From 2006 to 2016, my artwork was based on archival architectural records of buildings in Berlin where Jews and persecuted artists and intellectuals lived and worked until the 1930s when – like my own father and his family – they were forced to flee. Having spent a decade making work about the forced migration from Berlin in the 1930s, I suddenly found my project linked to a present-day crisis: Berlin was becoming a destination for refugees rather than a place to escape. I couldn’t continue to consider Berlin’s relationship to the experience of exile and place, identity and culture, without thinking about Syria.
In September 2016, I volunteered at Flughafen Tempelhof, then Berlin’s largest refugee camp. I began traveling frequently to Berlin to meet with Syrian refugees, who have been extraordinarily generous with photographs, videos, and stories of their former homes.
In fall 2017 I embarked on a body of work with two videos of a destroyed home in Aleppo at its heart. My aim, and I am treading as lightly as possible as I do this, is to translate the powerful ongoing exchanges I am fortunate to have with refugees in Berlin, to represent their lost homes and the lives they contained as something at once concrete and invisible. I am casting in cement, which contains echoes of the cinderblock that is often revealed after bombing, and creating plaster baths in which I soak canvas and burlap. These building materials are proving to be effective media to convey the concrete-ness of the destruction of home and place, and at the same time the resilience of the people who have survived that destruction.