During our joint research/artist residencies in the summer of 2017, we focused on methods of retracing community characteristics, of honing in on individuals long forgotten and illuminating marginal markings never intended to be of consequence. We worked primarily with the texts described below and books of the Mediaș Jewish library, selecting children’s doodles and owner names from the margins, reflecting the presence of Jewish life in the region, both in villages and towns.

In addition to visual markings from the margins of books, the exhibition focused on a manuscript recounting an episode in the community in early 1941. Captivating in this narrative was the juxtaposition of the said and the unsaid, the known and the unknown, the meeting of the mundane with the grave. The narrator’s words not only disclose a forgotten story of escape, they also trace portraits of the community and its members. Names long left unspoken in Mediaș are mentioned matter-of-factly; the space around the synagogue, consisting of several buildings owned by the community, the Jewish school with apartments and the mikva, is reactivated and understood as a Jewish space, the home of the narrator herself and setting of the tale. When the girl is given a list of twenty addresses of board members whom she must notify of an evening meeting, the entire town reassumes its erstwhile Jewish character as she trots through the streets, delivering messages.

Rather than providing answers, the stories and testimonies raised questions. We invited the audience to consider our portrayals as uncertain, shadowy, fragmented, potentially distorted and flawed. Through concentrating on the idea of the liminal, the transitory, the vague we endeavor to explore the limits of what can be known and communicated through vestigial belongings of a community or written words.

 

Julie Dawson is the project director and primary researcher for the Leo Baeck Institute’s long-term JBAT project. Additionally, she is off-site project director for activities at the Mediaș synagogue complex. She is the researcher responsible for the TRACES Creative Co-Production ‘Absence as Heritage’.

Răzvan Anton is an artist and lecturer at the Cluj University of Art and Design and collaborator with École européenne supérieure de l’image (Poitiers – FR) and Tasuleasa Social (RO). He is the appointed artist for the TRACES Creative Co-Production ‘Absence as Heritage’.