As Walter Benjamin writes, “memory is not an instrument for exploring the past but its theatre. It is the medium of past experience, just as the earth is the medium in which dead cities lie buried.”4 Employing theatrical means to craft an experience that moves beyond theatre into a different dimension, Woodley creates an impermanent memorial to a lost world. The temporary apparition of the Berlin apartment inside the sacred space inscribes itself into the ritual role of the synagogue, which is, in the artist’s view, a theatre of remembrance. However, while religious ritual and historic accounts have a predilection for the dramatic, what is remembered here is not the extraordinary and the mythic, but rather the forgotten mundane realm, elevated to symbolic status.
The true picture of the past flits by. The past can be seized only as an image which flashes up at the instant when it can be recognized and is never seen again. […] For every image of the past that is not recognized by the present as one of its concerns threatens to disappear irretrievably.5
Commemorating the sphere of the secular and the everyday, Auguststrasse 25 attempts to sketch a missing trace and provide a fleeting memory of what was completely eradicated by the Nazi regime. The fragility of this recreated moment echoes that of the world evoked. For the duration of the exhibition, the shifting natural light and the choices of the actor alter the manifestation of the piece every day. Once the project ends, the memorial itself remains only a vanishing record in the minds of those who have seen it. Far from being set in stone, it is an image as transient as a photograph fading in time. Gradually, the memory will be buried again.
1 German radio audiences increased at a rapid pace by the mid-twenties and Berliners accounted for a large part of the avid listeners. Station directors were compelled to prioritize popular culture, education and entertainment programming, which encouraged original productions for the acoustic medium. This led to the development of a new genre: the radio play (Hörspiel). Two of the most revolutionary plays of the period are featured in the installation, alternating with the music of Hugo Wolf, Mahler and Schoenberg. One is Alfred Döblin’s adaptation of his famous novel, Berlin Alexanderplatz; the other is SOS…rao rao…Foyn: “Krassin” Saves “Italia”, written by the Communist playwright Friedrich Wolf. Through this new audio play surprisingly accepted by the Berlin station, the Internationale aired for the first time on German radio.
2 Woodley’s recordings of Eve Egoyan rehearsing the piano accompaniment of the andante movement of Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata and Schubert’s Impromptu Op. 142, No. 1 in F Minor, D 935.
3 Lilli Jahn’s surviving letters were published by her grandson and editor of the German magazine Der Spiegel, Martin Doerri, in the biography My Wounded Heart: The Life of Lilli Jahn, 1900-1944. Originally published in Germany as Mein Verwundetes Herz (Munich: Deutches Verlags-Anstalt, 2002), the English translation was published in 2004 by Bloomsbury, New York.
4 Walter Benjamin, Selected Writings, Volume 2, Part 2, 1931-1934, Berlin Chronicle (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005), 611.
5 Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays and Reflections (New York: Shocken Books, 1978), 255.
Auguststrasse 25 was created by E.C. Woodley with:
Actor: Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman
Set Design: Teresa Przybylski
Lighting Design: Jason Hand
Meredith Woodley, Denise Cronenberg, Susan Dicks, Marjorie Fielding, Eve Egoyan, Lance Schibler, Daniel Pellerin, John Steinberg
E.C. Woodley is an alumnus of the Manhattan School of Music and the Royal Conservatory of Music. He apprenticed in London, England with composer Michael Kamen, writing music and arrangements for Terry Gilliamʼs film Brazil. Recent music work includes film scores, sound design and theatre compositions for many award-winning productions. In 2005, Woodley won a Dora Award for That Time, a series of five short Samuel Beckett plays directed by Jennifer Tarver. As the creator and host of The Lost and Found on Toronto radio station CKLN-FM, Woodley has broadcast his original audio collages monthly for the past several years. Audio collage on CD includes A Ward of the Government (1992) and the soundscape work Abide with me (New York No. 1) (1995). His critical writings appear in Canadian Art, Border Crossings and Art in America. He recently curated the exhibition Fernand Leduc, 1970 – 1999 for the Olga Korper Gallery. E.C. Woodley is based in Toronto and Amsterdam.
Design and editing: Tony Hewer | Photography: Isaac Applebaum
Digital publication to the exhibition E.C. Woodley: Auguststrasse 25
Presented by the Koffler Gallery Off-Site at the Kiever Synagogue, Toronto | April 22 to May 30, 2010
Curator: Mona Filip
© Koffler Centre of the Arts, 2010, in collaboration with the individual contributors. All rights reserved.