Benjamin Choir

Benjamin Choir. 2015. HD video. 10 min


German-Jewish philosopher Walter Benjamin started to write his renowned text “Theses on the philosophy of history” or “On the matter of History” in 1940 in an internment camp in occupied France. Benjamin later that year committed suicide out of despair after an unsuccessful attempt to cross the French-Spanish border.

Combining historical materialism with Jewish Messianic tradition Benjamin speaks of redemption of the past. While walking through the yards, staircases, streets and the canal of Nowy Port -across which on Westerplatte WW II first battles started- and looking at the famous cranes of Gdansk Shipyards -connected to Solidarity movement -, we are trying to grasp, as Benjamin puts it “…an irretrievable picture of the past, which threatens to disappear with every present, which does not recognise itself as meant in it”.

The senior inhabitants of Nowy Port who have lived through drastic historical changes sing as amateurs fragments of Benjamin’s text accompanied by professional baroque cello player Anna Jankowska. The choir perform the canonical essay inviting to think on the actual meaning of it, as well as on the historical significance of the place.

The residents sang the lyrics over an adapted version of “La Follia” by Corelli, a wide-spread baroque melody whose title that can be translated as ‘dementia’.

Concept by Olga Jitlina and Alejandro Ramirez.