Before World War II, the Polish city of Lodz had a population of more than 600,000. Approximately one-third of its citizens were Jews and most of them did not survive Nazi occupation. Today, even the memory of their once-vital neighborhoods has mostly faded. One who survived remembered buying balloons during strolls with her father before the war. Her daughter, New Orleans artist/curator Robin Levy, was inspired by such memories to invite contemporary artists in Lodz to share their impressions of the meaning of memory in a collaborative expo with local artists Courtney Egan, Anita Yesho and Deborah Luster. Egan and Yesho's profusely documented history of the Antenna Gallery building and the land on which it sits amounts to a colorful social history of the St. Claude neighborhood itself. Deborah Luster's well-known photographic portraits of local murder scenes reveal sites where lives were suddenly reduced to memories that poignantly linger among the living.
Adam Klimczak's 161 Photographs With Lodzia (pictured), offers the starkest reprise of the past in a slide show of photos set within the ID numbers of a blowup of a young Lodz woman interned in a labor camp. Inspired by Klimczak's mother, this spans the full spectrum of human emotions. Piotr Szczepanski's video employs a narrative history of places in a former Jewish neighborhood to articulate a psychic history of 20th-century Lodz itself, and Marta Madejska shares a friend's more recent, yet pointed, childhood memories. Justyna Wencel's video employs elegant dreamlike images as symbols of the tensions that arise between mother and daughter as societal values shift over time. Agnieszka Chojnacka's makeshift cavern of old quilts contains a video exploration of the psychic violence of childhood symbolized by a wand with a tinfoil star puncturing soap bubbles — a reminder that the lives and dreams we take for granted are often far more delicate than we realize. Levy deployed balloons in an eloquent allusion to her mother's own fragile, yet enduring, memories of Lodz. — D. ERIC BOOKHARDT