“Inquisition Plaza and Jewish Ghetto, Lisbon”
Created between 2008-2011 in Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Finland and Russia, Prophecy of Place presents kaleidoscopic portraits of the astonishing and often invisible histories hidden at the heart of communities where Jews encountered exile, shelter and trauma.
Traversing 10 centuries, eight countries and five languages, the exhibition is a deeply immersive engagement with the legacy of Jewish survival and the struggle with other cultures through luminous, prismatic, multi-part contemporary photographs of villages, cities, shtetls and camps – sites where Jews have faced devastating attacks or attempts at cultural annihilation.
The works reverberate with contrasting abstractions of man-made, natural and ephemeral elements that reveal medieval cities, ancient forests or fields of wildflowers where thousands of people were persecuted or killed: the fields outside Strasbourg where mobs burned Jews accused of spreading plague; the Inquisition Plaza in the Jewish ghetto of Lisbon; the unmarked site of the Forced-Sex Brothel at Dachau; mass execution sites in the forests of Lithuania; and the disquietingly tranquil facades of Nazi medical facilities in Berlin.
“As historian and artist, I’m intrigued by human and ecological echoes at places fractured by trauma and political violence–sites of communal catastrophe that bear often invisible records of deep traumatic emotion. I look for points of intimacy and tenderness in these places on the earth that seem to utterly deny safety and comfort,” said Wikswo. “Inlocations with particularly painful histories, a certain resurrection of luminosity and beauty seems to me both absurd and essential.”
Included within Prophecy of Place are more than 35 large-format, multi-panel photographs; 10 video installations integrating poetic text, field recordings, and original music by prominent collaborating composers; and an interactive assemblage of artifacts and talismans. Visitors will have the opportunity to use a typewriter to leave notes, poems and prayers beneath polished black rocks on the table overlaid with a shifting projection of the artist’s poetry.
“Quintan Ana Wikswo is a gifted and original artist who creates stunningly beautiful and moving imagery of places with horrifically ugly provenance and background,” added Dr. Jacob Wisse, director of YU Museum. “The tension within her work reflects back movingly on recent and not-so-recent Jewish history, playing an important role of memorialization while also suggesting the possibility of a more hopeful and humane future. I think visitors to the exhibition will be struck and touched by the beauty and power of Wikswo’s work.”