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Posts from the ‘Sebald & Art’ Category

“Far Away – But From Where?”

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W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz Sequence, Paris, December 1998.
Courtesy of the W.G. Sebald Estate

Today, May 18, 2019, is the 75th anniversary of the birth of writer W.G. Sebald. Two interrelated exhibitions are celebrating and examining his legacy at two neighboring institutions that are only 7 kilometers apart in Norwich: Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery and the Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts. I’ve already dealt with Norwich Castle’s exhibition “Lines of Sight” in a recent post. The other exhibition explores Sebald’s use of photography. From the Sainsbury Centre’s website, here is their description of the exhibition “Far Away – But From Where?”:

To mark what would have been the 75th birthday of W.G. Sebald (1944–2001), this innovative, interdisciplinary exhibition combines rare and unseen archive material with work by leading contemporary artists. For the first time, the wealth of UEA’s archive collections and the Sebald Estate, will be used to explore Sebald’s use of photography. The exhibition will also showcase works by Tacita Dean, Tess Jaray and Julie Mehretu that relate or respond to his writing. 

“Far away – but from where?” presents previously unseen photographs taken by Sebald during his journeys to research the novel Austerlitz. Sebald selected a group images for the novel which appeared as uncaptioned plates. The exhibition will also present images that Sebald sourced from books and newspapers for Vertigo, and how these were re-photographed for publication, a process that took place in the darkroom at the Sainsbury Centre. The exhibition will explore how Sebald blurred fact and fiction in his processes. 

The exhibition runs until August 18. See their website above for hours, admissions fees, and a special note for disabled visitors.

Lines of Sight

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As we approach what would have been the 75th birthday of W.G. Sebald on May 18, 2019, two interrelated exhibitions will be celebrating and examining his legacy at two neighboring institutions that are only 7 kilometers apart in Norwich: Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery and the Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts. I’ll deal with each in a separate post, starting with Norwich Castle’s exhibition, “Lines of Sight.” From the website of Visit Norfolk:

“Lines of Sight: W.G. Sebald’s East Anglia” at Norwich Castle from May 10 until January 5 2020  is an unprecedented exhibition celebrating the work of the author W.G. Sebald on the 75th anniversary of his birth.

In collaboration with The University of East Anglia, this exhibition brings together a diverse selection of celebrated artworks, curious objects, archive material and the author’s own, unseen photographs to tell the story behind the creation of one of East Anglia’s most famous literary masterpieces, The Rings of Saturn (1995).

From the mystery of Sir Thomas Browne’s skull to the secret landscapes of the Cold War, from the ghostly vessels of the vanished Herring fleets to intricate pattern books of Norwich silk weavers, this exhibition gathers the threads of Sebald’s enigmatic text to present a uniquely poetic visual portrait of East Anglia that will appeal to both those familiar and new to his work.

W.G. Sebald (1944 – 2001) – or Max to his friends – is one of the most revered, authors of the late 20th century. His evocative and unclassifiable prose works: Vertigo (1990), The Emigrants (1992), The Rings of Saturn (1995), and Austerlitz (2001) – continue to attract a remarkable international following. His reputation and the passionate devotion of readers to his work have grown significantly since his untimely death in 2001 at the age of 57.

Born in the Bavarian Alps in 1944, Sebald spent most of his adult life in England, first in Manchester then moving to Norfolk in 1970, to study and teach at the University of East Anglia (UEA), where he became Professor of European Literature in 1988. The exhibition “Lines of Sight” is held to mark what would have been Sebald’s 75th birthday.

Curator, Dr Nick Warr from The University of East Anglia explains: ‘Sebald’s books are an idiosyncratic mixture of text and image. Part fiction, part autobiography and part travelogue, they intertwine global history with personal memory to recount the fates of lost and forgotten people. Sebald produced all of his published texts whilst living and teaching in Norfolk and the distinctive character of the East Anglian landscape and the stories of those who have made a home here are the elements that connect them all.

‘A remarkable feature of this exhibition are Sebald’s own, previously unseen photographs that he took during his walks along the Suffolk coast. This extraordinary visual record, loaned from the Sebald Estate, not only documents one of the most famous journeys in Modern European literature but also maps out Sebald’s creative process as it meanders its way around the places, people and events that have shaped the region.’

All of the uncanny black and white images that appear in Sebald’s books were made in collaboration with the photographer Michael Brandon-Jones, who assisted the writer in transforming various photographs, found images and objects into the strange pictures that punctuate the author’s texts. A selection of rarely shown Brandon-Jones’ prints are on display alongside Sebald’s manuscript notes and instructions, giving the visitor a rare insight into how the text was carefully assembled image by image.

To augment this archival element of the exhibition with a view to expanding its appeal beyond those already familiar with the text, Sebald’s work is juxtaposed beside the objects and artworks he weaves into his narrative. Items from Norfolk Museums’ own collections, such as the ornate Norwich weavers’ pattern books are shown with loans from National collections, such as Willem van de Velde’s magnificent oil painting, The Burning of the Royal James at the Battle of Sole Bay (1672) from National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

With the story behind the creation of The Rings of Saturn as its focus, “Lines of Sight” is as much about showcasing the amazing things that inspired Sebald to write his masterpiece, as it is about inspiring renewed interest in his work for a new or established readership.

Each image in Sebald’s work is testament to his fascination with the overlooked; the objects, places, people and events that have drifted to the margins of everyday life. Inspired by Norwich’s most noteworthy polymath, Sir Thomas Browne, Sebald sets out in The Rings of Saturn to identify, through the diligent examination of these remnants, the patterns of nature and history and in turn seek meaning in the strange family resemblances they appear to share.

From the cosmic dust of an exploded moon to the gas lit winter gardens of a Victorian mansion; the luminous rays of Southwold lighthouse to the darkness of the Belgian Congo; the bombing raids of the Second World War to the history of sugar beet farming, “Lines of Sight” presents in an engaging and inclusive manner, Sebald’s unique perspective on the history and ecology of East Anglia.

Curator, Dr Rosy Gray of Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery said: “Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery is delighted to be showing this collaborative, seminal exhibition. The impact of Sebald’s work on artists today ensures that his writing and image-making is continually re-visited and re-discovered, bringing new audiences to the work. The opportunity to explore The Rings of Saturn’s visual complexity is an important moment, not only for existing admirers of Sebald’s work but also those with a more general interest in art, literature, photography and of course local history.”

More information, including a wonderful array of programs, can be found at the website of Norwich Castle.

Vienna Exhibition Focuses on Sebald

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Tess Jaray, “Sketch from a letter to W.G. Sebald,” circa 1999. Pencil on photocopy.

“All’estero & Dr. K.’s Badereise nach Riva: Version B,” a group exhibition at the Croy Nielsen gallery in Vienna, takes its inspiration from two chapters in W.G. Sebald’s Vertigo (Schwindel. Gefühle). Curated by Saim Demircan, this is part of an annual “gallery share” event called, appropriately, “curated_by,” which involves twenty-one galleries across Vienna. Read more

Melancholia

Sebald Melancholia Image

Guido van de Werve, Nummer Veertien: Home (video still), 2012*

At Inigo Rooms, King’s College London, Somerset House East Wing, the exhibition “Melancholia: A Sebald Variation” has just opened and can be seen until December 10, 2017. To quote from the exhibition’s website

“Melancholia: A Sebald Variation” takes the viewer on a Sebaldian journey from the ruins of 1945 to the present day. It begins at that ‘zero hour’ after the war when melancholy found its physical form in the rubble scattered throughout its cities after the Second World War and its human form in the refugees who wandered around them.

Tracing its way from the ruins of Britain and Germany to the suburbs of contemporary Holland, the exhibition aims to provoke reflection about the European condition and about the nature of melancholy itself. Is it, as in Freud’s formulation, an indulgent, unproductive form of mourning? Or can it be, as for Sebald, a form of sadness that is ultimately uplifting because it enables loss to bring with it a consciousness of life and its more startling possibilities?

Alongside Dürer’s Melencolia this exhibition will display works from a wide range of international artists, including Dexter Dalwood, Tacita Dean, Susan Hiller, Tess Jaray, Anselm Kiefer, George Shaw, Guido van der Werve, and Jeremy Wood, as well as archival materials and a film of Sebald in discussion with Susan Sontag.

This exhibition has been done in collaboration with the Centre for Contemporary Culture in Barcelona (CCCB) which presented some of these works in their 2015 exhibition “Sebald Variations” curated by Jorge Carrión and Pablo Helguera, which I wrote about at the time.

*For more on van der Werve’s 54 minute video, click here or watch a brief clip of it here. A CD of the requiem he composed for the work can be purchased here.

The Arca Project: An Exhibition Inspired by the Work of W.G.Sebald

steven-scott-resized[print for the Arca Project by Steven Scott]

More than fifteen years after his death, the writings of W.G. Sebald continue to inspire artists and exhibitions. The latest example is an announcement by the PayneShurvell gallery, whose next exhibition will be “The Arca Project: An Exhibition Inspired by the Work of W.G.Sebald.” According to their website, “The Arca Project is an exhibition consisting of 16 visual and 16 textual responses to one single image. Each response has been realised as a limited edition print, developed and made by Invisible Print Studio.” The exhibition is scheduled to open April 1 at a location about a half hour north of Ipswich in Suffolk, England (details at their website).

In the same way that The Rings of Saturn takes a single idea, a walking tour, to open up a wide range of ideas and conversations, The Arca Project sent 16 international artists and 16 writers exactly the same image and asked them to interpret the image as they wished (the only limitation was the uniform paper orientation and size). The recurrence of this image offers many interpretations. All are fictitious. It is a game of false interpretations. The idea is to have artists and writers in a Sebaldian mix of fact and fiction, documentary and reality. Read more

Jan Peter Tripp’s Portraits of Sebald

In Heike Polster’s book The Aesthetics of Passage: The Imag(in)ed Experience of Time in Thomas Lehr, W.G. Sebald, and Peter Handke, which I wrote about recently, Polster reproduces a painting that I had never seen before by Sebald’s close friend Jan Peter Tripp, which he created in 2003 as a memorial portrait of Sebald. Titled “L’Oeil oder die weisse Zeit” (“The Eye or the White Time”) the acrylic on canvas painting is divided into five sections, four of which represent Sebald seen from different angles. Looked at sequentially, the four portraits depict Sebald gradually disappearing and a bright light coming into view over his head, while the bottom section represents a mysterious still life comprised of pencil stubs and other objects, some of which appear to be small, polished stones. According to Polster, the painting was made on the second anniversary of Sebald’s death and is currently owned by Sebald’s widow, Ute Sebald.

The reproduction below is more or less how the painting appears in Polster’s book.

SONY DSC Read more

Sebald Variations: The Catalog

Sebald Variations

In recent months I have  written about Kosmopolis, the annual “amplified literature festival” with live and online components put on by the Centre de Cultura Contemporànea de Barcelona.  The 15th edition of Kosmopolis is being devoted to W.G. Sebald and there is plenty to read and see on its website, including a series of fascinating essays. But Kosmopolis15 also includes an exhibition called Sebald Variations, which is up through July 26 of this year. If you cannot make it to Barcelona, there is a very useful bilingual (Catalan and English) catalog available which can be purchased online. Here is a partial description of the exhibition, taken from its website:

The exhibition shows works by the following artists: Carlos Amorales, Mariana Castillo Deball, Simon Faithfull, Andrea Geyer, Pablo Helguera, Núria Güell, Susan Hiller, Josiah McElheny, Trevor Paglen, Fernando Sánchez Castillo, Taryn Simon, Jan Peter Tripp, Guido Van der Werve,  Jeremy Wood. It will also include contributions from the following writers: Piedad Bonnett, Jorge Carrión, Julià de Jòdar, Reinaldo Laddaga, Valeria Luiselli.

The exhibition “Sebald Variations” seeks to introduce a critical reflection, and recount the different ways his work has influenced and engaged in a dialogue with the visual arts and literature since his passing in 2001. The exhibition examines the way several conceptual strategies for using images with texts, for historical reflection, for the unexpected juxtaposition of scenes and narrativity as a whole, not only appear in Sebald’s work, but have, on countless occasions, been directly or indirectly alluded to and even included in the works of a number of artists. The exhibition takes into account the different exhibitions, publications and artworks associated with Sebald that have been produced since 2001, or which enter into a dialogue with his books, in order to look at his ongoing impact on the artistic endeavours of today from a new perspective.

The project has been conceived as a visual and textual essay that brings together the voice of the author and other creators working in different fields. It pursues Sebald, comments on him, prolongs him and draws him out of himself in order to create new proposals in his company.

Read more

Kosmopolis15 = Sebaldiana

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The Centre de Cultura Contemporànea de Barcelona is devoting Kosmopolis15 to W.G. Sebald. Kosmopolis is an annual “amplified literature festival” with live and online components. From its website:

The CCCB presents The Sebald Variations, in which the German writer of some of the fundamental texts of our turn of the century such as The Rings of Saturn and Austerlitz forms the leading thread in an examination of the history of the 20th century and its projections into our present. How useful are Sebald’s books to understanding 21st-century culture? How can we escape from the “pedagogical prison of memory” that anchors us in the horrors of the 20th century without blazing the trails of a social construction of the future? At K15, we embark on a series of conversations with writers, essayists and artists set on exploring the core themes of the exhibition, creating synergies by joining the spirit of the festival with the author’s unorthodox approach. The Kosmopolis website also offers the Sebaldiana blog, an online space to explore Sebald’s world.

The online contents are being added over the course of the next month. I am happy to say that my contribution “Writing after Sebald” is already posted. I look at a handful of writers who I feel are the most “Sebaldian” in one way or another: Alexander Kluge, Iain Sinclair, Christoph Ransmayr, Sergio Chejfec, Teju Cole, S.D. Chrostowska, Micheline Aharonian Marcom, and Frederick Reuss. Read more

Karen Stuke: “After Sebald’s Austerlitz”

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A new Sebald-related exhibition by artist Karen Stuke has just opened up at The Wapping Project in East London’s Wapping district.  Here’s how the artist’s website describes her project:

The installation, which includes monumental pinhole camera photographs taken in the book’s key locations, a metaphorical railway line and Jewish actors reading the novel is created by Stuke in collaboration with The Wapping Project’s curator Jules Wright. The commissioning of a German artist to respond to a work which deals with the Nazi oppression of Jews is not lost on Karen Stuke for whom the process has been often difficult and painful. Read more

Traces (Influences from W.G. Sebald)

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Traces is an exhibition by artists Leigh Chorlton, Tim Le Breuilly, and Robin Wu, who have put together work influenced by the writings of W.G. Sebald. Each have their own personal interpretation and influences from his writing, which in turn is imbued in their drawing, painting, and printmaking.

Using a kind of holistic journalism/social scientist approach to writing, W.G Sebald’s books meander through peoples stories, architecture, ecology, and history, threads that speak of an overall human destruction. The books are melancholic in tone and have an outsider perspective, examining identity and belonging through displaced lives (as in ‘The Emigrants’) and from the Narrators perspective (Rings of Saturn, Austerlitz) looking in on the development of humanity as though from a distant standpoint. Read more