Krzysztof Wodiczko by Giuliana Bruno

BOMBLive! Sculpture Center, Long Island City Fall, 2007

The following is a transcript of the conversation.

Giuliana Bruno One of the most subtle pieces you’ve made that deals with this, I think, is the installation in Galerie Lelong that was from 2005 called If You See Something where this idea of projection is being literally a projection, like when we say we project something we mean something comes from the inside, outside, and so this question of visibility or invisibility of memories, bodies, is things coming to the surface, memories coming to the surface, and transparency and texture is very visible there . Maybe we should look at this piece a little bit to talk about it … .


Krzysztof Wodiczko We are now inside … The interior in which we are becomes the metaphor for our own interior. We are kind of seeing the world and we identify with the interior and so we have to start asking ourselves, What does it mean for us? Now, when it comes to this projection, by breaking through those walls revealing the holes through the gallery walls and creating the illusion of windows, that are actually a continuation of the windows that already are there, between inside and outside and integral, but multiplying them and putting them as pavilion was a first step to actually recognize the derisive reality on the other side. But then the question is, What do we know about that reality? So, on one hand, we are afraid of that reality to come too close to us or us too close to it because it’s a reality of the world from which we are separated by the wall created very much by the government agency called Homeland Security, which is, in fact, the equivalent of Ministry of Interior, at least in the country from which I am coming and the previous regime. This Ministry of Interior has in fact created the wall between us and them, who were to be deported or kept in those detention or retention centers or even hijacked or forcibly kicked out of the country without any legal grounds. So, we are not aware. Those people have no access to media. We had no connection with them. We are afraid of them. Fear is being produced through them. So the projection’s aim was to bring the presence of those people closer to us but also to show the possibility of recognizing them and our foggy relation to that world outside.

GB What about in Hiroshima? Which we can probably run through so we see a little bit more of this … .


KW The building is not a usual monument. It’s the only surviving building or vertical structure in Hiroshima, just underneath of, as I mention in this film, the hyper-center of the explosion. So, it’s a witness. It’s a preserved, wounded body. It’s obviously not very easy to imagine what else such a body could express because it’s already so much. I decided that it should be various generations that try to say something beyond what this monument is saying … . As also the river as being witness and site of the worst things that happened. That was the reason why those hands appear so much above the water. But the water, of course, is moving and that brings certain cinematic aspects to this projection and maybe more so than the motion of the hands themselves because it’s a continuing cinematic event: trauma is being transmitted from one generation to another without speech act, without saying what one is hiding inside. That transmission will be going on, so in that sense the interruption of this continuity is one of the ways memorial, this type of work, functions. But also the fact that this is constantly fresh, the water is fresh, provides a very different situation: it’s a possibility of another repetition, of not having similar events happening. Clearly there is a link between testimony, memory as the act of storytelling, and finding words and metaphors for what happened, and disruption of continuity of traumatic events.

GB One of the ones that I’m particularly fond of is this one called Dis-armor, right, which is spelt “Dis”- “Armor”. It’s a piece that speaks about how disarming things can be but also how one can be armed or disarmed both literally and metaphorically. Let’s see if we can put this up …


GB If the architecture was projecting out here the person itself becomes a screen. But what’s happening that’s interesting is that you’re actually making the body do something it cannot do: putting eyes in the back and making the communication among people being not frontal, which is an incredible thing.

KW If we refer to Walter Benjamin “The Angel of History,” so, interpreting Klee’s painting of the angel being blond and disaster and flying backwards … In this case you could maybe see some kind of jet propulsion speaking back the truth in a kind of parasitic, like this free speaker in Ancient Greece whose mission was to tell the truth in order to animate democratic discourse, in public space of course, but speaking back in order to move forward. At the same time, seeing the situation in the back through a rearview mirror. So it’s an Angel of History equipped with a rearview mirror, and actually removing in opposite position.

GB Well this is wonderful because, in a sense, it ties everything up to this idea that we began with Hiroshima of saying that memory is not just looking backwards, is not collecting the past, but is something that actually is a process, but it’s probably a process also healing in a sense, a process that allows for the work of memory to heal and so to create a different kind of future and perhaps a different future.

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