europamemoria - Memories of Europe

25 faces on 25 screens in 25 projection booths. Displaced people, modern nomads, wanderers, now settled in Europe. They tell little parts, certain moments of their life stories.

Ruth Beckermann's project views Europe as a "space constantly in the process of production" (Henri Levebre). It is not concerned with national or group histories but just with individual experiences. By doing so it explores the disruption of collective memory, in fact of the very concept of it.

For a whole year the filmmaker interviewed people who have left their original home, to settle elsewhere, some voluntarily, but most of them forced by wars and conflicts. People who had to make a new start in life in highly uncertain circumstances - yet they feel that the loss of their moorings was also some kind of liberation.

A selection of these interviews conducted at different places will be presented as an installation in the "Dom im Berg" in Graz. In every booth, the visitor will be confronted with a major theme of european history - National Socialism, Communism and colonialism, which form the backdrop of personal memories being told on individual video screens.

Joop, for example, born in Indonesia, placed as a child in a Japanese concentration camp, today lives in The Hague but carries the landscape of his childhood in his heart without yearning for the colonial past. René, French teacher in Nice, a prince from the last imperial dynasty of Vietnam, who had to flee from the advancing forces of Ho Chi Min at the age of eight. Sladana, a 22-year-old Serb woman, who during the 10 years of war, often several times a week, saw friends off at the station, some never to return. Wojciech, who came to Vienna from Krakow to study medicine and only there, at the bedside of a Jewish woman patient, began to ask himself what had really happened between Poles and Jews.

Through close-ups of the face framing it only from hairline to chin, with no indication of location or clothes, Ruth Beckermann aims to transcend the normal documentary format. This allows to focus attention on facial expressions, on the sound of a voice. The face in it's radical singularity, the essential baggage which goes with people wherever they go.

In this exhibition, the artist experiments with ways of using essential techniques of cinema like editing and sequence for other art forms in spatial settings. Since about twenty years Ruth Beckermann's work has been centred around the essay-film: how to fragment history into stories, how to render history visible, comprehensible. "europamemoria" expands on this theme: how (or if) story could become history.

During the exhibition, six films by Ruth Beckermann - including "Return to Vienna" and "homemad(e)" - will be shown at a cinema in Graz.

Maison des Arts Créteil, Paris
9.3. - 19.3.2006

Museum Moderner Kunst, Wien
11.11.2004 - 6.1.2005

Dom im Berg, Graz
29.8. - 28.9.2003