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Fragments of Memory

Fragments of Memory reflects on history and memory in Lemberg/Lwów/Lviv, a city in present-day Western Ukraine what was formerly Austro-Hungarian Empire, Eastern Poland, Soviet Union. The project was launched at Lviv’s Museum of Ideas in September 2017, took part at Dash Café: Lviv on the borders of Europe at London’s RichMix in January 2018 and at Krakow’s FestivALT in June 2018.

The project started as an investigation into the circles of Debora Vogel, an overlooked intellectual, writer and art critic of the 1920s-30s Lviv, this inspiring metropolis for modernist thought in arts, literature and science, as well as a place of social and ethnic conflicts. It was among Lviv intellectuals and artists, during the period of rising chauvinism and anti-semitism, that the idea of an inclusive and open culture was formed. Their redemptive and progressive vision was brutally squashed in the Holocaust, and yet not entirely extinguished. Fragments of it survive, shards which are like sparks, to be discovered through scavenging, collecting and juxtaposing.

Throughout 2015-2017, together with a musician and composer Olesya Zdorovetska, we walked the places Vogel inhabited and wrote about, met people who survived the war or who were born long after and reconnected with the vanished world. We encountered the story of the former Lviv Jewish museum (1934-1939), a derelict building at risk at the time we documented it in the Summer 2016. Will be history obliterated and all memory erased yet again by the recent 2017/18 controversial renovation that might result in turning the building into a hotel? What is remembered and what is forgotten? How do you talk about what you can’t know? The work that resulted from this voyage is concerned with the fragmented nature of memory, the presence and absence of people, personal stories pointing to Lemberg/Lwów/Lviv.

Vogel became this figure who epitomised Lviv as a microcosm of Europe’s 20th century and my own concept of European identity – the melting pot of different mentalities, cultures and ethnicities, in which I was looking for myself. Her 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 German, Hebrew, Polish and Yiddish, Vogel 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.