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Letters to Afar - MHPJ & MCNY

Péter Forgács / The Klezmatics 4 5 Video installation by Péter Forgács with music by The Klezmatics, commissioned by the Museum of the History of Polish Jews and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research

Letters to Afar Museum of the History of Polish Jews May 18 – September 30, 2013

Letters to Afar

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. The music, which combines traditional Jewish motifs with an evocative, minimalist form, is also accompanied by captions (composed of quotes from memoirs, letters, and literature) that direct the viewer’s attention. Employing these devices, Forgács paraphrases the efforts of the original filmmakers, who often added their own oral commentary to the silent footage during private screenings of their films. Inviting the visitor to a rereading of these “letters” from the past, Letters to Afar avoids constructing a great historical narrative, but instead tries to penetrate the private world of people from a different place and time. These films show prewar life, not only in its documentary and historical aspect, but also in its existential dimension, seeking to establish a connection between the world filmed and those to whom the films are addressed. will premiere at the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw on May 18, 2013.
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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.

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