COLOGNE.- Galerie Karsten Greve
is presenting the exhibition in Cologne of Last Folio a photographic memory.
The project is a reflexion on universal loss as a component of European memory. For the Canadian-based artist Yuri Dojc it began after a meeting at his fathers funeral with a woman who had survived the Shoah. This encounter led him to undertake a number of journeys to his native Slovakia, where he met other survivors and made more than a hundred and fifty portraits of them. The trail of the lost Jewish congregation also led him to forgotten synagogues in Sastin and Kosice. In his photographs, he documents what were once splendid cultural buildings but are now either no longer accessible or else have been used for decades as cowsheds or warehouses. At the same time he opens up a view of a past whose effect continues into the present.
The books, phylacteries and torah scrolls which he found abandoned at cemeteries and in a disused school have become a central element for him. Some of the books have stamps providing information about their former owners, others are crumbling, in varying stages of decay, with fragments of text in Hebrew script still visible on their tattered pages: the last witnesses to a once flourishing culture, which he captures in mostly large-format close-ups like portraits, standing in for the people who did not return, recalling his moving photographs in another form and giving them back a piece of their identity.
However his photographs are no mere metaphor for transience, archival snapshots of a particular moment. They also show the emotional beauty of the decay to which the places and artefacts in Slovakia have been exposed since the deportations of 1942. Yuri Dojc says Last Folio is a visual contemplation of the present-day past, a metaphor for the thoughts and encounters of the last 20 years. I was searching for meaning in destruction, and gave it its own pictorial language.
After Last Folio was exhibited in the Slovak National Museum in 2008, it toured a number of institutions internationally, such as the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Hall in Washington DC (2016), the Akademie der bildenden Künste in Vienna (2014), the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Roma (2013) and the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York. In 2015 Last Folio formed part of the worldwide commemoration on the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and was shown at the Museum of Tolerance in Moscow, the Tufts University Art Gallery in Massachusetts, the UN headquarters in New York, the Mark Rothko Art Center in Daugavpils and the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin.
The current exhibition comprises a selection of thirty photographs from the series. It is supplemented by an abridged version of the 80-minute documentary Last Folio by Katya Krausova, the co-producer of the Last Folio project, who since 2005 has been Yuri Dojcs companion on his trips.
The exhibition at the Galerie Karsten Greve is accompanied by a brochure.
Yuri Dojc was born in 1946 in Humenné in what was then Czechoslovakia. He studied at Comenius University in Bratislava and Ryerson University in Toronto. After the Prague Spring of 1968, when Russia tanks rolled into his homeland, Yuri Dojc emigrated to Canada, having found himself a refugee while spending his summer as a student in London. Since then, he has lived and worked as an artist and photographer in Toronto.
Apart from Last Folio (19972016), his best-known series include We Endured, for which he was awarded the Medal of Honour by the Slovak ambassador to the United States in 2001, and Honour (2010), which he dedicated to Canadia veterans of the Second World War and their families. The series was exhibited in Mirbach Palace in Bratislava. His photographs have been published in numerous articles and magazine reports around the world, and have been acquired by, for example, the collections of the National Gallery of Canada, the Slovak National Museums and the Library of Congress in Washington.