INSEPARABLE ANGELS, THE IMAGINARY HOUSE FOR WALTER BENJAMIN, 2000
10 diasec-mounted colour digital photographs 7 – 77 cm x 102 cm. 2 – 41 cm x 61 cm. 1 double-seated chair – 82 cm x 65 cm x 43 cm. 1 double-faced clock - 60 cm. 1 video projection colour with sound - 15 mn.
2000 - 2008
Collection of the Wanås Foundation, Knislinge, Sweden
1 double-faced clock – 3 m.
In 2000 Esther Shalev-Gerz developed an artwork as a consideration of an imaginary house for the late, philosopher and essayist Walter Benjamin.
Throughout his peripatetic life- constantly moving because of poverty, political reasons or to research, think and write - Benjamin was accompanied by the Paul Klee painting he owned, Angelus Novus; which he discussed, late in his writings, as a depiction of the Angel of History - constantly present in its consideration of the past.
Benjamin’s itinerancy prevents a singular place claiming to be his home, or memorial to his trace. Shalev-Gerz chose to provide him with an imaginary house in the German city of Weimar - a place in which, because of its complex cultural and political heritage, consciousness and resistance of history is emphasised and prevalent. Previously the home of Schiller and Herder and also preserving Goethe’s house, Weimar had offered itself as loyal by becoming host to the National Assembly throughout what became the Weimar Republic years. Eight kilometres near to the city are the Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp memorials.
Individual elements of this pluralistic installation are entitled Angel and then numbered from Angel 1 through to Angel 10. A video depicts the journey between Weimar and Buchenwald seen through the windshield and passenger windows of a taxi. The driver recounts histories of the places through which he moves. Intermittently, the image stutters, slows down or becomes doubly exposed. In these extended moments another voice is to be heard - reading excerpts from further texts, by Franz Kafka, Heiner Müller, Gersholm Sholem, Klee and Benjamin, also inspired by the Angelus Novus. A clock with two co-joined faces, its hands moving in opposite directions, one backwards to the past, the other forwards to the future is accompanied by a backless chair - stable only when the backs of two sitters meet in the middle. Ten photographic stills show places now halted by having been captured from the video; places where the past necessitates that their remains be rendered forever present.