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Posts from the ‘W.G. Sebald’ Category

Towards a Sebaldian Cinema

Fritz Lang M

Film still from Fritz Lang’s M (1931)

I urge you to scoot over to Adam Scovell’s website & blog Celluloid Wicker Man and soak in his excellent recent post “Echoes & Imprints: Towards A Sebaldian Cinema,” which is an edited transcript of a talk he gave at Norwich Castle on August 27, 2019 in conjunction with the exhibition “Lines of Sight: W.G. Sebald’s East Anglia.” Here’s how Scovell summarizes his own talk:

I’m going to talk about Sebald from three angles, all related to cinema. The first is to look at cinema as an influence on Sebald’s writing, his relationship to cinema and even his own shadow-career as a would-be screenwriter. Moving on from this, the second section will look at Sebald’s influence on cinema as a subject after his death, looking in particular at documentaries about the writer and how making cinema with his work as a subject affected the way in which filmmakers approached the medium. And, finally, with this somewhat symbiotic relationship defined, we’ll conclude by looking at the potential of a Sebaldian cinema in itself; a cinema influenced by his atmospheres and methodologies but which uses them to create new work.

It’s a very stimulating piece and includes several film clips, one of which is Scovell’s own short film Heavy Water. Make sure to scroll all the way to the end of the piece to find links to other pieces Scovell has written about Sebald.

The Power of a Single Pinhole

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Jewish cemetery, Alderney Road

In the hands of an expert photographer, a single pinhole can serve to transform the world we normally see into something visceral, something that can play tricks with our sense of time. An exhibition of color pinhole photographs by Karen Stuke called “Wanderhalle: after Sebald’s Austerlitz” opens September 1 in Berlin at Kommunale Galerie Berlin (Hohenzollerndamm 176, 10713 Berlin). Here are the details from the website of the exhibition’s co-organizers The Wapping Project:

The Wapping Project in partnership with Kommunale Galerie Berlin and PhotoWerkBerlin restages its 2013 commission by German artist Karen Stuke responding to W.G. Sebald’s masterpiece Austerlitz (2001). The novel 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, cross-referencing information from the book with maps and records. At the crossroad between fact and fiction, she found when they existed, the places of Austerlitz’s story: the Prague gymnasium 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 Sebald’s narrative.

This body of work by Karen Stuke, originally entitled “Stuke – After Sebald’s Austerlitz,” was commissioned by The Wapping Project with funding from the Women’s Playhouse Trust. It was first exhibited in Wapping, London, from 12 October to 10 November 2013.

Karen Stuke (b. 1970) completed her studies in Photo and Film Design at the Bielefeld University of Applied Sciences. She took her first theatre photograph in the 1990s. Animated by the desire to capture the spirit of the play and its unfolding in time and space, she used a pin-hole camera and decided to expose a whole performance in a single photograph. Since then, Stuke has earnt an international reputation as an expert on the pin-hole camera, and collaborated with some of the most prestigious directors and theatres including Gottfried Pilz at the Vienna State Opera, Oper Leipzig, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Oper der Stadt Köln, Opéra Comique Paris and the Los Angeles Opera. She founded her own project space called Kronenboden in Berlin, where she focuses primarily on the intersections between visual and performing arts.

The exhibition is on view through October 27, 2019.

More on Karen Stuke here.

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Installation view of “Wanderhalle” at The Wapping Project, 2013.

Adam Scovell on the Two Sebald Exhibitions in Norwich

Norwich Castle

Norwich Castle

The two exhibitions celebrating what would have been the 75th birthday of W.G. Sebald continue their runs in Norwich. “Lines of Sight” at Norwich Castle runs until January 5, 2020, while “Far Away – But From Where?” at the Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts closes August 18 of this year. In the meantime, I highly recommend the outstanding piece of writing over at The Quietus by Adam Scovell, who reflects on what both exhibitions can tell us about Sebald. In “Circular Histories: The Contemporary Resonance Of W.G. Sebald,” Scovell observes that it has become increasingly difficult to write about Sebald. Not only has a “cottage industry” developed to write about Sebald, but “there’s an aura to his writing which is easy to become possessed by.”

Nevertheless, he writes, “I found the two exhibitions to earnestly show a more tangible, practical way to understanding the man and his work. For me, it highlights two key aspects to it: the ability to detect the darker elements of our shared pasts constantly threatening to repeat, and why his engagement with walking and place was dramatically different to the images typically, and often unfairly, associated with such perambulatory forms of writing.”

Go take a read.

Jane Benson’s “Song for Sebald”

Jane-Benson_detail

Detail of a “Song for Sebald” print, © Jane Benson

New York artist Jane Benson has been exhibiting a series of hand-cut archival inkjet-prints called “Song for Sebald.” In the exhibition, the prints are accompanied by music Benson has commissioned from Matthew Schickele. Here’s the full description from her website:

In “Song for Sebald,” Jane Benson explores the themes of separation and belonging through a radical encounter with the writer W.G. Sebald’s novel, The Rings of Saturn.  Benson begins with the physical text of the novel and a knife.  By carefully excising every part of the text except the syllables of the musical scale – do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti – she uncovers what we might call the “potential music” of Sebald’s prose:  a set of notes with a full tonal range hovering both inside and outside of the novel, untethered from the original text and radically disjointed within itself.  

From that point of radical excision and destruction, Benson moves to the process of re-creation. Benson actualizes the novel’s potential music through a process that links together author, artist, composer, and performer.  Each of the novel’s ten chapters produces a separate movement created collaboratively by composer Matthew Schickele; in each, the pace of the music is guided by the spaces between the excavated syllables (the spaces Benson has cut) and its emotive lyric determined by a set of improvisations guided by elements of Sebald’s prose.  Each chapter/movement has its own mood, dynamics, and process of creation, depending on the characters and themes of the original novel, and on interactive processes determined by Benson and Schickele.  The collaged recordings of each movement are encountered by viewers in sound pods equipped with headphones that are presented alongside each chapter of incised text, with the entire score played in the gallery daily at noon. 

Sebald’s experimental fiction and essays demonstrate a preoccupation with displacement, foreignness, and extraterritoriality, reflecting his own experience of self-imposed exile from his native Germany.  Both thematically and formally, Sebald’s prose reflects its author’s experience of radical dislocation; his narrators often seem to stand apart from their physical and textual surroundings, the stories they tell – at once personal and impersonal – reflect the creative potential of estrangement and disorientation. 

Benson’s work explores and expands this same creative potential; her elaborate and multi-stage process creates gaps and absences in order to stitch them together over time and across media, in a process of collaboration that links together nationalities, disciplines, genders, and fields of creative work.  In this, Song for Sebald not only gestures toward the work of a single author, but also speaks with urgency to our present international moment, in which the plight – and the promise – of displaced persons has become more important than ever before.

At Benson’s website, you can see all of the images and hear an eleven minute sample of Schickele’s haunting and spare music. (And yes, Matthew Schickele is the son of Peter Schickele, the sometimes comedic composer.)

The Guardian Reading Group Picks Sebald for June

Sebald Emigrants Harvill First

The monthly reading group of the British newspaper The Guardian, led by Sam Jordison, has selected W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn as its book for this month. You can read about the details here.

Sebald Program on BBC 3’s”Free Thinking”

Sebald walking

“W.G. Sebald as the narrator”
© The W. G. Sebald Estate

BBC Radio 3’s program Free Thinking has recently put out on episode that includes a nice segment on W.G.Sebald. The first 18 1/2 minutes of the 48-minute program, “Sebald, Anti-semitism, Carolyn Forche” is devoted to a discussion of Sebald by Adam Scovell, Philippa Comber, Dr Seán Williams, and host Laurence Scott. Here’s the full blurb from the program’s website:

Adam Scovell, Philippa Comber and Sean Williams discuss the influence of the German writer WG Sebald who settled in Norfolk. His novel The Rings of Saturn follows a narrator walking in Suffolk, and in part explores links between the county and German history and emigrants. “Lines of Sight: W.G. Sebald’s East Anglia,” an exhibition celebrating the work of the author W.G. Sebald on the 75th anniversary of his birth runs at Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery 10 May 2019 – 5 January 2020 in collaboration with The University of East Anglia. Adam Scovell is a film critic and author whose new novella is called Mothlight. Dr Seán Williams is a New Generation Thinker who teaches Germanic Studies at the University of Sheffield. Phillippa Comber is the author of Ariadne’s Thread – In Memory of W.G. Sebald and “In This Trembling Shade,” ten poems set to music as a song cycle.

 

“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.

Sebald-Image-Translation Symposium May 10-11, 2019

Julian Study Centre

Julian Study Centre, UEA

In addition to the two upcoming exhibitions celebrating what would have been the 75th birthday of W.G. Sebald, there will be a symposium this Friday and Saturday at the Julian Study Centre Lecture Theatre, University of East Anglia, Norwich. Here are the details from its website:

On Friday evening May 10, 5-6.30 pm, Daniel Hahn will be hosting a panel discussion on “Translating W.G. Sebald,” with translators Jo Catling (UEA), Radovan Charvat (Czech Republic), Teresa Ruiz-Rosas (Peru) and Ulrika Wallenström (Sweden).

On Saturday 11 May the symposium program is as follows:

11.00   Tea/Coffee

11.15   Welcome (Jo Catling, Duncan Large)

Richard Hibbitt (Leeds) – “W.G. Sebald: English, French, German, Swiss”

12.00   Jo Catling (UEA) – “Hidden Translation, Absent Images: W.G. Sebald and Translation”

12.45   Stephen Watts (London) – “W.G. Sebald: European Artist”

1.15     Buffet lunch

2.00     Lynn Wolff (Michigan State) – “Translating W.G. Sebald’s Method into Words and Images”

2.45     “W.G. Sebald in conversation with Maya Jaggi and Anthea Bell” (audio recording)

Round Table with Friends and Colleagues of W.G. Sebald

3.50     End

Both events are free, but please e-mail bclt@uea.ac.uk if you are planning to attend.

Lines of Sight

6.SebaldExhibitionEastAnglianLandscapewithShadow©TheW.G.SebaldEstate

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.

Approximations

Uwe Annaherungen

Portrait of Sebald by Marc Volk, 1992.

Uwe Schütte has written a new book about W.G. Sebald called Annäherungen (“Approximations”) to mark what would have been Sebald’s 75th birthday on May 18, 2019. This highly personal book by Schütte, a former PhD student of Sebald’s, comprises seven non-academic essays which aim to reflect a portrait of the author’s nonconformist personality and idiosyncratic texts. Avoiding the standard Sebaldian topics such as memory, exile, the Holocaust, trauma and so on, Schütte’s essays in Annäherungen deal with subjects like Sebald’s love of trees and his fascination with fire. He examines Sebald’s deep attachment to animals, explores the huge significance of his grandfather on his writings, and tries to characterize his extraordinary role as an academic. Annäherungen casts seven very different spotlights on Sebald. The essays–each beginning with a pertinent, often rare photographic image–illuminate previously unknown aspects of Sebald’s writings and open up new connections.

The book has been published by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht Verlage.