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3 / History and Memory

Mulackstrasse 37, Berlin from The Writing on the Wall, Projections in Berlin’s Jewish Quarter
Mulackstrasse 37, Berlin from The Writing on the Wall, Projections in Berlin’s Jewish Quarter
Artist / Origin Shimon Attie (American, b. 1957)
Region: North America
Date 1993
Material Photograph (of slide projection)
Credit Photo courtesy of the artist

expert perspective

Shimon AttieArtist

Additional Resources

Apel, Dora. Memory Effects: The Holocaust and the Art of Secondary Witnessing. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2002.

Bernstein, M.A., and Erwin Leiser. The Writing on the Wall: Projections in Berlin’s Jewish Quarter / Shimon Attie, photographs and installations. Edition Braus, 1994.

Hornstein, Shelley, and Florence Jacobowitz. Image and Remembrance: Representation and the Holocaust. Indianapolis: Indiana University, 2002.

Saltzman, Lisa. Making Memory Matter: Strategies of Remembrance in Contemporary Art. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2006.

“Shimon Attie.” Jack Shainman Gallery Web site. http://www.jackshainman.com.

Young, James E. At Memory’s Edge: After-Images of the Holocaust in Contemporary Art and Architecture. New Haven: Yale University Press,

Mulackstrasse 37, Berlin from The Writing on the Wall, Projections in Berlin’s Jewish Quarter

» Shimon Attie (American, b. 1957)

Artist Shimon Attie uses photography, video, and installation to restore the memory of people and events forgotten by history.

In one of his best-known projects, The Writing on the Wall, Attie took his work to a once vital Jewish neighborhood in former East Berlin, where, he has said, he felt the latent presence of the long gone Jewish residents.

The neighborhood that Attie chose for his project was a seedy, desperately poor section of Berlin known as the Scheunenviertel, whose residents were among the first groups sent to Nazi concentration camps. While many German Jews before World War II were fully assimilated into the mainstream culture, the majority of Jews in Scheunenviertel were recent immigrants from Russia and Poland. In old black and white photos that Attie found through archival research, community members are seen wearing traditional clothes and posing near shop signs written in Hebrew and Yiddish. With the self-described goal of disrupting “the collective processes of denial and forgetting,” Attie took these photographs and projected them onto the same buildings that might have served as their backdrops sixty years earlier. Each projection stayed up for a few days, becoming a part of the present landscape as well as the past.

The installation project in Berlin lasted a year, but Attie gave it permanence through a series of photographs. These both documented the projections and, through the artist’s manipulation of composition and color, added layers of meaning to them. In this image, two young boys in tattered clothes are projected onto the wall at Mulackstrasse 37 (the photograph’s title is borrowed from this address). The ghostly appearance of the children, portrayed in black and white, is heightened by the saturated colors of modern Berlin in Attie’s photograph. Graffiti on the wall of number 37 reads: “What the war spared [did not survive socialism].” In the distance is the Fernsehturm, the tower for former East German state television, and on the left side of the building, ubiquitous scaffolding signifies the rebuilding of Berlin after the reunification. Attie’s image is, thus, a reminder not only of the active Jewish community that existed here before the Holocaust, but also of the difficulties in Berlin’s more recent past.

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