Karen Stuke, After Sebald's Austerlitz

Art installation explores the novel's relationship to time, place and photography
Antwerp Station, Belgium. Photograph: Karen Stuke
St. Clemens Hospital, London. Photograph: Karen Stuke
Jewish Cemetery, Alderny Road, London. Photograph: Karen Stuke
Wilsonovo nádraží, Prague. Photograph: Karen Stuke
Journey. Photograph: Karen Stuke
Liverpool Street Station, London. Photograph: Karen Stuke
Journey. Photograph: Karen Stuke
Home in Prague. Photograph: Karen Stuke
Installation view, The Wapping Project, London, 2013
Installation view, The Wapping Project, London, 2013
Installation view, The Wapping Project, London, 2013
From the website of artist Karen Stuke:
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-20th century 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. [Read More]

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