In this series, I have attempted to distill the symbolic and utilitarian essence of two iconic, monumental architectural structures, The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin and The Israeli West Bank Barrier, highlighting their metahistorical independence and interdependence. I have also sought simultaneously to explore and confront two of the darkest elements of my personal identity and familial history.
I am the daughter of a father who was born in the Hungarian-speaking region of the former Yugoslavia. The sole member of his family to survive the Holocaust, he escaped Europe to the newly founded State of Israel, which became for him not only a refuge but a guardian. His first home in Israel was the abandoned house of a Palestinian Arab family. I am also the daughter of an Israeli-born mother, a non-religious socialist and human rights advocate who saw herself as more of a Canaanite than a Jew.
In juxtaposing Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial with The Israeli West Bank Barrier, I have attempted to represent viscerally the tragic dichotomy inherent in the founding of Israel: the creation of a safe home for the historically victimized Jewish people and the displacement of the Palestinian people. I was drawn to depict these two monumental structures because of their symbolic resonance and literal physical architectures.
Dedicated in May 2005, on the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial commemorates the murder of six million Jews at the hands of Hitler and his Nazi forces. Designed by Peter Eisenman, it occupies 19,000 square meters of space near the Brandenburg Gate and is made up of 2,711 gray stone slabs of various heights that bear no markings. The Israeli West Bank Barrier is a border separation comprised of fences and vehicle-barrier trenches (90% of its length) and an 8 meter tall concrete wall (10% of its length) built partly along the1949 Armistice Line between Israel and the Palestinian West Bank. The barrier is referred to by Israelis as the Anti-Terrorist Fence and by Palestinians as the Apartheid Wall.
In the works that make up Dichotomy, I have depicted both structures, transforming them and, increasingly, abstracting them. I worked with a variety of materials: paper, Mylar, wood, and paint. The most representational work of the series, Dichotomy 1, is a mixed-media painting of oil and ink on Mylar. In painting a view of the memorial on one side of this juxtapositional work, I used one-point perspective to draw the eye into the distance of space and time. In painting the opposing barrier, I chose to depict it head-on, creating a two- rather than three-dimensional view. I wanted to signify that while the memorial commemorates an event in the past, the barrier functions in the present. The two edifices are, nevertheless, inextricably bound. I chose to use Mylar in this work and others for its semi-transparency and fragility--both qualities of which stand in paradoxical contrast with the actual stone and concrete of the wall and barrier--and because of my personal attachment to the material acquired during my years of training as an architect.
Dichotomy 5 is more abstract. In this work, and others, I have reduced my representations of the barrier and the memorial down to their essential lines and shapes, creating cut-outs of bookbinding paper and Mylar. The cut-outs draw the viewer’s eye to the negative shapes, thus giving the void a physical form. I chose to use cut-outs because the act of cutting can be perceived as violent, as well as emblematic of the disruption of both history and the continuity of life, which was endured by the Jews during the Holocaust (and throughout the course of their history) and is currently endured by the Palestinian refugees who fled Israel at the time of its founding. I chose to incorporate bookbinding paper into this work because, although it is fragile, it also has a contradictory restorative purpose--an implicit suggestion of the possibility of resolution.
Dichotomy 6 marks the start of my building a template that will serve as a maquette for a larger installation. In this work, I have even further abstracted the wall and memorial, stripping them almost completely of their reality and transforming them into a bold and vivid design. I was drawn to the idea of creating an abstract template, which can be to put to repeated use, because it evokes the idea of systematization, and concomitantly the dehumanization omnipresent in war. I have also used paper, here, which again contrasts with both edifices’ stone and concrete. The paper is suspended between two sheets of plexiglass in a black frame without a backing. Not having a backing in this work, and in others in the series, allows the wall upon which the piece is hung to become part of it. The positive shapes cast shadows on the wall, which draw the eye back and forth between the positive and negative spaces.
The wall upon which the pieces in this series are hung also evoke for me my personal here and now in Canada. Though the subject matter of this series is drawn from the politics of Israel and Palestine, I see this series as quintessentially Canadian: Moving to Canada in my late twenties, especially to multicultural Toronto, enabled me to gain the geographical and socio-cultural distance necessary to listen to and hear the voice of The Other--which is what is at the heart of this series.