Attempts to Enter History: Bending the Rules of Time in Rachel Marker’s Spaces of Memory

Posted by Alla Efimova on Thursday June 27 2013

A recent visitor to the world of Rachel Marker could not help but muse about the redemptive effect of “playing history like a great orchestra (rather than as a clock), which is what I think Rachel Marker has done.”

By Lisa Wurtele

Earlier in June, Andy Shanken, an architectural historian at U.C. Berkeley, visited the exhibition. His interest in cultural constructions of memory has yielded this unique response to the exhibition’s powerful combination of music, images and words that, together, allow us to transcend barriers of time and place so that we might better share in the past.

Andy putting pen to paper

He shared his reactions in a letter addressed to Moira Roth, creator of Through the Eyes of Rachel Marker:

Dear Moira,

With the light of historical events washing over my back, I write to you, to me, of you, of me, of us all.  Funny, the film of historical events that parallel Rachel Marker’s life, they end before I began. But that is only if we accept the rule of time. I, by sitting in this chair, take away a fragment of Kristallnacht, of the Russian Revolution, of the wars & cultural revolutions of the 20th C.

How sad Berlin seems—much more melancholy than the ruins themselves or the silver mirror or the old clock in Prague that was part of the first pivotal move to make the human animal submit to the idealized, rational time that is our ruin.

So I sit with Rachel Marker’s times (& time) and try to enter history, a time before me. And I wonder how we can turn the angel of history around? What kind of soul, or secular courage, would we require?

Through the montage comes Alice’s piano playing and her oh so klar German. We can close our eyes, but not our ears. And what we hear—notes, rhythms, tone—touches us ever so differently than light or than the clock. Music is time in our viscera, kept in our hearts, our stomachs, our bones. It need not have an iota of culture (in the sense of Dada or Kafka) or history (in the sense of war or revolution) to move us, to move us forward, to move us side to side, where we might bump elbows again with our neighbors, and come back to the time and history we share with them. This, perhaps, is where redemption lies, but could it not also come through playing history like a great orchestra (rather than as a clock), which is what I think Rachel Marker has done.



Andy (Professor Shanken) shared these photos that he took during a recent visit to some spots within the cultural-historical landscape of Rachel Marker’s world:

Drohobych Synagogue, Ukraine—The 2nd largest extant synagogue in Europe

Frowning Hangman Jew, Zamość, Poland

Moira's friend, Vika, at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England, where we went with Moira, and where time begins

Jewish Cemetery in the village of Fryzstak, Poland, where Vika's grandmother was born

REMINDER: Please join us TONIGHT, Thursday June 27, 2013, 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM

The Future of Rachel Marker: A Closing Program

Moira Roth in conversation with Alla Efimova and special guest John Farmer

Location: The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, 2121 Allston Way, Berkeley

See you there!

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Filed under: Random Musings

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