The work “Synagogue” is a frieze of 7 photographs portraying the mist-filled interior of a 19th century synagogue in Trnava. The synagogue no longer serves any religious function. It houses a small Jewish Memorial Museum run by the local Jewish community. Exhibits are kept in glass cases in the gallery. The empty space of the synagogue also serves as a space for the presentation of art with an emphasis on artistic events connected to the nature and history of the site.
In 1999 I was invited to Trnava for an installation of contemporary art in the space of the 19th century synagogue. The interior was filled with an artificial milky fog. Museum glass cases with old Jewish exhibits were covered with a half-transparent plastic sheet to protect them from the fog and decay. The gesture of protecting the exhibits - which represent Jewish tradition, religion and culture - was an important part of the installation.
I documented the foggy space on video. The photo-frieze “Synagogue” was made in 2003 from the video stills of this documentation, digitally prepared and composed as a frieze photograph. In the midst-shrouded synagogue interior, pale light contrasts with the occluded but still recognizable architecture. The fog gives the synagogue a nearly mystical luminescence whose symbolic and metaphorical expression is further heightened by the architecture. Besides highlighting the light that streams in through the ornate windows, the fog in the synagogue accentuates the historic architecture whose details are blurred as they recede towards a vanishing point. The luminescent after-images of the interior: characteristic windows, wooden sculpture columns, milk-white cases of exhibits, all evoke historical associations with a series of hazy images and specific bygone religious practices whose energy still strikes a chord in the contemporary viewer. The foggy view of the architecture and the exhibit cases of the Museum place the synagogue in the center. The synagogue is the hero of the work. “Synagogue” symbolizes the blurring of signs; it has traces of the past and the haziness of memory; it is a metaphor of evanescence and the passage of time.
Placed in the idiom of contemporary art, the work seems to gain new meanings. At once material and immaterial, captured in the disappearing and dispersed misty haze, the photo frieze “Synagogue” occupies a space between past and present, traditional Jewish culture and contemporary art, light and matter.