Multimedia Masterpiece, Different Trains, To Be Shown at TMA

Eye On Art  |  01/23/2019 9:00 am

An important reminder of one of the greatest tragedies in human history, Different Trains, a large-scale video installation spanning nearly 25 feet, will occupy the Toledo Museum of Art’s Canaday Galley from Feb. 9 to May 5, 2019.

The profoundly moving work about the Holocaust is both historically important and aesthetically impressive. The 29-minute film will run on a continuous loop and features the 1988 musical score by American composter Steve Reich, recorded by the Kronos Quartet and visually reinterpreted by Spanish filmmaker Beatriz Caravaggio.

“This is part of the Museum’s effort to expand our collection’s new media offerings,” said Dr. Halona Norton-Westbrook, director of curatorial affairs. “This acquisition also aligns with TMA’s philosophy of collecting singular masterpieces. Different Trains is enthralling in every aspect – cinematography, musical score and story.”

Reich’s 1988 score is a beautiful and emotionally charged rumination on the train journeys of his youth and of the horrific deportation trains of the Holocaust. As a child, from 1939 to 1942, Reich made numerous cross-country train trips from New York to Los Angeles to visit his divorced parents. As an adult, Reich pondered what would have happened to him, a young Jewish boy, during that same period in Europe; as Reich safely traveled by train to his family, European trains were simultaneously deporting Jewish children to concentration camps. Spurred by this concept, he composed Different Trains in 1988, a work for string quartet and sampled recorded voices. The work was awarded the 1989 Grammy for the Best Contemporary Classical Composition.

Created in 2016, Caravaggio’s Different Trains sets Reich’s score to an archival film montage that lends new depths and insights to the original musical composition. Both the music and videos are beautifully composed; Reich’s score is fragmented and modern, while Caravaggio’s editing swiftly leads the audience through the work. Installed in three screens mimicking the three-part structure of the music, the film has a cut-up, collage-like quality. The first movement, “America—Before the War”, incudes images of wonder, idyllic countryside and city skylines seen flitting through passenger windows. The second movement stands in stark contrast; “Europe—During the War” shows footage of Jewish people forced aboard Nazi deportation trains. The third movement connects the moods of the first two: “After the War” is hopeful, but cautiously so. Now part of the Museum’s permanent collection, Different Trains has received widespread acclaim and was featured in a special presentation at the Museo Bilbao in 2017.

“The exhibition will also feature a reflection space, which will contain information about the installation, transcripts of the voices heard in the melodies, and resources and additional reading about the Holocaust for audiences of different ages,” said Dr. Lauren Applebaum, curator of the exhibition.

In conjunction with TMA’s presentation of Different Trains, visitors will also have the opportunity to view Bearing Witness: The Voices of Our Survivors, presented in the Little Theater twice daily. This documentary unites the oldest and youngest generations of the Jewish community in Toledo. In the film, six Holocaust survivors from five different countries share their experiences with teens. These survivors' individual stories tell the Holocaust's collective history. Their personal memories, will to survive, and messages of hope inspire, sharing the truth of the Holocaust so that future generations "never forget." 

This presentation of Different Trains is supported by the Stacey and Harley Kripke Philanthropic Fund, the Jewish Federation of Greater Toledo, the Donald L. Solomon Supporting Organization, the Ruth Fajerman Markowicz Holocaust Resource Center, Dr. Allen and Hindea Markowicz, Lynn and Frank Jacobs, Arleen and Jon Levine, Linda and Joel Beren, Dr. Robert and Beverly Karp, Sandy Soifer and Paul Goldner, Julie and Fred Treuhaft, H. Zachary Ottenstein, and an anonymous donor, with additional support from the H.L. Thompson, Jr. Family Fund.