In our publication Legacy: Generations of Creatives in Dialogue, a lively philosophical discussion between artist Rachel Libeskind and architect Daniel Libeskind. They converse about the notion of legacy in the arts in the past, present and future as well as the ultimate legacy of the Holocaust in the 20th century and beyond. Below, we share an excerpt from their exchange. To read the full text, purchase the book here.
DANIEL LIBESKIND: Legacy is a gift, passed through time, and so it’s not something minor; it’s really the dimension that includes imagination and creativity.
RACHEL LIBESKIND: It’s also something that one inherits, but in the inheriting, there is actually a burden because it’s not a formally inherited object or title. It’s actually something that has to be continually worked on, in order to be passed on in terms of a continued generational legacy.
DL: The giver of this gift is unknown.
RL: No, you are the giver of the gift!
DL: No, you are the giver of the gift; the gift is coming from the future and the past simultaneously.
Legacy is not something that goes from past to future but is actually something going in both directions
RL: That’s true—legacy is not something that goes from past to future but is actually something going in both directions.
DL: Bruno Schulz—whom I also read in Polish—particularly his essay Treatise on Tailors’ Dummies, is to me a fundamental piece of a legacy that brings together deep Jewish roots with the world that has vanished and is coming into being. Very closely connected to it, as a part of this legacy, is Hypnerotomachia Poliphili by Francesco Colonna, which is a Renaissance narration of an impossible dream that is illustrated as a treatise for future architecture. I bring these books together as a part of a specific legacy, even though they have nothing explicitly to do with my work, they have always been lurking in the dreams I’ve had.
RL: Bruno Schulz, specifically, comes out of a legacy that is very close to us genetically and geographically—a Jew of Ashkenazi descent living in Galicia, which is the area between Poland and Germany. DL Drohobycz, where Schulz was born, was a centre of Jewish life. He suffered the fate of many Jews: they killed him like a dog. He was murdered on the street by a Schutzstaffel (SS) officer, who knew him well and kept him like a dog. That is also part of that book. RL I discovered in reading the essays of Bruno Schulz, (which are less known than his books of short stories) that he refers to the image from Goethe’s Erlkonig of the man who, on horseback, in the dead of night, carries a boy to help and safety. Every German child in elementary school in Berlin is made to learn this epic poem by heart. He says in the essay that we have a ‘fixed fund of capital’ when it comes to images that are destined to us, and us alone, and that for the rest of your life, you spend time trying to understand why these images are so pertinent to your creative work.