Performing the Jewish Archive

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Research

Our multi-disciplinary team brings research expertise allowing us to focus on the period c.1880-c.1950, the most intense period of Jewish displacement in the modern era. Our case studies include recently recovered theatrical manuscripts from the Terezin Ghetto near Prague, musical works from Eastern Europe uncovered in private collections in Australia, South Africa and England, and literary accounts of survivor experiences written immediately after the Holocaust.

Via these case studies of Jewish artistic creation in diverse situations of internment, exile or migration, we will illuminate more broadly the role of art in one of the paradigmatic experiences of the modern age: displacement. When do artists use creative works to represent the rupture of displacement, and when do music, theatre and literature create continuity with their former lives, or a bridge between the old life and the new?

Our co-textual performances create a relationship between past and present, not only by drawing upon on all three types of archives (for example, by interspersing scenes from a rediscovered play with narrated survivor testimony against a backdrop of projected archival images), but by engaging explicitly with the multiple possible meanings of these artefacts from the past, both for their original audiences and ourselves. The performances foreground ways in which that past may live on in our present and future – in a very real sense, ‘thinking forward through the past’. Audience response testing, developed during the project, will help us determine how successful we are in generating audience engagement in the present.

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