means for cultural reclamation. Mendes commemorates his grandfather, a Portuguese diplomat who saved the lives of countless refugees during WWII. And in his installation and six-month long performance project, Sniderman mourns and marks the eradication of European Jews in a difficult gesture of reverence and intervention.
Despite differences in subject matter and outlooks, the two artists share important artistic approaches. Both perform what Sniderman calls "durational contemplation," which he defines as “an extended physical-intellectual devotion to a site of excessive meaning.” And both exhibit traces from the process in installations. Sniderman’s site is the immersive and politically charged field of a Jewish burial ground in Berlin. Sebastian’s site is, metaphorically, the embassy desk where his grandfather signed 30,000 transit visas to bring refugees to safety. Through a continuous ritual, Mendes inscribed the names of the refugees, repeating the same action thousands of times without rest. Sniderman uses durational walking as an organizing and accumulative action of public practice, to immerse himself in the diasporic history and politics of Jewish presence. Each work is a personal artistic act of commemoration with an important public significance for everyone to learn from.