The focus of the installation "Presence/Absence ::: Into the Void" was a reflection upon the history and the recent changes in the krakovian neighbourhood of Kazimierz. The center of this meditation is the seemingly contradictory development of the last few years, which is showing that the attempts to "re-animate" jewish culture within Krakow are creating increasingly more room for the so called “jewish space” (Diana Pinto). At the same time the absence of a local, based on “everyday life” jewish life and its representants, is creating Kazimierz into a hitorical monument within the city.
The installation was working on the basis of an attempt of reversing the seasons: from summer to winter. While during summer the flourishing “Festival of Jewish Culture” is attended by thousands of Krakowians and visitors from abroad, the winter-time is dominated by a relative absence of jewish culture activities and empty streets.
Surrounded by lively summertime street-scenes outside the Center for Jewish Culture, the exhibition room was filled with the atmosphere of the cold krakovian winter. To do so, Meissner maked the use of filedrecordings in the streets of Kazimierz done during his visit in Febrauary 2003 (together with his partners Ran Slavin and Eran Sachs).
By using so called “psycho-acoustic” sound editing software, Meissner was trying to find traces of jewish life in Kazimierz during winter: on the streets or in his audio processings. Aditional soundworks created for this installation were Meissner´s adaptations and compositions influenced by the soundtrack of “Schindler´s List”. These acoustic quotations, transformed through the techniques of micro-sampling, were trying, on the one hand, to point out where the absence of Jews in Kazimierz is rooted, but also, on the other hand, to refer to a phenomenon of a specific “Erlebnistourismus”, which causes the pilgrimage of thousands of people to “authentic places”, which often only turn out as just shooting-places for movies.
In search for future views on Kazimierz as a place of the representation of Jewish culture and the question, if “non-virtually” jewish life can take place in Krakow again, Meissner adopted a comparison, used by Diana Pinto, a Paris-based historian:
Today however, the surviving members of the past are coming back to life in Europe itself, fanned by the winds of pluralist democracy and by the healing powers of history…and with the help of American Jewish institutions. The comparison that comes to mind is with the California vines that were sent back to Europe after the phyloxera epidemic of the 1870’s had destroyed Europe’s most prestigious vineyards, so as to bring them back to life. The California vineyards had of course originally come themselves from Europe. European Judaism will be the product of a similar grafting. Of course Jewish life in Europe can only have a future if it is rooted in Europe itself and if it confronts its own very special challenges”.
What the above quote is not revealing, is the fact that today´s european vineyards are growing on transplanted Californian roots: but the branches themselves are still cultivated in Europe.
This installation was accompanied by a series of postcards, based on Meissner´s picture series done during his visit in February 2003. They were rendered through a digital process, which is initially used to create film negatives.