Text, photography and film take the viewer on a journey from Benjamin’s birthplace Berlin to Capri and Naples, where he spent formative episodes of his life. Documenting the lasting legacy of his work, the exhibition ends in Catalonia, northern Spain, where he died while fleeing the Nazis in 1940.
Benjamin wrote several of his most famous works while in exile from Germany, and ended his life stateless, after being stripped of his citizenship by the Nazi regime in 1939. Echoes of this past are seen in the current political landscape of Europe, where issues of citizenship, rights and migration have acquired renewed urgency. In response, Day for Night documents the predicament of a group of economic migrants in the border zone of northern Spain and reunites Benjamin's texts, in fragmentary form, with members of the public in Berlin, London, Tallinn, Estonia, and Catalonia.
The exhibition is a collaboration between fine art photographer Diego Ferrari, Kingston University, and writer Jean McNeil, University of East Anglia.
McNeil said: "The exhibition takes its title from an effect in filmmaking in which night-time scenes are deliberately shot in the day then underexposed. This reversal allows the viewer to consider a basic principle of photography: how light and dark are mutually constituted.
Through image and film, the exhibition explores the interstitial zones of our lives, when we are caught between exposure and refuge, and provokes a timely meditation on the enduring relationship between place, literature and rights."
A private viewing and reception will be held on 20 September.