The German Projects (Munich as a Playground), 2004-2014

In June 2004, Sharone Lifschitz won the international competition initiated by the City of Munich to create an artwork for the inauguration of the Jewish Museum Munich. Chantal Akerman and Ken Lum were also on the list of 10 artists who were invited to submit proposals. With this started a collaboration between the Jewish Museum, the City of Munich and the artist that unfolded in several projects for over a decade. Together, these projects, as well as Sleeping Germany, form an enquiry into the nature of encounter, personal and collective memory, trauma and public space. The works redefine the discourse of memory in public space as not only the memory of those who experienced the events, but also the generations of German people (in the most expanded definition of the term) who carried their own body of personal, familial and collective memories, emotions and experiences in relation to those events.


 Sleeping Germany (2000-02) and Speaking Germany (2004-08) do not refer directly to the atrocities of the Third Reich.  Instead, both projects attempt to find out what is actually remembered by individuals and to trace the ways in which Germans relate to their past. The projects consciously move away from the weighty physicality of absence used in the Counter-Monument movement, into the dialogical mundanity of human exchanges, and the rereading of memory and trauma within public spaces through personal encounters.


Memorial as Parasite (2008) then builds upon the notion of the presence of absence in a more direct way. If I Were to Forget You (2014)  then attempts to create a film that functioned as an urban monument by tracing, through conversations, the absence of four Jews who grew up in Munich but who left Germany in the 1930s. In the resulting film, their memories surface over images from the contemporary, rebuilt post-war City of Munich.


This body of work addresses the tradition of the Counter-Monument movement and negotiates its own territory in relation to the abstract and physical qualities of many of Counter-Monument movement seminal works.

Sleeping Germany, 2000–02; 2013, Mixed media

Speaking Germany, 2004–08, Mixed media

In 2004, Lifschitz won a competition organized by the municipality to create a work of public art to accompany the opening of the Jewish Museum Munich. Lifschitz began the project by placing the following advertisement in several German newspapers: “Young Jewish woman visiting Germany would like to have a conversation about nothing in particular with anyone reading this.” She subsequently traveled throughout Germany to meet forty-five out of the nearly 200 people who had responded, documenting the various encounters with photographs of the tables where they shared a drink or a meal, and with transcriptions of their conversations.

 

These conversations provided the raw material for posters and billboards that Lifschitz produced and that were placed like advertisements within the public transportation network and in prominent locations throughout Munich during the months preceding the new Museum’s opening in March 2007. This citywide intervention culminated in extracts from the conversations being placed on the glass facades of the Jewish Museum’s exterior. A dedicated website, www.speaking-germany.de, a photographic series, and a video Munich in Four Courses, documenting the stages of the project and the reactions it engendered completed the work.

 

Memorial as Parasite, 2009
Shortlisted proposal for the Munich competition “New Forms of Remembrance for the Victims of National Socialism”
Digital print collages on paper
With Annika Grafweg

 

In 2008, Lifschitz was invited by the city of Munich to take part in a competition for “New Forms of Remembrance for the Victims of National Socialism.” Working together, Lifschitz and architect Annika Grafweg wanted to understand the relation of Munich’s residents to their city, its history, and existing memorials. To that end, they organized workshops for local young people that gave rise to individual temporary memorials (paper and bamboo constructions) placed in key locations around the city, commemorating a particular person or group of individuals chosen by each participant. From this experience, Lifschitz and Grafweg developed their proposal: a sequence of temporary, yearlong “disappearances” of city landmarks, each commemorating a specific person or group of people. Among the suggestions for the obscured landmarks were columns in the facade of the National Theater, the view of the pond and the Japanese Tea House in the English Garden, and one of the lions in front of the Royal Residence. Lifschitz and Grafweg sought to evoke the memory of the victims by creating absences within the urban fabric, rather than by adding a new memorial structure to the existing cityscape.

If I Were to Forget You, 2013–14, Single-channel HD video, 46'00''
With Graham Westfield

How is memory carried over a lifetime? In an attempt to understand this, Lifschitz speaks with one man and three women who were born in Munich and became refugees from Nazi Germany. The conversations reveal what is remembered and what is forgotten about the Munich of their childhood and youth. The camera captures the subjects in their contemporary surroundings, at home in New York, London, Jerusalem, and Kedumim (West Bank). These scenes are interspersed with footage of places from their respective pasts in Munich and Bavaria that was shot by artist Graham Westfield in 2013. Lifschitz was interested in exploring the relationship between the surface of contemporary Munich and the histories  obscured beneath the reconstructed, seemingly restored, postwar city.

Smiling at You
Sharone Lifschitz: Works 2000–2014

Exhibition: 26. February – 9. June 2014
Curators: Emily D. Bilski, Bernhard Purin
Exhibition Design : Juliette Israël

In 2014, The Jewish Museum Munich mounted a solo exhibition of the work of Sharone Lifschitz. The exhibition was in two parts with one gallery showing the four projects of Munich as Playground, and the second gallery  showing a selection of works and projects. The show was accompanied by a catalogue published by Kehrer with texts by Emily Bilski, Nina Pearlman, Heidemarie Uhl and a conversation between JMM director Bernhard Purin and Sharone Lifschitz