By Deborah Orloff
Although doing an artist residency via Zoom was definitely not what I had in mind when I applied for the Create2Gether program in Budapest, it’s been an enriching and positive experience! I’ve been so impressed by the organizers’ creativity and willingness to adapt through this crazy time. They’ve worked really hard to make this a great experience for all of us (in spite of the pandemic and postponement of the trip). It’s been fascinating meeting other Jewish artists – especially from Eastern Europe where I have ancestral roots.
I have to admit I was a little skeptical when we were asked to collaborate with an artist in another country, while in quarantine, and via computer technology, but it ended up being a blessing in disguise. It was really meaningful to get to know my collaboration partner, Maria from Budapest, and see how much we have in common. In our discussions, we realized that we have similar ideas about the meaning of “home” (the theme of the program); we both believe home is where your family is rather than a physical place. We also identified overlapping themes in our artistic practice.
For the collaboration, we decided we would each make work that incorporated our common interests: lost information in family narratives (and the desire to know more about our ancestry), and the relationship between photography and memory. We also shared personal ephemera with each other (electronically) to use as source material in the work.
As a result, I made 5 new pieces which I got to exhibit in a virtual gallery along with the other residency artists. One of the pieces is a photomontage in which I combined a German marriage document from Maria's family with a photo I originally misidentified from my own archive, and a hint of the inscription found on the back of the photo (which led me to misidentify the picture), to speak to the gaps in our knowledge of our family histories as well as our commonalities.
In the other 4 pieces, and in my new work in progress, rather than making very large prints with sharp detail (as I had been doing), I decided to go in the opposite direction and use shallow depth of field and smaller scale prints to make the work more intimate and mysterious. In this way, the work becomes a meditation on family archives and the fact that so much of our collective history is lost and unknown.
The pieces I created during the collaboration represent a new trajectory in my artwork and I am excited to continue the pursuit. I am grateful for the experience and look forward to, eventually, seeing everyone in Budapest!
Deborah Orloff CREAETGEther participant Professor of Art and Associate Chair Department of Art School of Visual and Performing Arts University of Toledo