Presenting a selection of nearly 150 pieces from various sources, this photographic exhibition recreates the history of Salonika (today Thessaloniki) Greece from the second half of the 19th century to the end of the First World War. Men and women are captured in their traditional costumes: modest artisans, porters, traders, members of the local “aristocracy;” society is revealed. Urban modernization is also shown: the quays and the White Tower, cafes, restaurants and entertainment venues; the Countryside sector where the notables established their residence; deprived areas, where emerging industries were established.
But also, in the now Greek city, the great fire of August 1917, an authentic trauma for the Jews who saw their historic neighborhoods, the municipal archives and more than thirty synagogues swept away by the flames, before the geopolitical upheavals caused by the First War worldwide.
In 2020, we were privileged to host an online exhibition of work by the Warsaw-based papercut artist Monika Krajewska. The pieces were drawn from her extraordinary cycle of papercuts called “Burning,” a commemoration of the physical destruction of the Shoah.
This fall, from October 4 to December 18, Krajewska’s Burning cycle will be exhibited at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw.
The exhibit consists of 31 works in which the artist refers to the objects related to synagogue cult and transfers them to the traditional Jewish paper-cutting technique, painstakingly recreating the symbolism and ornamentation of Jewish art from East-Central Europe—stylised floral decoration, symbolic representations of animals, a repertoire of traditional sacred Judaic symbols (a menorah, Torah and the Tablets of Law, the Temple) and calligraphic quotations from religious texts and prayers.
In order to introduce reflection on loss and destruction, the artist subjects her painstaking work to destruction: she tears apart sections of the works after cutting them out and burns the ends of the sheets. She uses tinted paper as a background for the cut-outs, incorporating the motif of fire, ashes and ruins. In the representations, she incorporates quotations from religious texts or classics of modern Jewish literature, in which there are references to flames and destruction, as well as to the hope of salvation.