Review: Memory Project at Antenna Gallery

Agnieszka Chojnacka, Cave (still), 2013. Single channel video installation. Courtesy the artist.

“Memory Project”
Antenna Gallery
3718 St. Claude Avenue
November 9–December 8, 2013

On the opening night of “Memory Project,” Anne Skorecki Levy handed out white balloons printed with a black-and-white photo of herself in 1939, taken at age 4 in Łódź, Poland, where she was born. Anne and her family survived the Holocaust and World War II ghettos to make their way to New Orleans, where she has lived ever since. One vivid memory Anne carries from her past is walking around Łódź with her father getting balloons and ice cream. Anne’s happy recollection—and her daughter artist Robin Levy’s desire to help her relive it—was the impetus for Memory Project. The exhibition—the second phase of a project Levy began in 2011—unites Łódź- and New Orleans-based artists to explore the ways we preserve and reimagine memories, particularly those that accompany trauma.

Artists Courtney Egan and Anita Yesho uncover the history of Antenna’s building at 3718 St. Claude Avenue and the surrounding neighborhood. After the Civil War, a priest opened an asylum for the widows and orphans of Confederate soldiers. About ten blocks away, Ruby Bridges became the first African-American child to be integrated in an all-white school. These varied histories, among others, are shared primarily through a pile of Xeroxes spread atop a table in the gallery, inviting visitors to sift through and create their own connections. Agnieszka Chojnacka’s Cave encourages a similarly hands-on engagement with its life-size construction of chairs and colorful quilts. Visitors crawl into the soft, plush folds of the blanket fort to watch a video of a magic wand popping bubbles. Each pop, fragile and innocent, coincides with the sound of a gunshot or explosion, marring the initial comforting memory of womb-like security with disembodied violence. Like the opening night performance, the execution is simple, but the message is powerful.

Courtney Egan and Anita Yesho, Sq. 356, Lots 12 and 13 (detail), 2013. Single channel video installation.