Abigail’s experience of Berlin was unexpectedly disturbing and alienating as she struggled to reconcile the pulsating life of the modern city with the terrible underlying pain that it’s not so distant past evoked in her. She also had difficulty relating to Germany’s Holocaust memorialisation, which is ambiguous by its very nature as, on the one hand, the memorials appeal to the German nation to remember the victims of the awful crimes that the nation itself perpetrated, with industrial efficiency; while, on the other hand, they publicly declare that the nation is in the process of confronting its past and incorporating the Shoah and its lessons into its collective memory, or has already done so.
In the epicentre of Berlin is a vast, modern Jewish memorial that was designed by Peter Eisenmann, a minimalist sculptor of virtual space and time, and was inaugurated in 2004. It is situated very close to Hitler’s bunker and is comprised of 2 711 grey coloured concrete blocks or “stelae” of varying heights that are arranged in a grid on slightly sloping land within an area of nineteen thousand square metres. The stellae were erected by the engineer Buro Happold and create the impression of a huge field of burned gravestones. Beneath the memorial is an information centre that holds the names of Jewish Holocaust victims.
Although the site of this memorial is not a killing site, Abigail has turned it into an image of transformation where the process of gilgul, the transmigration of the souls of the murdered Jews of Europe, is taking place. Thus, she has painted golden angels arising out of each of the stellae and, at a higher level, butterflies flit in the sky as symbols of metamorphosis. In the centre of the butterflies an image of the Shekhinah hovers, with Her abundant hair shedding roses in an eternal swirl of space and time. At the top of the painting the phoenix arises from the ashes, flanked on either side by mirror images of Abigail holding a light of six flames.