THE WRITING ON THE WALL
PROJECTIONS IN BERLIN’S JEWISH QUARTER
For The Writing on the Wall project, I slide projected portions of pre-war photographs of Jewish street in Berlin onto the same or nearby addresses today. By using slide projection on location, fragments of the past were thus introduced into the visual field of the present. Thus parts of long destroyed Jewish community life were visually simulated, momentarily recreated.
The projections were visible to street traffic, neighborhood residents, and passersby. As much of my art practice is a marriage between photography and installation art, during the course of the installations, I photographed the projections.
The Writing on the Wall project was realized in Berlin’s former Jewish quarter, the Scheunenviertel, located in the Eastern part of the city, close to the Alexanderplatz.
At the heart of Berlin, the Scheunenviertel was a center for eastern European Jewish immigrants from the turn of the century. The few historical photographs which remained after the Holocaust reflect the world of the Jewish working class rather than that of the more affluent and assimilated German Jews who lived mostly in the Western part of the city.
The Scheunenviertel today is a neighborhood undergoing rapid gentrification. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Scheunenviertel became the new chic quarter and frontier for many West Berliners. As a result, the neighborhood has seen a huge influx of new residents and capital from the West.
Within the course of only a few years, block after block of houses and buildings in the Scheunenviertel have become completely transformed. Most have been entirely renovated, from the inside out. Others have been transformed into fashionable and trendy bars and restaurants. As a result, the Scheunenviertel has become almost unrecognizable even in the few years since The Writing on the Wall project was realized in 1992-1993.
The “re-making” of the Scheunenviertel affects both Jewish as well as post-war East German collective memory and identity, as the last physical evidence of these histories is now disappearing as well.