History and Theory, Bezalel //   Issue No. 23 - Void, Information and Uncertainty, February 2012   Virtual
Troubled Nostalgia
Shy Abady

  

In the summer of 2007, I arrived at Berlin for a one and a half year long stay, and shortly thereafter began creating the series "My Other Germany". The series was inspired by the troubling imprints that WW2 left upon the city’s landscape. These include the ruins left by the Germans as a mark of eternal condemnation, along with the "stumbling blocks" (Stolpersteine) created by the German artist Gunther Demnig – inlaying bright square metal plates onto the sidewalks, specifying the year of birth and the dates of deportation and extermination of holocaust victims who lived in the vicinity.

The series is a journey into the depths of German and German-Jewish history and myth, seeking something of its roots and an understanding of its unfolding. I took my initial cue from selected eighteenth and nineteenth century Prussian sculptures and monuments, mostly a part of the Berlin landscape. Some of these have survived intact, while others have been damaged and occasionally almost completely destroyed during WW2. These sculptures paved my way into the events of the twentieth century through the backdoor of the nineteenth century.

As an Israeli, I was raised in accordance with the ideology of the hegemonic Zionist modernism – a highly ascetic and minimalist tradition that was replete with religiously iconoclastic prohibitions. As such I was intrigued and captivated by the neo-classical sculpture, but was also inherently repelled by the Germanic codes imbedded in them.

As the series developed, it became a sort of a fairytale, including such motives such a king, a queen, a castle, horses, courtiers, battles and so forth. The creative process was accompanied by a historical research and the physical touring of the city, aimed to locate the statues and monuments required for the narrative, including some Jewish figures, as such as Synagoga and Felix Mendelssohn.

Some of my encounters occurred randomly, as in the case of the sculpture "Heinrich the Boy," which carries an androgenic character, and which I stumbled upon while reviewing an old catalog. The statue of the last Askanier ruler from the fourteenth century, who died in his youth, was created by August Kraus in 1900 as part of the Berliner "Victory Boulevard" (Siegesallee). At the time, the German emperor Wilhelm II decided to erect in the center of Berlin a very nationalistic and pretentious boulevard, (The Berliners used to call it, "The Puppets Boulevard"). In his order thirty-two neo-classical statues of German historical heroes, including "Heinrich the Boy", were positioned in the boulevard. The statues were severely damaged during WW2 when the German combatants used them as a shield to protect themselves from the Russian snipers during the final days of the "Battle for Berlin".

The journey to uncover the location of the original statue led me to a warehouse where statue fragments were stored. When I entered the building, I discovered fragments of German historical heroes, among them the beautiful figure of Heinrich, decapitated and bereft of an arm and a leg. The story and the scene embodied the events of the war and brought back the memory of Siegfried from bleeding saga "The Song of the Nibelungs". Thus Heinrich became in my imagination the young Siegfried, and I etched him on wood with a winged helmet on his head.

The work which concludes the series, as always in fairytales, depicts the words "The End", but this time in Yiddish, "Der Soff", one German and one Hebrew word.

To create the series I selected fifteen OSB plates, which have a chaotic and expressive nature and are made from compressed wood tubers used in Germany as the local plywood. The images were etched on the plates with an electric pencil, a technique which I had first applied in the "Hannah Arendt Project".[1]

Troubled Nostalgia (1.44 MB)

[1] The “Hannah Arendt Project" is a series of works that dealt with the image of the Jewish German political theorist Hannah Arendt. The series was presented at the Jewish Museum of Frankfurt, the Jerusalem Artist's house, and the Diaspora museum, Tel Aviv.

 

 

About the Author :
Shy Abady was born in Jerusalem (1965). Abady created several series which trace the biographies of untypical figures such as Vaclav Nijinsky, Hannah Arendt and Radu Klapper. His works also include historical-political series like "My Other Germany" and "Augusta Victoria " and combine drawing, mixed media and electric etching on wood. He presented his work in group and solo exhibitions in galleries and museums in Israel and abroad.

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