Rosie Potter, Patricia Ayre - curators

 

The memorial exhibition “Für das Kind“ has been travelling to

significant sites around the world for over 10 years (London, Vienna,

Mauthausen, Prague). It will continue to tour appropriate sites, periodically,

at the discretion of its exceptional advocate, agent and guardian,

Milli Segal, but recently, in 2014, it has found a more permanent home

here in Vienna, and thanks to committed arts entrepreneurs, Dr. Schweinhammer

and his wife Mirella Zamuner who have graciously agreed to

act as dedicated hosts to, “Für das Kind – Museum zur Erinnerung der

Kindertransporte zur Rettung jüdischer Kinder nach Großbritannien

1938/39“, this important work will now be an integral part of their gallery

located on Radetzkystrasse 5.

“Für das Kind“ commemorates the arrival in London of 10,000

refugees, children aged between three months and seventeen years

old, fleeing Nazi persecution, during the period of one year 1938/39.

The photographic works are based on a series of still life studies of

objects brought by the Kinder on these train journeys as they travelled

out of their countries of origin, in particular Germany, Austria and

Czechoslovakia, during “Operation Kindertransport“ in that same year.

The work was created by myself and Patricia Ayre, during the years

2000 – 2003, in response to a request for a memorial that was raised

by surviving Kinder at a meeting of the “Reunion of Kindertransports“

held in London.

This request generated a two-part response by us, the artists

Potter & Ayre and Sculptor Flor Kent. Kent went on to produce a bronze

sculpture of a child, cast directly from descendants of the original

“Kinder“ to be sited at Liverpool St. Station, the main arrival point of

the Kindertransports, whilst due to the nature of the Diaspora, it was

felt that Potter & Ayre’s memorial exhibition should have the potential

to travel back to historically related sites, within the countries of origin

of the Kinder, where for so many years the Jewish absence due to the

atrocities of the Nazi regime had left such a deep cultural void. The original

aim of the “Für das Kind“ project was to represent this little known

piece of history to new audiences and directly connect the “Kinder“

contemporaneously to their own history, through primary, physical and

authentic elements of witness and survival embedded within the work

itself. A series of advertisements through the Jewish press requesting

the location of any original objects carried by the the “Kinder“ on their

respective train journeys, and suggesting that perhaps in some way these

may become an actual part of the memorial, resulted in an overwhelming

response.

The objects that arrived included: photographs, books, dolls, ice

skating boots, exercise books, school reports, clothes, documents, shoe

trees, bedding and a Mother’s apron. The project inspired the donation

of objects that had never before been offered to a National Museum or

Archive. The objects belonging to each individual were placed within

an original suitcase and photographed directly from above on a large

format analogue camera, aiming to retain uniform perspective and actual

scale in respect of the contents. In some instances the suitcase is quite

full, in others it might contain only one photograph, this was entirely

dependant upon the objects offered to the project by the individual

and were not subject to any form of editing.

The title, “Für das Kind“ is taken directly from a small group of

objects contained within the suitcase belonging to Pauline Warner (nee

Makowski), namely 3 children's coat hangers printed respectively with

the words, “Fürs Liebe Kind“, “Dem Braven Kind“ and “Für das Kind“.

Each of the 23 prints that form the exhibition shows an original suitcase

containing objects carried by a child over 70 years ago, as they travelled

into an unknown future. These personal treasures, assigned to each child

at a critical point in their history, are significant, not only in the context of

a distinct religious background, but also as a major part of the individual's

sense of his or her own particular national heritage, in terms of its geography

and cultural influence. In many instances the objects represent

the last physical contact that a child had with either of their parents.

The objects resonate with the collective memory of the group.

They are familiar, comforting emblems of childhood, and yet they remain

resolutely suspended between, “here and there“; their frequently reduced

scale suggesting a life left still unformed. The prints are wall mounted

and set in deep wooden box frames, echoing the traditional museum

case. The engraved narrative, on the glass in front of the image, is in the

contemporary handwriting of the individual survivor, a fragment taken

from personal accounts, letters, telephone conversations and meetings

with the artists.

A pen and an A6 white postcard were sent to each Kinder and

they were asked, firstly to approve the fragment of text selected from

their verbal or written testimonies and secondly to write it on the post

card. The handwriting was enlarged, traced and positioned on high tack

self-adhesive film that was then laid onto sheets of glass that would

form part of the finished work. Each piece of text was carefully hand

cut out of the thin, high tack material covering the glass and then sandblasted

with very fine grit to produce the etching, a delicate task undertaken

by ex-Royal College of Art, artist in glass, Patricia Ayre.

The engraved text, which is uniquely placed across and over the

objects, gives rise visually to a subtle interaction of negative and positive

effects, which together with the sharpened or blurred shadows cast by

changing ambient light, create metaphors for memory. This graffiti-like

text disturbs the equilibrium of the implied “Museum“, conveying the

reader away from a simple contemplation of a group of historic objects

towards a recognition of the centrality of those bearing direct witness

to events and history. In 2013 Dr. Pnina Rosenberg, lecturer at the

Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and historian, featured both

elements of the project, “Für das Kind“ in an article in, „Prism“, an

interdisciplinary journal for holocaust educators, where she wrote:

“These two revolutionary memorials complement each other and forge

the Kindertransport odyssey in our collective memory.” She went on to

say that, “This significant manifestation of collective memory depicts

the transformation and renovation of the ‘archive’ through the artists’

innovating language of memorial. They are, at the same time, monuments

and family albums, private yet accessible, and thus open a dialogue

and create a new artistic language that suit brilliantly the demands of

the overcharged collective memory of the 21st century.“

Rosenberg concludes that the suitcases carried by of each of the

Kinder on their respective journeys, and featured in the work, „Für das

Kind“ accentuate and highlight the many unique humanitarian and courageous

acts that brought them to safety and symbolise not only their

survival, “but also our own survival in a world where constant change

and upheaval continue to challenge society’s physical and moral fabric,

where children the world over are still experiencing displacement and

painful separation.“

As artists we wanted to provide the Kinder with a conduit for

personal expression and so together we aspired to make a work that

embodied a real and immediate connection to their experience and

witness of key historical events that had indelibly shaped their lives.

Rosie Potter, Juli 2014