beth haim

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Beth Haim is a work about reconnections - a forgotten history with its place, forgotten books with their inspirations, a forgotten language with its roots, and a forgotten home with its foundations. It is comprised of a set of postcards based around thirty-six gravestones from the Old Velho Sephardic Jewish cemetery in Mile End. Each photograph of a grave has an accompanying poem, constructed around a piece of archival text aiming to convey a dual reading of the space by connecting forgotten texts and archives to experiential accounts with the tombstones.

Inspired by both phenomenological accounts and formal arrangements of Ladino poems, it uses the spatial and material composition of the stones to trigger a voice and structure the narrative. The language and typography is itself invaded by experiences and obscured using Derridean methods to create blurred portraits and incomplete histories. The poems are constructed as Benjaminian montages, dense palimpsests on the threshold of understanding, to provoke intrigue and engage the reader, encouraging a similar journey of discovery.

The postcards were delivered to students living in the former Jewish old people’s home that surrounds the site, inhabitants of a building that had lost touch with it’s history. Each student received one postcard with a connection to one stone. The numbered poems reveal the location of the tombstone, hinting at a fragment of history, providing clues to a lost past. Wrapped and beribboned, the reader engages in a symbolic act of unwrapping history, untying connecting threads, linking them to the haptic experience of touching the stones and sparking a conversation between the viewer, the stone and their shared history.

This work was presented and exhibited at CitiesMethodologies 2010, was read as part of Grave Concerns at DIG Collective's Hole Story and is being made into a book, Slab to be published next year by Copy Press.
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