12 Bernstein

It was in the Summer 2016 when I first encountered the story of the derelict building at 12 Sholem Aleichem street (formerly Bernstein street). I came to Lviv to research Debora Vogel and her literary and artistic circles of the inter-war period. Wherever I turned I seemed to hear about the building – Google, resources at the Lviv Centre for Urban History, ad-hoc chats with people at the Centre.

Off I went to find the building. The door was locked. A sign БIБЛIОТЕКА (‘library’) on the adjacent building №14 was my route in – I walked in and sneaked at the back. 

14 Bernstein street, 21 July 2016 (photos by Asya Gefter)

Crumbling walls separating the two buildings №14 and №12, a relatively recent  (January 2015) communist newspaper with a picture of Lenin, some sort of a target shooting board, bits and pieces scattered around.

A couple weeks later Alena Andronatiy called and announced she got the keys to the building. The three of us – Alena, Olesya and myself – met. The world outside stopped to exist when we entered. I lost the sense of time. But we live in the digital age when everything is recorded. The first photograph was taken at 16:30:08, the last one at 17:27:47. It lasted less than an hour what seems a century. The building became a character in our project and film. 

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The Lviv Jewish museum was opened on 17 June 1934 in the building of the Jewish community on 12 Bernstein street. It immediately became a noticeable phenomenon in the cultural life of the multiethnic Galicia. Its collection included religious artefacts of the 17th-19th centuries (Maksymilian Goldstein Judaica collection) andmodern art.

The custodian of the museum was Ludwik Lille, artist and connoisseur of Jewish relics. He joined Artes, an avant-garde art group which tried surrealism, symbolism, abstractionism, cubism, constructivism and other movements which were in fashion in the European art of that timeheld exhibitions at the Jewish Museum and Vogel wrote about matters close to their area of interests; Henryk Streng, another member of Artes, illuminated Vogel’s prose collection Acacias Blooms well as her poetry books Day Figures and Mannequins.

In early 1940 the communist regime liquidated the Jewish Museum, and its holdings were transferred to the collections of the Industrial Museum and other museums in LvivDespite all the efforts of the Museum administration to save Goldstein and his family, thewere murdered during the Aktion of November 1942.

The same fate as of Debora Vogel and her family.

Ukrainian employees of the Industrial museum saved the artifacts by hiding them in the basement. In 1944 they visited Pavlo Zholtovsky, the director of the newly created Museum of Ethnography and Arts and Crafts, and presented him with the antiquities. In 1948, after the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union issued the resolution “On the Struggle against Rootless Cosmopolitanism,” Zholtovsky received an order to destroy all Jewish artifacts. The Ukrainian scholar, risking his freedom and life, issued to the NKVD a false certificate attesting to the destruction of the antiquities, and then hid them in the attic of the museum.

The people of Lviv discovered the twice-saved collection only in 1990, when the art historian Dr. Faina Petryakova unveiled an exhibit dedicated to the Jewish material and spiritual heritage.

‘Relics of the Jewish World of Galicia’ exhibition is currently on display at the Lviv Ethnography Museum – the very collection that was housed at the Lviv Jewish Museum in the 1930s.

The building of the former Jewish Museum survived too but has become a victim of difficult politics in the Lviv Religious Jewish community in the post-Soviet independent Ukraine.

Will be history obliterated and all memory erased yet again by the recent 2017/18 controversial renovation that might result in turning it into a hotel?

‘sano-r, sana-ris, sana-tur’, 12 Bernstein street, 7 August 2016 (photo by Asya Gefter)

Lviv-London Double Impact

Join us at Pushkin House, London on November 14 for a special evening of imagery, history, words and music with London resident Asya Gefter, who has just launched the ‘Fragments of Memory’ project in Lviv, and Lviv resident Mark Tokar, double bass player and a key figure in the Ukrainian free jazz scene.

Over the past two years, Asya Gefter and Olesya Zdorovetska had been on a journey to discover Debora Vogel, an overlooked intellectual, writer, art critic, the Gertrude Stein of inter-war Lviv. They walked the places Vogel inhabited, exhibited and wrote about. They met people who survived the war and went on living, or were born long after and reconnected with the vanished world. They encountered the story of the former Lviv Jewish museum, a derelict building presently at risk. The work that resulted from this voyage is concerned with the presence and absence of people, with a discontinuous perception of poetic and physical spaces, with personal stories pointing to Lemberg/Lwow/Lviv for present and future generations.

Vogel’s experimental poetry, all written in the 1920s-30s, was, in the spirit of early 20th century European literature, radically avant-garde and attuned to all the modernist minimalisms. Being skilled in Hebrew, Yiddish and Polish, she published essays covering Lviv’s intellectual life and urban landscape, the role of women in society and art. Yet, her name has always been connected with the Polish prose stylist Bruno Schulz. Vogel’s own work received little attention during her life and after her death in Lviv ghetto in 1942.

‘Fragments of Memory’ exhibition at the Lviv Museum of Ideas, September 2017 (photo by Asya Gefter)

The multimedia exhibition was launched at the Lviv Museum of Ideas during the International Book Forum in September 2017. Project research and Lviv exhibition were supported by A-n Travel bursary (UK), Asylum Arts ‘Small Grant’ (US), Kickstarter Crowdfunding campaign, Lviv Book Forum and Lviv Museum of Ideas. The plan is to tour the exhibition and develop a website with project material in English, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, and Yiddish.

Lviv is not only about the past but also about the present. Mark Tokar will play and talk about contemporary music scene in Ukraine, his collaborations in Ukraine and internationally, including the multi-genre projects (visualisations, literature, performance) with Yuri Andrukhovych, one of the leading Ukrainian authors writing today. Among these projects: Endless Journey or Aeneid (multimedia collage based on Yuri Andrukhovych-Ivan Kotliarevskiy with the elements of lecture, concert and banquet). Albert, or the Highest Form of Execution (Albert was created on the base of eponymous story written by Yuri Andrukhovych. In the center of action there is the story of ingenious cheater Albert Vyrozemskiy who agrees to sell his soul to the devil to avoid death penalty. However, the agreement signed with blood did not work. One autumn day in 1641, he was publicly burned in the middle of the Rynok Square in Lviv.

From Pop Art to Community Arts

It has been an absolute joy to work with Peter Young on a film ‘From Pop Art to Community Arts: Hackney in the 1970s-80s’ commissioned for A British Museum Partnership exhibition ‘Warhol to Walker: American prints from pop art to today’.

This special exhibition explores the influence print movements have had on Hackney. Starting with the explosion of pop art in the 1960s, the exhibition displays works on loan from the British Museum by celebrated artists including Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Kara Walker alongside Hackney artists.

The film is displayed at the Hackney Museum from 11 July till 16 September 2017. Once the exhibition is over, the film will be available online. Watch this space!

I can’t thank enough our interviewees, the most wonderful Hackney activists, artists and researchers – Jess Baines, Neil Martinson, Alan May, Ingrid Pollard, Rene Rice, Red Saunders and Rebecca Wilson.

© Asya Gefter

Obsolete & Discontinued

This post is about my involvement in the Obsolete & Discontinued project driven every step of the way by Mike Crawford, London based photographer and expert printer. O&D has just had its first exhibition in the former textile plant warehouse Can Manyer at the Releva-T analogue photography festival in Vilassar de Dalt, Spain.

I met Mike Crawford a few years ago at PhotoChats darkroom where I have been involved in the archival project about the history of Chats Palace and the community arts in East London. Last year I was fixing the darkroom in the basement of what used be the Nevill Arms pub in Stoke Newington, and asked Mike to pop over. That chilly day in March I discovered a few packets of old photographic paper and was printing some tests.

And here comes Mike saying he has been been given boxes of expired paper (at least 20 or 30 years old) by a client from his late uncle’s darkroom. Mike shows me his first test prints to investigate the condition of the paper – some are in fine condition, others have heavy fog. The latter turn out to be amenable to lith developer – something that I later try with the foggy paper I found at the Nevill.

Mike says that he is currently having discussions with the London Alternative Photography Collective to share out the paper amongst the members. After seeing these results and putting together a comprehensive proposal, Mike unveils the idea at the LAPC meeting to give out batches of paper to photographic artists with an open brief to produce any type of work they wish. The idea is immediately appealing and many sign up to participate in the project, myself included. The rest is history!

Crimea of my family. Three generations of not asking and not telling. 

In September 2010 I was visiting a friend in Crimea. I went for long walks in the mountains overlooking the sea. Here and then I photographed and thought about my grandfather who was born and grew up near by. What was it like? I knew so little about his early years and so my imagination filled the void.

In April 2015, out of the blue, an email from my uncle popped up. Attached were the scans of four postcards sent by my great-grandmother shortly before she was killed in the mass-murder of Jewish population in Crimea in December 1941. It was the first time I heard about her. She had a name. She was a piano teacher.

Mike mentioned Kodak Bromide Grade 2 was possibly of military issue and so I decided to print the Crimea photograph taken in 2010 at the time when I did not know about my family past nor what was to come between Russia and Ukraine.

Obsolete and discontinued_Asya Gefter

Between land and sea

Happy to be part of the Inundation group exhibition at the Greenhouse Gallery that runs 13th May – 12th June and is part of Norfolk and Norwich Festival and Open Studios.

Dialogue between land and sea
Dialogue between land and sea. Norfolk coast, November 2015
The tide comes in and changes the border of the land
The tide comes in and changes the border of the land. Norfolk coast, November 2015

Alexandra Palace commission

During June and July 2015 Alexandra Palace commissioned me to run a photography course ‘Give Your Future a Shot” for young people 16-25 as a part of their ‘War on the Home Front’ exhibition. This project, inspired by the use of Alexandra Palace as a refugee and internment camp during the First World War, was aimed at teaching participants how to use photography to give themselves a voice, uniting and intertwining this interesting period of history with the lives, experiences, and stories of young people today. Read more here.

© Asya Gefter / Alexandra Palace, 2015
© Asya Gefter / Alexandra Palace, 2015

London Radical Book Fair

The London Radical Bookfair 2015 in their second year running championed radical publishing – from its independent bookshops and publishers to its DIY-ers; the small press, self-publishers, and zinesters.

The LRB took over Bishopsgate Institute last year as the first event of its kind to bring together UK’s radical publishing and self-publishing communities. It was a joy and a privilege to be asked by Nik Górecki from Housmans Bookshop to document the fair once again, this time in a renovated Victorian warehouse at 47/49 Tanner Street near Tower Bridge.

‘Sarajevo exposures’ exhibition

Sarajevo Exposures

Here are the scanned versions of the darkroom prints and below are a few comments:

This is something really funny, exciting and full of emotions. (Ahmedin Huric)

The famous spirit of this city beautifully shown. (Azra)

Thank you. I enjoyed your perspective. (Djiki Djanka)

Beautiful and raw! Wonderful photos that captured the essence of life in Sarajevo. (Adriana)

I am impressed by “unwilling” capturing of multicultural richness of life in Sarajevo and elsewhere in this region! (Jasmina)

What you write about Sarajevo is so true! This place definitely has its own soul. I especially enjoyed the ‘double’ pictures – they show a complex-multicultural place. (Fanny)

So it is clear now that when we stop wanting to lead and manage everything, the best happens! Your ‘double pictures’ reveal a special atmosphere you get in Sarajevo. Probably photographers can show what words can’t. (Claire)

Poster exhibition at Chats Palace

Friday May 31st – Launch of the poster exhibition at Chats Palace from The Fragile Archivists

Come to the launch + live music the very day the Building turns 100!   more details here

   

community arts / free form / chatsworth road / music hall / inclusive theatre / homerton grove adventure playground / pensioner’s club / christmas shows / social benefits / disability arts / cabaret / political campaigns / hackney marsh fun festival / muppets / notting hill carnival / silkscreen printshop 

Games and toys in Ikakumo

My friend & linguist Sophie and I are putting out an exhibition of Ikakumo children’s photos and videos at SOAS, London (May 20-21) and PICS Festival 2013 at RichMix, London (June 8).

In July 2013, the exhibition will travel to Ikakumo and Ibadan, Nigeria.  Later in the year we plan to launch the dedicated project website and publish an online version of the exhibition catalogue. You all are very welcome to come along to the event near you!

Ikakumo exhibition for web