"The melancholic calm of the place has just been substituted by a storm, a storm of questions but above all of doubts...Plato warned us against this. I saw this place without being aware of it, without realising my place without questioning the memory that inhabits it**".
'Leftover from the void' (Les Résidus du vide) concerns a large scale art project, commissioned to respond to a specific local community need. It took place over a period of two years from 2017 in the small town of Reichshoffen in French Alsace and centred around the presence of an empty, 19th century synagogue. Alsace is home to a large concentration of over 200 synagogues many of which remain empty and forgotten in small towns and villages with no longer a Jewish community for which to serve. The towns in which they are found are often confronted with a dilemma around what to do with these buildings. Should they be left alone? Should they be renovated at great expense or transformed to meet more current needs? How to engage locals in their present and future? As with the fate of the community it served and with the rise of nativist politics and antisemitism in the region, it is only a matter of time before it disappears completely both physically and from collective memory.
The project involved archival research, consultation and visits with local residents, politicians, archaelogists, academics, regional historians, the departmental Jewish council, local schools and businesses. From this it was identified that fundamentally awareness presented the biggest challenge. Despite its location in the centre of town, locals who had lived nearby their entire lives either had no knowledge about its existence or why it was there. Following the project, discussions took place with the municipality with a view to securing the buildings future in a way that will serve current local community needs whilst preserving its history.
The project was reinforced by short film testimonies, limited edition photographs, texts, a catalogue and an art installation lasting six months in situ in the form of an architectural intervention.
The art installation reconstructs the reflections of sunlight that enter through the remarkable Islamic inspired stained glass windows. The sunlight appears to be naturally cast over the floor but without the use of projectors. The light fades and grows as with the passing of a fleeting cloud. At a given moment mediators place shutters over the windows but rather than removing the sunlight, it remains in place. The installation also interacts with the building’s found objects and relics. One by one they are removed from their plinths whilst their assumed shadows remain unaffected.
A Jewish village cemetery around the same area at the time of the art project
**Read the full article by art critic Claire Kueny (eng)
Read the full interview between Ben Jack Nash and archaeologist Claire Decomps (eng)