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TO DEC. 21
Live long enough, read enough newspapers, and it’ll happen to you, too: Because something awful went down at a familiar place, you’ll come to think of it as a memorial to someone you never knew. For me, it’s the woods alongside Route 29 in Silver Spring, where Hadden Clark buried Michele Dorr. For photographer Joel Sternfeld, it was a crab-apple tree behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where Robert Chambers killed Jennifer Levin. Sternfeld went on to devote a book, On This Site: Landscape in Memoriam, to photographs of places linked to violence. Years later, most of them looked completely ordinary. People remember; places forget. For more than a decade, Shimon Attie has reasserted memory by grafting it visibly back onto the spaces from which it arose. He made his name in the early ’90s by projecting old photographs of the residents of Berlin’s Jewish ghetto onto the actual sites at which they’d been taken. Coming at the end of a decade that had seen both an increase in Holocaust denials by right-wing wackos and an emphasis on the untrustworthiness of the photographic image by left-wing theorists, the series was grounded in a poignant insistence that photography be used to recover forgotten truths, while at the same time recognizing that the reconstitutive powers of memory are never absolute. More recently, Attie has beamed the verbal recollections of tenement residents onto the facades of their former dwellings and filled his own apartment with pictures of its past. To preserve these projections, he makes photographs (Untitled Memory (Projection of Marsha A.) is pictured) that will, in time, themselves become documents of a bygone age, loss compounding loss, memory clouding memory. Some of his work is on view from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, to Saturday, Dec. 21, at the Numark Gallery, 406 7th St. NW. Free. (202) 628-3810. (Glenn Dixon)