AboutGERMAN ARTIST KAREN STUKE realizes W.G. Sebald's masterpiece Austerlitz (2001) this autumn at The Wapping Project. The installation, which includes monumental pin-hole camera photographs taken in the book's key locations, a metaphorical railway line and Jewish actors reading the novel is created by Stuke in collaboration with The Wapping Project's curator Jules Wright. The commissioning of a German artist to respond to a work which deals with the Nazi oppression of Jews is not lost on Karen Stuke for whom the process has been often difficult and painful.
Austerlitz is one of literature's most haunting meditation on time, loss and retrieval. It tells the story of Jacques Austerlitz, an architectural historian who, aged 5, was sent to England on a Kindertransport and placed with foster parents in Wales. As he rediscovers his past, Austerlitz embarks on a journey through time and space, which takes him from mid-20th century mitte-Europa to contemporary England.
Stuke, an accomplished photographer in the use of the pin-hole camera, followed this journey, cross-referencing information from the book with maps and records. At the crossroad between fact and fiction, she found when they existed, the places of Austerlitz's story: the exhibition centre in Prague from which his mother was deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, the railway journey followed by the Kindertransport, his house in Mile Endâ¦
The resulting photographs, all taken with her handcrafted pin-hole camera, are the work of light, time and memory. Elusive images created by aggregated traces of light, they evoke fuzzy memories, and justly lend themselves to both, the layers and recesses of Austerlitz' mind, and Sebald's narrative. Pursuing her interest in bringing together visual art and performance, Stuke has also devised, in collaboration with Jules Wright, a large-scale installation that brings key elements from the book into a reality. The visitor is therein an active viewer and listener, delving into the darkest corners of Austerlitz's memory, and of Europe's recent history.
About Karen Stuke
Karen Stuke (b. 1970) completed her studies in Photo and Film Design at the Bielefeld University of Applied Sciences. She took her first theatre photograph in the 1990s. Animated by the desire to capture the spirit of the play and its unfolding in time and space, she used a pin-hole camera and decided to expose a whole performance in a single photograph. Since then, Stuke has earnt an international reputation as an expert on the pin-hole camera, and collaborated with some of the most prestigious directors and theatres including Gottfried Pilz at the Vienna State Opera, Oper Leipzig, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Oper der Stadt Köln, Opéra Comique Paris and the Los Angeles Opera. She founded her own project space in Berlin, Kronenboden, where she focuses primarily on the intersections between visual and performing arts.