»Das weiß ich nicht mehr.« 2018
I do not remember it anymore
אני כבר לא זוכר את זה
2860x900 mm. Prints on tracing paper.
A landscape view that comprises the entirety of memory's residue.
When Ruth Enis looks out her window of her small room in a nursing home in Haifa, she looks into Wadi Amik (Deep Valley). The wadi, emptying into the Mediterranean Sea, contains a vague reminiscence of her life—the content of which has almost completely slipped her mind. The little modernist houses on top of the ridge remind her of her own pivotal role in making the work of women architects and landscape architects, who fled anti-semitism from German speaking countries to these lands. The existence of the wadi itself is a stand-in for the many ecosystems in Israel she helped preserve. The small urban developments and the sight of the sea give her an idea of her own works in the area and uncountable kibbutzim all over Israel..
Ruth Enis was born in Cernauti/Chernivtsi, Bukovina (then Romania, today Ukraine) in 1928. She survived the holocaust, fought in the underground for the independence of Israel against the British Empire, became the first woman to acquire a degree in architecture in Israel, and built the first and only landscape design program in the country. However, she knows all this only from second hand accounts.
This research started out as a complication of the interactions between personal biography, political ideal and ideology (Feminism, Zionism), and the national history. In the late summer of 2017, then 88-year old Ruth Anis suffered severe head trauma from a fall while gardening.
She has since acquired amnesia.
In one strike, her own life’s story became the history of a stranger.
Gilles Deleuze attests with regard to Proust’s work: “[It] is based not on the exposition of memory, but on the apprenticeship to signs.” We can thus discern that Ruth has unlearned to understand the signs to her life. Most of her archival matter—hundreds of dias, letters, and plans which served as the foundation of the architecture and urbanism archive at Haifa’s technical university—were rendered illegible without her memory to provide context.
This work relates concurrence in width of Ruth’s window and the studio. It is taking shape as one that wants to speak about the fragmentation of self through loss of recollection, the ephemerality of memory, the insecurity in narrating a life’ that is unknown even to the narrator who lived it, and the impossibility of retaining memory both within oneself and outside of it.
Preceding research project: From Wasteland to Settlement. Tracing a Biography between Flight and Nation-building, Tradition and Self-Empowerment (2015-2018). Thanks to:Terese Kasalicky, Stephanie Hintersteiner, Vanessa Opoku
Funded by: Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Fund for Queer-Feminist Research of the Austrian Student Union, Studienrichtungsvertretung Germanistik (University of Vienna)
Traktorfabrik, installation views (photo credits: Nico King, Nadine Lemke)