ARK is an outdoor site-specific video installation that is the keynote project for the Jewish Museum in Prague's centennial year celebration.
ARK is a 4.5-meter high structure made out of acrylic and aluminum that serves as a 3D projection screen. Shiff has created a 30-minute video that narrates the history of the museum and the Prague Jewish community during the last turbulent century. It reflects upon the museum as an ark (as a sanctuary for Jewish cultural and religious treasures) and an archive (that preserves the legacy of Jewish cultural memory) as well as on the function of the museum in general. ARK confronts man-made catastrophes such as the Holocaust and natural disasters such the recent floods in Prague (2002) as the powers of the formless that threaten the museological imperative to collect, order, and structure the archive.
Shiff explains the symbolism of ARK as follows: "The museum functions as Noah's Ark did in the Old Testament to salvage and save what might otherwise be destroyed by natural disaster and catastrophe. Therefore ARK seemed to be the perfect metaphor for a project about the museum and particularly about this museum that was able to salvage thousands and thousands of objects during the Holocaust."
ARK responds to the site specificity of its placement, on the former small Pinkas street, the only remaining alley of the Jewish Ghetto and it is adjacent to the Pinkas Synagogue the Holocaust memorial in Prague. Therefore ARK looks back-- recalling the archival memory and urban topography of the Jewish Museum in Prague-- and looks forward to the future of memory as The Museum enters its second century.
This project is held in cooperation with the 9 Gates Festival with support from the following partners: Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic, the City of Prague, Prague 1 Borough, the Canadian Embassy in Prague, Goodside Foundation, Hardesh Foundation, The Lee Foundation, The Davis Family, The Glina Family, The Warshafsky Foundation, and Sieza s. r. o.
Artist: Melissa Shiff
Curator: Michaela Hajkova
Consultant: Louis Kaplan
Architect: Barry Isenor - Emily Hogg, Michael Bartosik
Engineers: Blackwell Bowick Partnership
After Effects: Melissa Shiff, Anna Malkin
Photographs: Melissa Shiff, Isaac Applebaum, Kathryn Gaitens, Robert Portel, Dana Cabanova