Unboxing Past

02 September 2021 Helgard Haug / Rimini Protokoll

For 34 years, 513 gray archive boxes have been stored in the depot of the Archaeological Museum Frankfurt. 105 of them bear the inscription "Börneplatzsynagoge", on the others it says "Judengasse".

(1) Countless boxes of finds are stored in the depot of the Archaeological Museum. Photos: Helgard Haug
(2) 513 of them are inscribed with the names of the sites and house names of the early modern Judengasse.

In 1987 and 1990, during construction work in downtown Frankfurt, foundations of the synagogue destroyed during the November pogroms of 1938 were uncovered, as well as of buildings still dating from the Baroque period in the former Judengasse, the first ghetto in Germany. All the finds were recovered and deposited in boxes, but after a quick archiving they were not approached again. In mid-2020, archaeologist Thorsten Sonnemann began opening the boxes and systematically recording the contents. Thus he measures, numbers, photographs, looks at, analyzes and inventories stones, tiles, shards, utilitarian and everyday objects, as well as parts of the brutally destroyed Torah shrine.

(3) Model of the white office in which archaeologist Dr. Thorsten Sonnemann opens the boxes - set up in the depot of the Archaeological Museum Frankfurt
(4) Top view of the white office model

"Unboxing Past" is an artistic project that, for the first time in the history of significant archaeological processes, meticulously accompanies the opening of archive boxes and the associated work processes of the archaeologist with three cameras and an audio recording device. "Unboxing Past" is also a digital encounter and archive space created in cooperation with the Motion Bank project at Mainz University of Applied Sciences. A wide variety of people will come together in small groups to engage with the recordings.

Unlike the archaeologist Sonnemann, they work with their very own means on a conceivable future for the stones. Instead of folding rulers and scales, they use guiding questions for orientation: How do we remember? What do we need to remember? How can the history of these fragments and the human crimes associated with them be conveyed? And above all: How can stones be made to speak?

with the archaeologist Dr. Thorsten Sonnemann

Concept, direction: Helgard Haug

Dramaturgy: Moritz von Rappard

Film editing: Juan Pablo Bedoya

Interior design: Hagen Bonifer

Video equipment: Yannic Bill

Digitization: Motion Bank

Count me in!

Starting in September 2021, "Unboxing Past" invites curated groups to engage with these questions in a digital encounter space.If you are interested in being part of this, feel free to sign up in our contact form.In exchange with two other participants, they will discursively, artistically, and emotionally survey the found objects and discuss how the stones can remain audible.