In the exhibition “Cut from Blue Sky,” Talya Feldman mines the thorny histories of racist violence in Germany and mass shootings in the United States. Her interest in these subjects grew out of personal experience—the artist lived through the attack on the synagogue in Halle, Germany, on October 9, 2019—which has also shaped her creative approach as a whole; Feldman now develops forms of representation that let the victims be present, instead of focusing, as the news media is prone to do, on perpetrators and crime scenes, which effectively perpetuates the violence. In this way, Feldman’s art seeks to chart a utopian space of healing. Consider After Halle, 2020, a sound installation in which we hear her fellow survivors hum melodies that were sung inside the synagogue during the shooting, offering comfort for both the victims of this trauma and the people who listen to their story. “How do we find healing, not only for ourselves, but also for those around us,” Feldman asks, “after experiencing such tremendous violence?” This is the question that informs her practice.
In her 2020 poem “Obit,” Victoria Chang writes, “If you cut out a rectangle of a perfectly blue sky … That is grief.” Feldman follows this cue with Grief Is Data: Cut from Blue Sky, 2022, fifteen minimalist oil-on-aluminum panels painted in monochrome shades of blue that she inscribed with names, places, and dates: matter-of-fact enumerations of mass-shooting victims drawn from the Gun Violence Archive. Lists will never let us truly understand the incomprehensible, but through this gesture, the artist provides us a window through which to mourn and commemorate.
Translated from German by Gerrit Jackson.
— Jens Asthoff