Things. Places. Years.
A Documentary Featuring Geraldine Auerbach MBE of London's Jewish Music Institute, SOAS

London Premiere at The Pump House Gallery, Battersea Park, London SW11

Thursday, 20th May 2004, 6pm

Photo of Geraldine Auerback MBE, with husband Dr. Ronald Auerbach and artist Anthony Auerbach
Geraldine Auerbach MBE of the Jewish Music Institute, with
husband Dr. Ronald Auerbach and artist son Anthony Auerbach
All photos this page by Richard A. Sharma and Copyright © Richard A. Sharma 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction, copying, or storage by any means whatsoever including but not limited to electronic/digital means without written prior permission prohibited. Linking to individual photographs on this page prohibited.

As part of B+B's exhibition Trading Places: migration, representation, collaboration, activism in contemporary art, the London premiere of the documentary film, Things. Places. Years. by Klub Zwei (Simone Bader and Jo Schmeiser) took place at the Pump House Gallery, Battersea Park, London SW11 on Thursday 20 May 2004, 6pm.

This documentary is of particular interest here as it included among its subjects Geraldine Auerbach MBE, founder, director and tireless "engine" of the Jewish Music Institute, SOAS, London. For more information about this fascinating documentary, please see also this article by artist Anthony Auerbach. (Further information on B+B and Trading places can be found here and here.)

In attendance were Sarah Carrington and Sophie Hope (B+B), and Simone Bader and Jo Schmeiser (Klub Zwei) and Anthony Auerbach, who fielded an informal discussion after the showing, as well as Geraldine Auerbach.

Photo of Discussion

As riveting as the subject matter and concept of Things. Places. Years. was, it was sadly somewhat let down by the sometimes distracting camera work and the poor technical quality, with the pixellation being very obvious (and admittedly not helped by sitting only a few feet from the small projection screen) and distracting. However, the subject matter and its subjects could hardly have been more fascinating and for me at any rate more than made up for the aforementioned deficiencies.

Klub Zwei's original motivation behind Things. Places. Years. was an investigation of, broadly, the legacy of emigration from Austria, more specifically, the heritage of women and their daughters and granddaughters living in London who had, often narrowly, escaped from Nazi persecution and the genocide of Jews in Europe, focusing especially on women involved in the cultural sphere. The resulting documentary could be described as a conversation broadly examining the emigre condition and the Holocaust, as well as the documentary makers' own position as the 'descendants of the perpetrator society', as Klub Zwei put it. Its focus is not exclusively Jewish women born in Austria, but rather, emigre women and their descendants from a wide variety of religious and geographical backgrounds and their experience of London.

Twelve women are interviewed in the film, Geraldine Auerbach, Josephine Bruegel, Erica Davies, Lisbeth Perks, Katherine Klinger, Elly Miller, Rosemarie Nief, Anni Reich, Ruth Rosenfelder, Ruth Sands, Nitza Spiro, and Tamar Wang. Things. Places. Years. provides a unique window on history through the family stories of these women and lets us reflect on what, apart from the circumstance of living in London, either by design or by chance, these twelve women have in common, and on our identity as Jews, migrants, bearers and custodians of an historical experience or a culture.

Although all of this comes at us from a female perspective, it is all the same just as relevant to men. Many, men and women alike, myself included, will find much to relate to and even identify with, particularly the denial of the past often encountered here, the almost total blotting out of what happened before and during the Nazi era, the utter repression, sometimes to the point of denial, even of identity itself, arising out of the sheer terror of those times and sometimes a residual fear of "being identified" (or rather, discovered) as Jews. Nonetheless, the women concerned are all clearly convinced not only that the history and the family stories that marked their families should be known, but indeed that the next generation has a clear right to know, even if there may be little consensus otherwise.

The reflections of Geraldine Auerbach are of course of special interest here. Her upbringing under the repressive apartheid regime of South Africa is contrasted with her joy in the diversity and ethnically mixed character of London. What her heritage means to her, and her sense of Jewish identity, are both expressed as well as reinforced in her work as founder and director of the JMI.

Klub Zwei's Things. Places. Years. deserves, nay even cries out for, a much wider audience. It is an utterly compelling documentary that affords a unique perspective on history.

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