The National Centre for Contemporary Arts (NCCA) Kaliningrad presented on the 14 October a sculpture by Ram Katzir “Petrification”. This is a life-size sculpture of a suitcase carved out of a massive block of Jerusalem stone. It was created for the city of Kaliningrad by the Israeli-Dutch artist Ram Katzir. The unveiling of this sculpture at the Kaliningrad Museum of the City History Friedland Gates took place on the 110th Anniversary of the birth of the prominent thinker Hannah Arendt (14.10.1906 – 4.12.1975).
Hannah Arendt is one of the most important and interesting twentieth century social and political philosophers. She made outstanding contribution to the discourse on totalitarianism, power, society, ideology, violence and the relationship between politics and philosophy. A German of Jewish origin, Arendt grew up in Königsberg, modern day Kaliningrad. In 1932 she took her last visit to her native town. After that she never returned, but always retained her link to the city.
In academic writings little attention is paid to the significance of the formation of Hannah Arendt as an individual and thinker in Königsberg, though it was she herself who insisted that “By my mindset I am still the native of Königsberg. Sometimes I conceal it from myself. But that’s the fact”.
Katzir’s stone suitcase is a metaphor of Arendt’s departure and return to her native town – mentally rather than physically. In 2006, Katzir placed his first Jerusalem stone suitcase in the Akademie der Wissenschaften, Berlin, the university in which Hannah Arendt was arrested by the Gestapo in 1933. Ten years later the stone suitcase resurfaces in Kaliningrad, formed after a 1930s suitcase from the Friedland Gates Museum collection.
The brick pattern on the suitcase follows the historic cobblestone pavement at the museum entrance; a cross point of stones going in different directions. This relates to the multi-layered history of Kaliningrad and the abundance of effects that Arendt’s ideas continue to have on social and political life and thinking.
Petrification organically grows from the texture of the city and like the Jerusalem stone – a rare type of limestone, containing traces of life from past geological ages – embodies the memory of Hannah Arendt in a material object. The result is a cultural fossil that will change over time.
According to the artist, the human scale of the installation invites people to contemplate Hanna Arendt as a person rather than as a philosophical giant. It invites locals and visitors to slow down and contemplate the life and legacy of a profound thinker who walked these same streets of Kaliningrad.
The unveiling of Petrification took place in the framework of the larger program “Happy birthday, Hannah Arendt!”, organized on the occasion of the 110th Anniversary of the philosopher’s birth by the Consulate General of Germany in Kaliningrad, Freunde Kants und Königsbergs e.V. and the Baltic Branch of the National Centre for
Contemporary Arts. At present the sculpture moved to the exhibition hall of NCCA (Litovsky Val, 38, entrance № 6) and will be displayed there till 13 November at the exhibition “Migration card”.