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Posts from the ‘W.G. Sebald’ Category

Recent Music & Photography that Make Linkages to Sebald

Merz TrioPhoto credit: Nile Scott

The adventurous Boston-based Merz trio named themselves after the nonsense word that German artist Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948) used for his collage and assemblage artworks that often included found objects. Their goal is to offer “passionate, original playing and thoughtfully curated programming, often in the form of interdisciplinary collaboration.” Two years ago they developed a project of chamber music paired with visual arts and readings from W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn. Here’s the program description from their website:

On November 5, 2017, Merz Trio launched its first season with a “walking tour” through German diasporic art. Audience members were encouraged to explore a once-familiar recital hall now transformed into a gallery-like space. Reproductions of visual art by Kurt Schwitters lined the room; each was paired with a spoken excerpt from W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn. Both the Schwitters and the Sebald commented on a core musical program of trios by Haydn, Schumann, and Johannes Maria Staud, weaving together a narrative of fragmented memory and reconstructed identity in two, distinct, German postwar environments. Listeners were encouraged to make their own connections between art, text, and music, while also experiencing the program of Austro-German classics through this unique and poignant lens.

There is a short YouTube excerpt from the program at their website. While Merz Trio doesn’t seem to be playing the Sebald-related program anymore, they are performing a program involving Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth at Boston’s Plympton-Shattuck Theater, Saturday, October 26.

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Belgium-based French photographer Bertrand Cavalier cites Sebald’s On the Natural History of Destruction for his interest in “the banality of space,” especially “brutalist architecture for its symbolic meaning of post-war trauma.” His work was recently featured on the website of the Photographic Museum of Humanity.

Concrete doesnt burn© Bertrand Cavalier

Berlin Book Launch for Uwe Schütte’s New Sebald Book

Uwe Annaherungen

On Thursday September 26 at 8:00 PM, there will be a book launch for Uwe Schütte’s new book Annäherungen – Sieben Essays zu W.G. Sebald. at the Literarische Buchhandlung Der Zauberberg, Bundesallee 133, 12161 Berlin. Here’s how to register to attend, according to the bookseller’s website:

Anmeldungen zu allen Veranstaltungen in der Buchhandlung unter 56 73 90 91 oder per E-Mail info@der-zauberberg.eu.  Eintritt: 5 Euro

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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”

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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.