2 November - 28 February
A person’s memories are comprised of recollections of their own experiences, and those that they have inherited through photographs, home videos and family storytelling. First-hand memories of traumatic experiences are passed down not only in visual and oral ways, but in the raising of the next generation, through habits and mannerisms. Children and grandchildren of survivors of trauma often live with both the burden and the duty of remembering experiences that were not their own, from a time when they were not alive. Everybody is a product of those who came before; their experiences, their hardships, ambitions and achievements.
In The Fate of Things: Memory Objects and Art, two Australian-born artists remember their families’ Holocaust experiences through inherited objects, remnants and relics. For this exhibition, Anne Zahalka and Sylvia Griffin have undertaken a process of self-discovery by imbuing tangible symbols of their family histories with personal interpretations of their second-hand traumatic memories. Through video, photography, assemblage, sculpture and textiles, the artists memorialise lost family members never met, particularly female predecessors, to trace who they are today and how their characters have been formed over time.
The works in this exhibition have their origins in a family history – a history not dissimilar to other families who experienced the trauma of the Holocaust and its aftermath. On migrating to Australia, my parents brought various objects with them that acted as touchstones to a former home and life for them; and have provided me with a sense of connection to my family history. The works I have made reflect my belief in the role that contemporary art can play in imparting meaningful remembrance and solace. While some of the artworks utilise unconventional materiality to address trauma and absence, others refer to the comfort and inclusiveness of Jewish rituals, signalling connection and continuity.
Following the death of my mother in 2016, I began the melancholic task of sorting her belongings. Salvaged amongst these were a collection of letters, diaries, photographs, recipe books, embroideries and linen that had been carried across countries and oceans to finally rest here on this shore. As the child of a Holocaust survivor, I became the keeper of these family relics with only partial knowledge of the stories they contained. Sifting through this archive and working with these objects, I have developed artworks to reconstruct this fractured history, to remember those lost and to honour the bonds that bind me. As an inheritor of this trauma, I grieve for my mother, for her loss and the family I was never to know.