Grine Kuzine

Installation at Fentster, curated by Evelyn Tauben, 2016
This site-specific installation recreates my late grandmother Sylvia’s 1930s kitchen using recycled cardboard to reflect on past and present hardships of starting life anew as an immigrant. The installation’s title originates from a well-known 1920s Yiddish song, Di Grine Kuzine (The Greenhorn Cousin) about an expectant newcomer to America who has become disillusioned by the harsh realities of immigrant life. Like the young woman in the song, Sylvia toiled at part-time jobs, saving to bring her husband to Winnipeg from Poland before WWII, despite being swindled by a fraudulent immigration agent. Hearing this song in as a child, I mistook the unfamiliar Yiddish words to mean “The Green Kitchen.” In the cardboard kitchen filled with green Wandering Jew paper plants, a young Sylvia sits alone, waiting. As with many cultures, for Jewish immigrants the kitchen is often a locus of memory and sharing enduring traditions through food. The installation raises questions about the responsibility of descendants of immigrants to support new arrivals to our country and prods us to consider what is handed down and what is lost in translation between cultures, between places, between generations and through the immigrant experience.
Documentation photos by David Kaufman.