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Posts from the ‘Sebald & Art’ Category

Karen Stuke: “After Sebald’s Austerlitz”


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.

Austerlitz is one of literature’s most haunting meditation on time, loss and retrieval. It tells the story of Jacques Austerlitz, an architectural historian who, aged 5, was sent to England on a Kindertransport and placed with foster parents in Wales. As he rediscovers his past, Austerlitz embarks on a journey through time and space, from mid-20thcentury mitte-Europa to contemporary England.

Stuke, an accomplished photographer in the use of the pin-hole camera, followed this journey. At the crossroad between fact and fiction, she found when they existed, the places of Austerlitz’s story: the Prague exhibition halls from which his mother was deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, the railway journey followed by the Kindertransport, his house in Mile End…

The resulting photographs, all taken with her handcrafted pin-hole camera, are the work of light, time and memory. Elusive images created by aggregated traces of light, they evoke fuzzy memories, and justly lend themselves to both, the layers and recesses of Austerlitz’ mind, and Sebalds’ narrative. Pursuing her interest in bringing together visual art and performance, Stuke has also devised, in collaboration with Jules Wright, a large-scale installation that brings key elements from the book into a reality where the visitor is an active viewer and listener, delving into the darkest corners of Austerlitz’s memory, and of Europe’s recent history.

There are more images and installation views at Stuke’s website.


Traces (Influences from W.G. Sebald)


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.

Sebald uses photography in his books to make subtle links that create visual threads. All the images are black and white, generally grainy, and sometimes difficult to make out, becoming black splurges against white overexposed sections. Sebald himself scanned his images through a photocopier until the quality depleted, relinquishing the power of the photograph as a ‘document’ or upholder of the real. Photography’s strength lies in its misleading power to convince us of its irrefutability, as archival photographs can be faked, whereas drawings and paintings are primary documents and cannot be faked.

If this were a photography exhibition the work would likely be about the way photographs both document and dissemble reality, like the images employed in Sebald’s books, though in using traditional artists materials this obvious connection is redundant, and therefore so is the connection between Sebald’s photographs and our own documentation. The transference of meaning from writing to representation becomes more oblique, the results perhaps more difficult to measure, and unless copying or being literal, of which these artists are not, the links remain allusive, fragile, modest, provisional.

Sebald’s influence on artists is far reaching. The Documentary “Patience” made in 2012 by director Grant Gee (Joy Division) about Sebald’s book “The Rings of Saturn” has contributions from artists and film-makers including Tacita Dean, Robert MacFarlane, Sir Andrew Motion, Rick Moody, Iain Sinclair and Marina Warner, all espousing the influence that Sebald has had on their work. This exhibition is a small contribution highlighting the influence Sebald has had on these three artists.

Leigh Chorlton has exhibited in London through the Cynthia Corbett gallery and was part of Glasgow International in 2010 with Solo show “Retro Renaissance”. He also set up and runs Whitespace, a gallery in Gayfield Square.

Tim Le Breuilly is currently on a residency at Fettes College, he has previously been shortlisted for the John Moores painting prize. He has also contributed curatorially to exhibitions at Talbot Rice gallery following the success of ‘Sunbear’ an artist-run gallery initiated with colleagues that exhibited internationally acclaimed artists including a Turner prize nominee.

Robin Wu has shown work in Edinburgh and London including a solo show at Leith school of Art in 2011. He has studied at The Princes Drawing School, Leith School of Art and has a BA Hons in Graphic Design from Camberwell College of Art.

From the website of Edinburgh’s Whitespace.

Sebald Erased

The current issue (number three) of the Brooklyn-based independent literary magazine The Coffin Factory features a collaborative piece by writer Justin Taylor and artist Bill Hayward entitled “From Notes on the Inconsolable,” in which Taylor performs an erasure based on W. G. Sebald’s novel The Emigrants.  The result is a fairly short poem by Taylor into which Hayward inserts three of his own photographs, à la Sebald.  On Hayward’s blog, the work featured in The Coffin Factory is described as “an excerpt,” which suggests there is more to come one day.  Here’s a bit of commentary by Taylor on his process of erasure:

Erasure is a method of delving into the depths of a text to see what can be found there. But the eraser is liberated—as well as made anxious—by the knowledge that said findings are not discoveries but creations. The erasure-text is not a salvage: it has no reality independent of the search for it, the searching is in fact what made it real. Erasure, therefore, is a way of being read, at least as much as it is a way of reading. 

For the most part, the result truly is “liberated.”  Other than the use of the highly-recognizable quotation  “And so they are ever returning to us, the dead…”, one would be hard pressed to identify Sebald as the source for the Taylor’s enigmatic new poem.  Perhaps most noticeably, the narrative voice in Taylor’s piece is utterly different.  Here’s an excerpt:

and you already know
how things went from never able
to bring myself to anything I still don’t know
for sure what made us drift apart

between his legs, the muzzle

There is a small universe of erasure-based poetry, but probably the most well-known example is A Humument, in which Tom Phillips made an entirely new, illustrated novel by eliminating parts of the text of an obscure Victorian book.  Phillips painted on and decorated the original pages of the book as a way of editing out much of the original text, saying that he “plundered, mined, and undermined its text to make it yield the ghosts of other possible stories, scenes, poems.”  Taylor’s strategy is very similar, although he’s only using (and retyping) Sebald’s altered text rather than playing with the physical pages of Sebald’s book.

Taylor explains that he asked Hayward “to punctuate my erasure-text  with images that would simultaneously pay homage to Sebald at the level of form while undermining or re-imagining them at the level of content.”  Unlike Sebald’s snapshots and found photographs, Hayward’s are described as “intentional artworks.”  They also deliberately relocate” The Emigrants to the US, where both Taylor and Hayward live.  Based on the three photographs in this excerpt, it’s seems fair to say that Hayward has created a parallel imagery that references Sebald’s photographs in several ways.  Reminiscent of the many sources for Sebald’s imagery, the three photographs here are done in three distinct styles: a sharply-focused sepia image of a 1940s car on a road in the American West; a dark, over-exposed black-and-white image of a small boy dressed in Western clothing (almost an ironic twist on the cover photograph from Austerlitz); and a slightly blurred image of a young woman making an enigmatic gesture or movement, as if cleaning something from her blouse.


Sebald (and more) Events in March-April 2012

[Portions of Nach der Natur installed in Don Soker Contemporary Art, San Francisco, 2006]

If you are in the San Francisco Bay area, drop by the Berkeley Art Center, where five works by Christel Dillbohner relating to W.G. Sebald’s Nach der Natur are on display until April 1.  According to the artist’s website, her artwork entitled Nach der Natur “is a multipaneled ‘wax engraving’ on paper. In seventeen one-hour sessions, Dillbohner engraved W.G. Sebald’s prose poem Nach der Natur into a layer of wax which was applied on blackened mulberry paper (69” x 190”). After completion she then glazed the wax with white oil paint, which makes the fine (filigree) markings of her writing visible.”

Here are further details on the previously announced Festival Robert Walser being held in Newcastle upon Tyne, March 19-23.

Mon. 19/03 6pm
Short stories by Robert Walser.  Read by Tim Bennett, Gabriele Heller and Claire Webster-Saaremets
City Library, 33 New Bridge Street West, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE18AX, Tel: 0191 277 4100

Tues. 20/03 1– 2.30pm
A radio discussion on the role of madness in art and artistic legacy.
Culture Lab, Newcastle University, Grand Assembly Rooms, Kingʼs Walk, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU, Tel: 0191 246 4607

Wed. 21/03 6.30-9pm
OPPRESSIVE LIGHT at The Lit and Phil
Selected Poems by Robert Walser.  Book launch – New translations by Daniele Pantano
DEEPLY MORBID at The Lit and Phil
An illustrated lecture on romance by Tender Buttons.  Written by Stevie Smith and Robert Walser. Performed by Tessa Parr, Directed by Tess Denman-Cleaver
New compositions by John Pope
Literary & Philosophical Society, 23 Westgate Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 1SE,
Free but booking essential: Phone 0191 232 0192 to reserve a ticket

Thur. 22/03 6pm
Opening exhibition night with work by Billy Childish, Roman Signer and others
Newcastle University students show filmic work in response to Robert Walserʼs Microscripts.
Vane Gallery, 1st Floor, Commercial Union House, 39 Pilgrim Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 6QE, Tel: 0191 261 8281, Email:

Fri. 23/03 4.30-7pm
A talk by Reto Sorg about Robert Frankʼs exhibition Ferne Nähe /Distant Closeness at the Robert Walser Zentrum, Bern March 2012.
Followed by a panel discussion with Jo Catling, Lars Iyer, Daniel Medin, Daniele Pantano, Natasha Soobramanien and Luke Williams about Walserʼs unique
7.30pm MORE ON THIS LATER at Culture Lab
A theatre performance by Gabriele Heller (theatre-between) and Claire Webster-Saaremets (Skimstone Arts).
Followed by a musical piece by Phil Begg and a musical performance by Joe Murray.
Culture Lab, Newcastle University, Grand Assembly Rooms, Kingʼs Walk, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU, 0191 246 4607

Finally, on another note entirely, Grant Gee’s film Patience (After Sebald) will be shown at the San Francisco International Film Festival, April 19-May 3.

Sebald, Simon, Novelli and the Long-Drawn-Out Scream

Gastone Novelli, untitled, 1961,
Pencil, pastel, ball point pen and tempera on paper

In W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz, during the first extended meeting between the narrator and Jacques Austerlitz, the two men stop for coffee at Antwerp’s Glove Market and discuss, among other things, the long architectural history of fortifications.  “It is often our mightiest projects that most obviously betray the degree of our insecurity,” Austerlitz remarks.  He then proceeds to talk about how the star-shaped dodecagon came to be seen as an ideal defensive shape in spite of the fact that, in real warfare, these fortresses turned out to have many disadvantages.  Furthermore, their complexity led to the fact that they were often obsolete by the time their construction was completed. The day after this conversation, the narrator takes a short train ride to visit Breendonk, one of numerous fortresses constructed at the beginning of the 20th century for the defense of Antwerp.  Breendonk, along with Antwerp’s entire fortress system, had proved utterly useless against Germany’s offense during both World Wars and it was subsequently converted into a museum of the Belgian resistance.  During the Second World War, Breendonk, built for the defense of Belgium, was instead used by the invading Germans as an infamous prison where many Belgians and others were tortured.

At this point in Austerlitz, as his narrator wanders through the fortress, he recalls two related stories of torture: Jean Améry’s account of being tortured at Breendonk (I presume this account is from Améry’s At the Mind’s Limits: Contemplations by a Survivor of Auschwitz and Its Realities), and Claude Simon’s novel Le Jardin des Plantes, where Simon tells the story of Gastone Novelli, who had been similarly tortured (albeit at Dachau).   Upon his liberation, Novelli fled “civilization” for remote parts of the Brazilian jungle, where he lived with a small tribe whose language consisted “almost entirely of vowels, particularly the sound A in countless variations of intonation and emphasis” (to quote from Austerlitz).  When Novelli returned to Europe, one of the recurring themes of his paintings became the letter A, often “rising and falling in waves like a long-drawn-out scream,” as Sebald put it.

It is curious to see how the two books typographically depict this string of As.  In Sebald’s Austerlitz, on the left, the run of vowels is elongated into what could be a multi-row scream.  On the right we see how Simon’s The Jardin des Plantes (as it is called in English) turns the As into a tidy, block-like structure that strikes me as more visual than verbal.

The Italian painter Gastone Novelli (1925-1968) is little known in the US.  His work is likely to make many viewers immediately think of Cy Twombly, who moved to Italy in 1957, but the resemblances turn out to be fairly superficial.  I had never given Sebald’s reference to Novelli much thought until I ran across this excellent short essay by Rafael Rubinstein over at The Silo, a site that he describes as “a personal, revisionist ‘dictionary’ of contemporary art…to challenge existing exclusionary accounts of art since 1960 and to offer a fresh look at some canonical artists.”  The whole site is well worth exploring.

Claude Simon, The Jardin des Plantes.  Northwestern University Press, 2001.  Translated by Jordan Stump.

The Sebald/Jaray Collaborations

Tess Jaray and W.G. Sebald, How Strange… and I Suppose it is…, two works from the series From the Rings of Saturn and Vertigo
Screenprints, 2001

The images as I worked on them seemed to me to strongly correspond to the images evoked by Sebald’s prose, by his distortion of and evocation of space, and strange ability apparently to focus both on distance and nearness simultaneously: to make space and memory appear to be the same thing, giving a sense of spinning between past and future.

In 2001, the artist Tess Jaray published a series of  monochromatic, geometric screenprints that she paired with quotations from W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn and Vertigo.  These books had appeared in English at a time when Jaray said her life was full of profound changes, and Sebald’s writing “not only expressed in mood the emotional impact of these events, it also shaped them….”  Jaray had met Sebald and had received his approval to use his words in connection with her images.

A clear and absorbing process followed of selecting the various texts both for their relevance to the image and as poetry that stands on its own, and of developing text and image together in such a way as to suggest links between the two, and which would change the way the text is seen.  Taking it out of context constitutes a literal and metaphorical kind of framing. [Quotations from: From The Rings of Saturn and Vertigo, Tess Jaray W.G. Sebald, a gallery brochure produced by Purdy Hicks Gallery, London, 2001.]

By “framing” sentences from Sebald’s texts, Jaray removes the context and turns the fragments into something new, almost like freestanding prose poems.  The result are  different from pull quotes, excerpts intended to represent the original text.  This is a personal, transformative response by Jaray.  For Sebald, it must have represented some  risk and, presumably an element of trust.

How strange it is, to be standing leaning against the current of time.

In the same year, Jaray and Sebald collaborated on a book called For Years Now, which appeared in print just after Sebald’s death on December 14, 2001, the only book by Sebald to have appeared first in English.  Here, twenty-three short poems by Sebald alternate with images of Jaray’s work.  When I wrote about For Years Now in May 2007, the book felt a bit as if it had been orphaned upon Sebald’s death – and it still seems that way today.  It has never been translated and is seems to have never been reviewed.

Sebald Jaray For Years Now

The British publisher Lenz Books has just released Painting: Mysteries & Confessions, a wonderful book of short writings by Jaray.  She writes about her own artwork and on other artists, both contemporary and historical, including Giotto, Ingres, Gustav Klimt, Zoran Music, Malevich, Martin Creed, and others.  I will write about that part of the book in a future post.  But significantly, the piece on which the book’s title is based is about Sebald.  A Mystery and a Confession tells part of the story of the evolution of their collaborative work in For Years Now.  Jaray explains that, encouraged by his cooperation with her screenprints, she dared to mention to him the idea of doing an artist’s book “in relation to his verse, if he had any he would consider letting me have.”  Surprisingly, Sebald reached into a drawer and handed Jaray a long poem written in German.

On the train home the next day I read it.  Several times.  Although I speak German only very badly and would be neither qualified nor able to describe it with justice, I could see that it had the same wonderful voice that his books have – and I was again bewitched by the language.  It had twenty-three stanzas, and told how he, Sebald/the poet, had been in Marienbad: and had there so clearly imagined the Famous Poet who had been there before him.

Sebald obviously gave Jaray the poem Marienbader Elegie, which had been published in 1999 in an issue of Neue Zürcher Zeitung, and which can now be found  in the posthumously issued collection of his poems Über das Land und das Wasser.  Jaray writes that she quickly found a student to make a straight translation into English.  As she discovered, Sebald had modeled his poem of twenty-three six-line stanzas after Goethe’s Trilogie der Leidenschaft (Trilogy of Passion).  Jaray never tells us how this poem came to be rejected in favor of the twenty-three short poems by Sebald, but it is hard not to notice that the number of poems is the same as the number of stanzas in the long poem Sebald originally suggested.  Perhaps Jaray was paying quiet numerological homage to Sebald’s original idea.

W.G. Sebald in front of Tess Jaray’s work, photograph by Tess Jaray

[All images copyright Tess Jaray.]

March 2011 Sebald Events Around the Globe

Langlands & Bell, Air Routes of the World (Night), 2001 [© Langlands and Bell]

It’s time to convert some frequent flier miles into plane tickets.  On Artslant China, there is an announcement for a talk in Hong Kong on March 26 called Memory Destroys – Photographs in the Work of W.G. Sebald. Here’s a portion of the event’s description:

2P Contemporary Art Gallery and Diorama Projects have invited writer and editor Doretta Lau to present Memory Destroys – Photographs in the Work of W.G. Sebald, a discussion on the writings of W.G. Sebald.

In her 2000 essay on W.G. Sebald A Mind in Mourning Susan Sontag asked ‘Is literary greatness still possible?  Since his untimely death, his novels The Emigrants, The Rings of Saturn, Vertigo and Austerlitz, published in translation, and other works have continued to be the subject of seminars and conferences and tributes such as artist Jeremy Millar’s A Firework for W.G. Sebald, and Grant Gee’s recently premiered film essay Patience (After Sebald).  Memory Destroys – Photographs in the Work of W.G. Sebald will be led by Doretta Lau and considers the author’s sublime use of photographs in his works, described by Susan Sontag as ‘an exquisite index of the pastness of the past’.

Doretta Lau is a writer and editor living in Hong Kong.  She contributes to Artforum, LEAP, The Wall Street Journal, SCMP, Sing Tao and Crave, and is a former Arts & Culture Editor for HK Magazine and a former Arts Writer for Time Out Hong Kong.  In 2007, she received her MFA from the Writing Division, School of the Arts at Columbia University.  She has a BA in English Literature and BFA in Creative Writing from The University of British Columbia.  Prior to moving to Hong Kong, she was an editorial assistant for the literary annual NOON. Currently, she is working on a collection of short stories.

Sara Seager, Sebald, W.G., “Austerlitz”, Anthea Bell (translator), Published by Random House U.S.A., Oct. 2001, ISBN-385504834, 2002
Silk screen and ink on paper

Meanwhile, across the Pacific in Los Angeles, highly respected LACE Gallery has just opened a new exhibition called On the Line, guest curated by Cody Trepte.  Sarah Seager, one of the artists included, has created a series of works on paper that use quotations from W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz.  Here’s a bit of description from LACE’s website:

On The Line looks to four artists — Meg Cranston, Larry Johnson, Sarah Seager, and Mitchell Syrop — whose use of language can be seen as an evolution of Conceptualism. They parsed the discipline, and introduced a content that was more emotive while still maintaining the rigorous investment in ideas that artists like Sol Lewitt and Joseph Kosuth set forth.

With a casual commitment to systems, a heavy injection of reclaimed subjectivity, and the reintroduction of formal concerns, the artists in this exhibition continue to morph the use of text-in-art from its early rigid applications to a more humorous and pathos filled practice. The result is a simultaneous questioning and affirmation of Conceptualism which allows the discourse to continually reinvent itself.

[Thanks to Vertigo readers for the tips.]

Circular Travels

Jesús de Francisco, Ikaria, Greece, 2007

Los Angeles-based art director and photographer Jesús de Francisco writes:

When I was a kid I wanted to be an astronomer. One day I would visit Saturn and walk along the immense plains of its icy rings, until I’d arrive back where I’d landed. I dreamt of the adventures I would have, the strange creatures I would encounter. Years later I can smile at the naïveté of my aspirations; yet somehow back then I’d intuited what I’ve learned since ― that our travels are mostly circular; there’s hardly ever a simple destination.

Inspired by W.G. Sebald’s books – but especially The Rings of Saturn – he came to the realization that perhaps there was a different way to look at the photographs he found himself taking during his trips around LA and around Europe.   Places, an online journal of landscape, architecture, and urbanism, recently put up a slideshow of  his photographs showing the territories where nature and contemporary civilization meet head on.

There is a strong  history over the past half century of photographers exploring what would have once been considered too ugly and banal to be worthy of attention.  de Francisco’s work sits firmly on the tradition laid down by Stephen Shore, the New Topographics photographers, and countless recent photographers who look at the modern urban and industrial world as if they were documenting archaeological sites.  What de Francisco does so well is remain subtle.  Most of his images seems rather simple at first glance, but under a slower scrutiny they reveal themselves to be a kind of poetry.  Each photograph finds a particular meter and rhyme scheme in the landscape that provides structure and coherence.  One of my favorites is Culver City, California, 2006, which has so many wonderful verticals, each leaning in slightly different directions.  I have a particular fondness for the delicate gaps between some of the verticals and the diagonal utility lines.

Jesús de Francisco, Culver City, California, 2006

The Patina of History

I’ve been looking at Daniel Blaufuks new book Terezín, wondering what to say.  What kind of adjectives are appropriate to use for a book of photographs and texts that deal with the concentration camp Terezín (also known as Theresienstadt)?   Handsome?  Beautiful?   Lush?   These are some of the adjectives that I would use, but I hesitate.  Haunting?  Austere?  These also apply – and seem less problematic.  What’s my problem here?

Daniel Blaufuks uses photography and words to meditate on the seductive trappings that masked horror and cruelty: the architectural order, the charts, the translation of victims into simple mathematics, the idyllic Nazi propaganda film Theresienstadt , which showed the camp as a model prisoner village.

Blaufuks was first drawn into the history of Terezín through a single image reproduced in W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz (spread across pages 284-5 in the American edition).

The photograph is a badly printed, grainy grey and white image towards the end of the book, almost like a photocopy.  It portrays a space that seems to be an office.  There is a worktable in the middle of the room with four chairs around it.  A small desk with a chair is near the right wall and there is a clock above it on the wall, positioned so that whoever is sitting at the desk is always aware of the constant movement of time.  The desk has drawers on the right side.  Below the clock there is a small unidentifiable object, probably a heater control device.  There is a wide open door almost in the centre of the image, but we cannot see anything outside the room, we have no clue as to where this space is located.

Light is coming in from the left side of the image, in such a way that one immediately becomes aware of the existence of a window opposite the door, although it is outside the image.  The light falls directly on the empty table and the shadows on the wooden floor are long, giving the impression that the picture was taken in the late afternoon.

According to the clock it is exactly six o’clock.

These are the watchful observations of a photographer ferreting out clues from the lighting, passively noting the objects visible, focusing in on the idiosyncrasy that just might be the telltale sign of something more profound or disturbing.

As Blaufuks’ photographs remind us, the remnants of Terezín’s architecture and the traces of its dead have the same patina of history as any other object from any other moment in the past.   We have become accustomed to the visual richness of abandonment, to photographs of peeling paint and old walls bubbling with moisture.  Blaufuks addresses this conundrum by making some of the photographs so beautiful we become acutely uncomfortable.  How can the environment that produced the Holocaust be beautiful, so seductive?  This is one of the central problems that Sebald wrestled with: both history and memory are reductive, erosive, equalizing.

Blaufuks’ response to this dilemma is, in part, to try to insert something new into the situation to try to bring the past to life.  He uses a set of diaries written between 1926 to 1930, which are introduced in the same mysterious manner in which accidental events and coincidences enter Sebald’s stories at timely moments

By a strange series of coincidences, the diaries of Ernest K. came into my possession in the winter of 2001.

The diaries look real, but is the story that Blaufuks tells of them real?  We never know and we don’t need to know.  “K.”, as Blaufuks refers to him, was an assimilated Jew living in Berlin and dating a non-Jewish woman.  In some intimate detail, he records his daily life, his trips to Paris and Switzerland, the death of his father.  The diaries also contain preserved objects: some loose photographs, scraps of paper, a lock of hair, a view of mountains.  Blaufuks examines each of these miniature puzzles, which give rise to more questions than conclusions.  Blaufuks tells us he pursued the story of K. to learn that he “was taken with his mother to the camp of Theresienstadt in the summer of 1942.”  Blaufuks thinks again of the photograph of the room in Sebald’s book and imagines K.’s name “typed on one of the endless files in that room.”

Terezín interweaves Blaufuk’s photographs of Terezín and of the diaries, their contents, and other Theresienstadt items, with film stills from Theresienstadt.  The stills take two forms: traditional black and white frames, often including subtitles, and haunting, red-tinted images of faces that Blaufuks lifted from the film. Just as Jacques Austerlitz searched the very same film for images of his mother, who was transported to Theresienstadt, Blaufuks wanted to search all of the faces for an image of K.

I needed to try to create some truth out of the falsity and out of those staged images.  Was everything fake here or could we at least trust some of the expressions on these faces?  Were these moments of happiness in the midst of chaos and despair or plain acting in front of a camera, just like in some of our later family home movies.

To understand how images can still lie even when we think we know the truth about them.

Terezín concludes with an essay on the film Theresienstadt by Karel Margry, which was originally published in a scholarly journal in 1992.  The volume includes a DVD of the film.  More on this aspect of the book at a later date.

Daniel Blaufuks, Terezín.  Steidl, 2010.

Sebald, Snape Maltings, and Smith (as in Patti)

Located in the beautifully-named town of Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh Music is planning a weekend of film, music, conversation, and walks devoted to W.G. Sebald from January 28-30, 2011 called After Sebald – Place and Re-Enchantment: A Weekend Exploration.  Aldeburgh Music is a permanent performance center that has emerged out of the Aldeburgh Festival established in 1948 by Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears, and Eric Crozier.  (In his recent book The Rest Is Silence, music critic Alex Ross made a brief but strong connection between Sebald and Britten.)  Below are some of the details of the weekend, which I’ve extracted from the organization’s website.  Additional details can be found at Aldeburgh Music’s website under the individual events.  Here’s the link to the main page.

Friday 28 January
Patience (After Sebald) – World Premiere
Written and directed by the award-winning filmmaker Grant Gee, Patience (After Sebald) is a multi-layered essay film on landscape, art, history, life and loss.  It offers a unique exploration of the life, work and influence of W.G. Sebald (1944–2001) via a long walk through coastal East Anglia tracking The Rings of Saturn. Visually and aurally innovative, Patience features contributions from Tacita Dean, Robert Macfarlane, Katie Mitchell, Rick Moody, Andrew Motion, Chris Petit, Iain Sinclair and Marina Warner.  After the screening, Grant Gee will be in conversation with prize-winning writer on place, Robert Macfarlane (The Wild Places).

Saturday 29 January
Towards Re-Enchantment – Symposium
A day-long enquiry into the landscapes of Suffolk, the spirit of place and its various meanings, taking Sebald as its foundation. Presentations, discussions
and readings with Robert Macfarlane and other leading writers.

Saturday 29 January
Max: A Tribute by Patti Smith
Internationally renowned for her visionary creativity and commitment, the iconic musician, poet, writer and cultural activist Patti Smith needs no
introduction. In an exclusive concert created for this weekend, she will respond to Sebald’s book-length poem After Nature in an intimate evening of song and spoken word performance.

Sunday 30 January
Orford Ness Walk

This singular landscape has inspired many artists, including Sebald, whose visit, recorded in The Rings of Saturn, captures perfectly its unsettling presence and buried past. Take advantage of a very rare opportunity to explore this haunting location in the heart of winter.

Tickets. Weekend tickets (best tickets, excluding Walk and Lunch) are available at £55. Only Weekend tickets will be available from Wednesday 1 September; booking for individual events opens Monday 18 October.

More on Grant Gee’s film:

Grant Gee’s film Patience (After Sebald) is part of a new series of commissions from a group called artevents as part of their project The Re-Enchantment:

The Re-Enchantment is the first national project exploring culture and the rural through original artistic commissions. This ambitious project seeks to interrogate the various meanings of ‘place’ in the twenty first century.  At a time when globalisation, the implications of extreme environmental change and the multiple alienations of modern society all threaten our sense of belonging, the importance of ‘place’ to the enhancement of identity and creative possibility in life and art cannot be underestimated. The Re-Enchantment aims to deliver an imaginative response through art, live performance, film and writing to one of the most pressing issues facing the contemporary world.

Note: On Saturday September 11, Gee will talk about his film with writer and critic Chris Darke and apparently will show clips at The British Library, as part of a one-day program Landscaping: Artists, Maps and Britain.