Ginzburg Geography to map life, love and exile

Maps give viewers limited directions of how to get to one place to the next, and what’s in between. In her Ginzburg Geography Project, interdisciplinary artist Jewlia Eisenberg intends to map the greater journey.

Ginzburg Geography, which will be making its world premiere at CU today at 7 p.m. as part of CU’s Week of Jewish Culture, is an online video project and art installation that outlines the lives, love and works of Leone and Natalia Ginzburg.

Leone was an editor, teacher and co-founder of the Italian anti-fascist action party Justice and Liberty. His wife, Natalia, was an author whose work focused on relationships and politics during and after World War II.

Eisenberg, founder of the “nerdy-sexy-commie-girly” group Charming Hostess, first got the idea for the project when she started reading Natalia Ginzburg’s novels.

“I was struck by the way intimacy and place were expressed in her work,” Eisenberg said. “The seed of the Ginzburg Geography is my feeling of discovery and joy as a reader.”

Eisenberg quickly became interested in Natalia and Leone’s lives. She was intrigued by the period of 1938 to 1944 with Leone’s essays on musical interpretation and letters to Natalia from prison.

“I soon realized I wanted to do a project based on their intertwined lives and work,” Eisenberg said. “I knew that journeys between geographical spaces – the city where they met, the village where they were exiled, the city where they continued their resistance work and he was killed – was how I wanted to frame the project.”

Jamie Polliard, the assistant director of the CU Program in Jewish Studies, said CU is on the cutting edge for being able to bring the true performance artist’s project to the campus. Polliard said the project has been commissioned to be at UCLA in the fall and has sparked interested internationally with institutions in Italy. Many of this week’s events will highlight the growth of the project.

“Jewlia’s work also allows for a high-degree of interactivity – engaging participants at many different levels,” Polliard said. “This project begins as an interactive digital art project, moves to a visual art installation and then concludes with music inspired by the project.”

Eisenberg says Ginzburg Geography starts with texts that address physical place, memory and interpretive strategy and develops into a series of sonic and spatial maps. The interactivity Polliard described plays a large role in the project.

Recently, Eisenberg has displayed her immersive installation work called The Bowls Project in San Francisco and Uzbekistan. Eisenberg says she has been expanding into installation art so visitors can also be participants.

With this project, participants can track the struggles and liberation of the Ginzburgs while also mapping their own journeys in a hybrid history of music, video and snapshots.

“I want to make work where people who encounter it feel ownership over it,” Eisenberg said. “At the same time I want to turn folks on to exciting new things, ideas, texts, music that may be new and challenging, but at the same time feels accessible and exciting.”

By Marlee Horn for the Colorado Daily