Chantal Akerman

“I MUST PHOTOCOPY THIS because soon there won’t be a trace,” says Chantal Akerman to her mother, Nelly, in the double video projection that is part of the daughter’s piece To Walk Next to One’s Shoelaces in an Empty Fridge. (First shown at the Centre Pompidou in 2004, the installation was at Marian Goodman Gallery in New York this past summer.) The object they are perusing—the daughter having drawn her chair close enough to put her arm around her mother’s shoulders as they sit at Nelly’s kitchen table—is the diary of Chantal’s maternal grandmother, Sidonie Ehrenburg, who was murdered at Auschwitz in 1942, along with her husband, father, and brother. In 1920, the teenage Ehrenburg had written in Polish, “I am a woman! Therefore, I cannot express all my feelings, my thoughts, my sorrows. . . . It is to you my dear diary that I will confide them.” In 1945, eighteen-year-old Nelly, liberated

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