It all started when Dan Kaufman, of the Endangered Language Alliance, walked into an immigration office on 23rd Street and saw one of Yuri Marder’s astonishing black and white portraits. Dan knew immediately that the scrawled text on the photograph was in Malagasy, the national language of Madagascar. And he knew that this photographic portrait carried all the information of endangered languages. People cut off, unable to speak with others, the sadness of solitude.
Marder had not had endangered languages in mind when he began this work—he just felt that the language in its handwritten state somehow carried the essence of the culture. The child of European refugees, Marder has won many grants and prizes, including fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, and Art Matters. His work has been featured in solo exhibitions at Abrons Art Center, Henry Street Settlement, New York, NY; Photography Gallery, Notre Dame University, Notre Dame, IN; Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, Queens, NY; the Robert B. Menschel Photography Gallery, Syracuse, NY; Grand Central Station, New York, NY; and the School of Art and Design Gallery, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA.
“If scripture is lost then you lose your tradition. If tradition is lost then you lose your culture. If culture is lost then you lose your identity.”
“Outside, thunder and lightning, the storm forms a great river in the street. And we stay together inside, making savory corn flour cakes and a drink of hot corn porridge.”
“No one asks you. No one would ask you. The age of coldness has come.”
“A person who has suffered knows to respect and value the things that they have.”
“Determine tomorrow today.”
“Our people defeated the French colonizers, and chased them out of our land, and then we rested in the shadow of the doroti tree.”