'Meine Karten Sind Durchlöchert: My Maps Are Full of Holes'

Randi Renate Mabry's installation unearths the hidden past of her family's German heritage

Sweet memories: detail of the installation Meine Karten Sind Durchlöchert: 
My Maps Are Full of Holes
Sweet memories: detail of the installation "Meine Karten Sind Durchlöchert: My Maps Are Full of Holes" (Photo courtesy of Flex Space)

'Meine Karten Sind Durchlöchert: My Maps Are Full of Holes'

Flex Space, 1109 Shady
Through March 29

Nostalgia is a fickle muse. It asks us to hark back to the past and create a romantic sheen over it, to feel an affinity, perhaps even a longing, for what once was, regardless of how worthy that past may have been. The desire to revisit old memories and imagine how the inevitable path that history has taken could have been changed is ever enticing, but how do you justify that yearning when your past is laced with complexities?

In "Meine Karten Sind Durchlöchert: My Maps Are Full of Holes," artist Randi Renate Mabry begins to unwind her dislocated German heritage, torn apart by World War II. Inspired by a letter from her great-grandfather, Richard Schneider, detailing his actions on the French battlefield while fighting for Germany, Mabry begins to unearth hidden portions of the family history both during and after the war.

Mabry's efforts to bring her heritage to light are part of a long tradition of art that seeks such answers, especially in Germany. From the documentary Opa war kein Nazi to the cultural exploration of how World War II is taught in German schools, modern-day Germans are striving to reconcile their present lives with the sins of their families' pasts. But Mabry takes a unique approach in that she offers little commentary on Schneider's role in defending his Vaterland or the history that follows. "Meine Karten Sind Durchlöchert" stands as an honest depiction of both the deep family ties to the Third Reich and the simplicity of life moving on, even after participating in such a great tragedy.

Mabry guides viewers through the past three generations of her family with various ephemera: photographs, passports, letters, and personal possessions. These items dot the gallery space, which has been wholly transformed into the kitchen of Mabry's grandmother, complete with cuckoo clock. The space is subdued and indeed constructed with an air of affection. The refrigerator is full of German sugar cubes, a treat that Mabry's grandmother would dole out. Framed photos of the artist as a child, along with her mother and brother, lovingly decorate the space in true grandmotherly fashion. Physical reminders of the darker family history, however, interrupt these portraits. It's a balanced display of both pain and progress.

Flex Space will host an artist talk and closing reception with traditional German food and drink Saturday, March 29, 5-8pm.

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'Meine Karten Sind Durchlöchert: My Maps Are Full of Holes', Austin visual art, Randi Renate Mabry, Flex Space

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