triangle circle square diamond

1942 (Poznan)

“As the video projection begins, we see a tiled floor. The camera rises in a vertical pan to show a swimming pool with a lone swimmer. We hear singing in Hebrew: it is the mourning prayer, ‘Aw Harakhamim’ (sung by the former cantor of the Jewish community in Szeged, Hungary). The camera continues its steady, inexorable movement, and the viewer who is familiar with Jewish places of worship begins to see, in the austere and beautiful symmetry of the building, the structure of a synagogue, with its seating area over the main door, and vaulted ceiling. The title, 1942 (Poznan) contains the clue: the site is the Poznan Synagogue, converted into a swimming pool by the Nazis in 1942.

Through the juxtaposition of the image with the sung prayer that takes us beyond the visible, Orlow releases an evocative power of the image that calls up the repressed memory of the place, turning it into a memorial to those who once worshipped there, most of whom would have perished. If the swimming pool contains the suggestion of baptism (as well as, perhaps, the Jewish ritual baths), the pull of the prayer works precisely against an art of resurrection—the dead are not resurrected by being represented, nor are they redeemed.”

– Michael Newman