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Home Portrait: Matter and Memory of a Burnt-Down House

Visual Study

The project was completed as part of the course “Research Workshop”, supervised by Dr. Tal Frenkel Alroy, Dafna Kaffeman and Einav Mekori.

 

In November 2016, the home of my parents in the village of Nataf was burned down. The house became a great collection of fragments: shards of ceramics and glass, cracked items melded together, oxidized and deformed iron parts, plastic scraps and scorched papers – Gemara pages, books and pictures.

I began to collect and sort items from the house almost on the day the fire broke out. The first object I have found was a fragment of a plate from a tableware set with illustrations of a house. Symbolically, the fragment only showed the roof, and it was a reminder that the roof in my parents’ house was the first to burn down.

While collecting the objects, it was not always clear where every item came from, and I had to try to figure out their identity. Many of them were transformed into new objects.

During the collection and sorting I found myself taking many photos, and the camera functioned as a sorting tool. I documented the smoke stains left in the house. On the walls, painting-like forms were seared, imprints of objects that the thick smoke left.

Facing these creations that were born out of the fire, I asked myself whether it is possible to perceive nature in itself, pure and unprocessed. For a while, I was busy trying to create objects from hot glass so that they appeared as if they were formed by themselves. At a certain stage, I gave up for a while the wish to further manipulate the objects or create new works, and let myself collect more and more without knowing why. I decided to leave my wonderment intact and just experience it – in wonderment.

The construction of my parents’ house was finished a year after I was born, and the fire instigated a rapid process of farewell. At that time, I was trying to understand precisely what it was in all the items I collected that touched me, what could be saved and what should be given up. My initial wish to preserve and perhaps to model the objects in the house waned, and it was superseded by the desire to observe and just to be there, at that moment of change that was still occurring in and around the house, and by the attempt to capture the entire transformations of matter and memory.

Video Documentation

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