Memory Project: A Social Experiment
“Memory Project” is an exhibition and series of events whose theme explores mechanisms of the memory. Personal memories are employed as a means of filling historical gaps that exist in cities, which have experienced significant social traumas. Designed as a two phase international engagement between Łódź, Poland and New Orleans, USA, the objective of this exhibition is to provide artists and their communities the opportunity to respond to those issues. This exhibition’s experimental model invites participants of each phase (Łódź, New Orleans) to contribute to a cumulative project that builds in each city.
The inspiration for phase one of Memory Project was the return of New Orleans citizen Anne Skorecki Levy, to her birthplace (Łódź) for the first time in over seventy years, since surviving the Łódź and Warsaw Ghettos during WWII as a child. One of her few happy pre-war childhood memories was utilized as a safe, positive vehicle to generate dialogue between a returning Jewish survivor and the local community – the Polish second generation and young people completely removed from the WWII experience, living in a city which no longer reflects cultural diversity that defined the Łódź community pre-WWII.
Community outreach and partnerships with curators, cultural activists, educators and local institutions made it possible for Memory Project’s focus to go beyond the gallery, to reach particular neighborhoods and to engage the general public. The project has proven to be a successful model for facilitating positive community engagement and dialogue.
In preparation for Anne Skorecki Levy’s milestone return, her daughter, artist Robin Levy, formed a partnership with Marta Madejska, a Polish cultural activist/PhD candidate living in Łódź, to create a positive community activity commemorating her mother’s visit. They quickly recognized that pre-war oral histories taken from Polish seniors and Levy’s childhood recollection shared a topographic memory. An invitation to create work for the Memory Project was sent to Polish artists, performers and a filmmaker recommended by curators from Muzeum Sztuki (Museum of Art in Łódź) and other local cultural professionals. Accompanying the invitations were archived memories from Topografie Association‘s oral history recordings and Anne Levy’s happy pre-war memory to be used as source material. Although each artist was inspired by the seniors’ memories some decided to work with their own childhood memories, which sometimes reconnected them to personal relationships with city and place. Participants and observers expressed their appreciation for the exhibition’s theme and the opportunity for a cross-generational and multi-cultural exchange. In Phase 2, following Anne’s biography, we are meeting a different history of New Orleans.
Memory Project: Phase 1, hosted in Łódź, August 5, 2012, included three visual art installations, an original film created for Memory Project, an interactive theatre performance and two community outreach activities. The exhibition was hosted at three venues: City Culture Point Prexer-UŁ, Galeria Wschodnia (East Gallery), and the former Helena Wolf Hospital. Additional participating local institutions were Topografie Association and The Marek Edelman Dialogue Centre.
Memory Project: Phase 2: was hosted in New Orleans by Antenna Gallery, November 9, 2013, located in the St. Claude Arts District. Co-organizers Marta Madejska and Robin Levy invited local artists and the cultural community of New Orleans to contribute to the social experiment that originated in Łódź, and create Memory Project: Phase 2.
Łódź Artists: Agnieszka Chojnacka, Tomek Ciesielski, Adam Klimczak, Kuba Pałys, Piotr Szczepański, Justyna Wencel
New Orleans Artists: Courtney Egan, Robin Levy (organizer), Deborah Luster, performers: Max Jay-Dixon, Nelson Gonzales, David Kaplinsky, Eli Timm
Partners: Topografie Association (Stowarzyszenie Topografie), East Gallery (Galeria Wschodnia), Antenna Gallery
Robin Levy (New Orleans, USA) – firstname.lastname@example.org
Marta Madejska (Łódź, Poland) – email@example.com
Robin Levy – Born and raised in New Orleans. After high school, Levy spent a year in the Middle East. She received her BFA from Louisiana State University in 1982, attended the Instituto Per L’Arte e iI Restauro in Florence, Italy in 1986 and earned an MFA from Rhode Island School of Design in 1990. She has had solo exhibitions and has participated in a wide range of juried and invitational group shows. Her work is included in museum collections, foundations, and private collections throughout the United States and abroad. Levy currently lives in New Orleans and is a member of the Antenna Gallery.
Marta Madejska – Born 1987 in Warsaw. PhD candidate in Institute of Contemporary Culture University of Łódź. A member of Łódź’s Urban Initiatives Association “Topografie” and co-founder of Urban Collective Fundation. Interests include oral history, memory studies and theory of culture; educator, urban/cultural researcher and activist. From 2010 occasionally cooperates with Muzeum of Art in Łódź, The Marek Edelman Dialogue Centre and Łódź Art Center.