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in time of place

This project investigates selected symbolic sites associated with Jewish identity, the Diaspora and the Holocaust.  The project focuses on the creation of creative practice-as-research films made in DachauVenicePrague and Boston, and a series of publications. The films, each 30 minutes in length, adopt an experimental observational approach to consider the stature and significance of place, its layering, reinvention and interpretation.  The weight of history, the role of public memory and the act of memorialization are repositioned in the films through documenting both private and public engagement with the diverse urban environments.  Archival imagery is not used, underscoring the intent that the films are about the present, as informed by the past.

The selection of sites for study and filming is guided by the fact that Venice is the site of a ghetto, where the term originated; Prague retains Europe’s oldest synagogue and Jewish cemetery; Dachau was the first Nazi state concentration camp, where the first prisoners to be executed were Jews; and Boston offers one of the most recent Holocaust memorial sites.  All four films consider witnessing and the symbolic meaning of place in association with loss, absence, renewal and tourism.  Most of the public who interact with the sites today were not first hand witnesses nor alive at the time of the Shoah.  As such, the films engage with perceptions and debates on collective memory, cultural memory, and post-memory. The project also evaluates the way our digital culture influences how we interact with historic sites and use the camera to witness and situate our involvement.

The In Time of Place project developed from work undertaken for the experimental video installation, Beautiful Dachau (2006).  The title of the film was drawn from a poster on a bus shelter outside the former concentration camp that announced: 'Beautiful Dachau, things to see and do'.  The slogan encapsulates the challenges facing a town whose name is associated with the torture and murder of thousands of people.  This video installation and the issues it explores are examined in recent writings, including 'Spatial transfigurations in Beautiful Dachau' (The Journal of Architecture, 2006) and 'Beautiful Dachau's Contested Urban Identity', featured in Visualizing the City (Routledge, 2008).  The film foregrounds a traumatic space and the erasure and reappropriation of place.  Following its debut installation at the TRANS visual cultural exhibition and conference in Madison, Wisconsin in 2006, a series of screenings, keynotes and invited lectures on the project have been given in 2007 at the Constructions of Conflict Conference, Univ. of Wales, and at Harvard, Princeton and other institutions and venues.  The film In Place of Death has had a number of screenings at keynotes and invited talks, including at Edinburgh, Liverpool, Haifa, Canterbury, Cambridge, Syracuse, Manchester and other universities and museums.

Alan Marcus is the principal investigator on the project, which has received funding from the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, the University of Aberdeen’s College of Arts and Social Sciences and the School of Language and Literature.

In Time of Place University web site