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Letters to Afar

Museum of the City New York • 2014 • Letters to Afar
LETTERS TO AFAR: OCT 22, 2014 - MAR 22, 2015 Co-presented by the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. Letters to Afar is an immersive video art installation based on home movies made by New York City’s Jewish immigrants who traveled back to visit Poland during the 1920s and 30s. The films document poignant family reunions and everyday life in small towns in the years before the Second World War, capturing a culture on the brink. The installation was created by Hungarian artist Péter Forgács, under a commission by the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. With a haunting soundtrack by the New York-based band The Klezmatics, these “letters” bring to life a lost world in startling and moving detail.
Returning to these amateur films by Jewish travelers several decades later, Hungarian artist Péter Forgács, who specializes in working with archival film material (), rewrites these “visual postcards,” filtering them through his artistic sensibility and practice with a new addressee in mind: the 21st century museum visitor. Warsaw, Vilna, Lodz, Kaluszyn, Kamionka, Kolbuszowa, Nowogrodek, Osmiany, Krakow, and Kurow are all film landscapes from the past that become settings in which the action, although recorded long ago, is played out inside the gallery. Like the original filmmakers, who most eagerly recorded their kin, Forgács is above all interested in the behavior of people—their looks, gestures, and mutual interactions. From these films, he selectively cuts out frames that he then replays at different speeds (often in slow motion), breaking the images up into triptych and frieze compositions that are synchronized to a new soundtrack, the core of which is music specially composed for the installation by the New York band The Klezmatics. created   |   by Péter Forgacs
curator   |   Tamara Sztyima
Music        | The Klemzatics

 featuring Frank London, Matt Darriau,
Lisa Gutkin, Lorin Sklamberg, Paul Morrissett and Richie Barshay
(special guest - John Mettam)

editor     |     Péter Sass
special advisor  | Barbara Kirschenblatt-Gimmel
2nd editor  |   Zoltán Vida
sound     |   Tamás Zányi
2nd sound   | Tamás Székely

The footage used comes from the collections
of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York,
the National Film Archive in Warsaw,
the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington,
Beth Hatefutsoth in Tel Aviv
and the Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive in Jerusalem.