Frederick Abrams

The Underground Cathedral


Q. Is travel through the underground for you a metaphor for a passage?

A.I’ve done some exhibitions which I titled, “The Underground Cathedral – Rights of Passage.” Passages are rituals in life of going through various stages of development, some which are traditional and some which are not. I think of this as a metaphor. “SamoobsÅ‚uga,” which is about Poland, shows this in several ways. There’s a continual return to the front window of a shop which sold wedding clothes. I photographed and videotaped this over a period of several years during different visits to Poland and this shop changed each time.

The concept of life there has changed so much. The Warsaw Metro was just two unfinished stations when I first visited in 1989 and now there’s a real metro. Passage of life is something personal, it’s connected to religion, it’s connected with social systems. I think in terms of my own life passages through many different experiences which living in different cultures has taught me.

Q. You have talked of the passage from the Medieval Cathedral to the metro which is a system of modern technology. In a TV interview you did in Poland, you spoke of the relationship between what is ancient and new.

A. This is in my work. I started with the ancient craft of stained glass and yet I chose for the main work that is the central theme of my project, “The Underground Cathedral,” a composition of a metro system, which is an invention of modern civilization. The media I have worked with reflects an evolution from this ancient craft to high technology. My point is that there is something of value to be extracted from all periods, cultures and art forms. This is why in the music I have integrated classical instruments and formal compositions with chance structures as well as improvisations, with elements of blues, rock, jazz, ethnic influences and techno sounds as well. To me, this is at the roots civilization, which my project, in the most general sense, is about.

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