A boot from the installation which will be happening at Bath Jewish Burial Ground resonates with the Orwellian culture wars currently rumbling in the city.
Sydney Gardens Gala…. a skirmish in the culture wars
On September 11 I was planning to split my day between setting up the Honouring Esther installation and hosting a couple of walks in Sydney Gardens, Bath. This was to have been a reprise of the work I completed last November on Botany, Empire and Deep Time. I was looking forward to another chance to use the blue tooth headset/‘silent disco’ kit that had worked so splendidly last year hosting a sound walking and questioning experience. It was to have been presented as a Victorian spectacle by the ‘gentleman Perambulist’ himself, weaving amid fancy-dress red coated dragoons and crowds of make-believe Jane Austens towards the lost grotto and back. Sadly within a few days of the invitation being made it was withdrawn and I was informed that certain unnamed ‘powers-that-be’ considered the content ‘inappropriate for a celebratory event’.
What had begun as an invitation to make a contribution to telling the stories of Sydney Gardens in an innovative way ends in the resurgence of the White silence. Sure, some of those stories are still uncomfortable for some people but I think they need to be heard. Evidently some people prefer an induced amnesia and wish the stories and the questions that arise to remain unheard.
We'll see what the Lottery evaluators make of that!
Sunday 11 September, Honouring Esther, an installation,
Bath Jewish Burial Ground 11.00-16.00
A sound and moving image installation in the old cottage alongside the Burial Ground, the ‘prayer room’, showing digital work originally presented as part of the Forced Walks: Honouring Esther exhibitions. The Somerset cycle of walks in 2015 finished at here on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Bergen Belsen concentration camp, it will be poignant to reflect on the work today: after Brexit, with the far right in power and close to power across Europe and as the Home Office’s Hostile Climate continues undiminished. The project was co-hosted with my partner, artist, Lorna Brunstein. At the time we were shocked how our walking-in-witness referencing a Nazi Death March appeared to visually resonate with the tv shots of refugees walking through the fields of eastern Europe. What will we make of it seven years on?
The route of the opening two-day walk for Honouring Esther was determined by the transposition of the route of a Nazi death march to Somerset, we walked on public rights of way as close to that route as possible. We used that core route as we were retracing part of the journey Lorna's mother, Esther was forced to take from Lodz, Poland, via Auschwitz, to the infamous concentration camp at Bergen Belsen. Walking 70 years later in Somerset it became our journey too, a number of you on this list took part and contributed to that experience. Where the line of the route in Somerset crossed the imagined line of the death march we stopped, listened to testimony, talked, asked questions and shared. Lorna and I co-hosted that walk and a year later we hosted a further walk on the actual route of the death March in Germany. More than a walk-in-witness the cycle of walks inspired by Esther Brunstein’s commitment to social justice the project continues to generate profound conversations about the resurgence of fascism and threats to human rights.
The installation media is a series of short immersive films and soundscapes I produced using field footage gathered by walkers from the walks in Germany and Somerset, including media gathered by myself and a team from Bath Spa University. We are really excited to be showing the work again in Bath and we extend a welcome to all and especially to those who joined us on the walks in Germany and Somerset. We will be there through the day. The Honouring Esther archive is here.
We are grateful to the Bath Jewish Burial Ground for the invitation to exhibit as part of the Combe Down Art trail (venue 7), and for the continuing support of Bath Spa University for this project.