AVM Riga 2012 – The Countdown



Image: (from the left to the right) The 7 artists arrived already in Riga: Felice Hapetzeder, Agricola de Cologne, Eitan Vitkon, Shelley Jordon, Jay Needham, Ben Neufeld and Doron Polak

The countdown is running. Just two days left until the official opening of A Virtual Memorial Riga 2012 – Commemorative Interventions on 1 June, 12h.

Today, the first artist arrives in the afternoon, Jay Needham from Carbondale,Il (USA). I will meet him at 16h at the hotel. He is one of the SFC artists participating in the artists talks and holding a lecture about his experiences as an interviewer for the Shoah Visual History Foundation. The other two attending US artists Ben Neufeld (New York) and Shelley Jordon (Portland) arrive later this evening. On 20h, we all will meet in the hotel lobby.

Questions behind SFC (cont)

For today, I would like to give an idea why the topic “Shoah” got an increasing relevance to me.

SFC – The topic

I have been asked many times, why I chose such a complicated and heavy matter as a topic for an artistic-curatorial initiative. The reason cannot be explained in a short sentence. But by comparing this project with other artistic-curatorial plans and projects of mine, dealing with the topic of Shoah (Holocaust) has by far the most and strongest personal motivation, which is rooted in my particular course and circumstances of my life. In my family, for instance, my father who was in the 40ies of the last century the young father of three little children who obviously disliking the Nazi ideology from the bottom of his heart was once kidnapped by the GESTAPO and admitted to a mental hospital. For many days my mother did not know what had happen to her husband, until about 8 days  later he appeared unexpectedly at home, since he could escape from the hostage imprisonment. There is a Jewish branch in my family, which I recovered as such in an inheritance issue only in the 90ies of last century, on the other hand, members of another family branch had positions in the Nazi system. An aunt of mine was a convinced Nazi, until she died some years ago.

Born after World War II in Germany, already as a child, I had an irrepressible desire for freedom and a special sense for justice.  When I started at the year of 15 to dedicate my entire energy to art, the topics of this early time were rooted in a philosophical debate about these issues, so retrospectively seen dealing with the essential questions of human existence were leading me automatically to the Holocaust and the unimaginable barbarism of the human species against itself who was living in the 1st half of the 20th century, it was an insane ideology which had infected the human mind not only in Germany, but entire Europe and beyond, and, this is most frightening again and again, it obviously cannot be eradicated and find its always its followers  these days, the recent French elections showed that impressively, or all the Neo-Nazi manifestations mention nearly every day in the media.

Even if “Holocaust” is used primarily as symbol for the millions of victims who were exterminated, whereby not only Jews, but also other social “minorities” like Sinti & Roma, the Socialists, Communists, Homosexuals or Ba’hai, a religious group, became victims not only of persecutions but also the extermination, “Holocaust” became a symbol and synonym  for many issues, but most important “The Unimaginable” which  the human barbarism is representing, got for the first time a name. Thus the memory of the holocaust is always is that strong reminder, that this “unimaginable barbarism” must not happen again ever, whether in Germany, Europe or any other part on the globe. But the reality is telling different facts, since before our very eyes in different parts on the globe genocides are taking place, and for many reasons people let it happen, in an international contexts, like the war of the Syrian administration against its own people, which is representing nothing else than state terrorism, from the view of the world  community of states the political situation does not allow an intervening and the dictator can bluntly continue his barbarism and crimes against humanity.

I am not the first and only German who felt a particular responsibility for history when he was confronted the German barbarism by visiting the former concentration camps and memorial sites in Poland like Auschwitz, Majdanek, Warsaw and many other places, which was possible only after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, causing a profound and lasting shocking effect on me. I did not feel guilty, because I was born after World War II, but I felt responsible, the need calling to make my personal contribution not only  to the reconciliation between Germans and Jews, but also between German and Polish people.

While I was travelling in Poland, I got the idea for a travelling memorial, which was supposed to be  exhibited as an installation, and interested  Polish institutions in my project to be created on occasion of the 50th return of the end of World War II in 1995.

Following my internal voice and inspiration, for the artistic research I needed to visit Poland many times, most time, however, I spent in Lublin where the concentration camp Majdanek  was located.  It was probably one of the basic mistakes, I was making in my life. When I was asked by the State Majdanek Museum, whether I would prefer residing in a hotel room during my stays in Lublin or choosing a guest room of the museum located on the area of the historical concentration camp, I was deciding for the latter guest room, not being aware in any way, that via this decision I was starting a kind of suicidal self-experiment, resulting a never ending nightmare escalating during many years.

To be continued.


SFC – The Collection (cont)

At this point, I would like to continue presenting the films and videos of Shoah Film Collection.


The first film “My German Vocabulary”, 2007, 2:27 by Annetta Kapon  – “These are all the 57 words I know in German, in the order in which I remembered them. They betray something of my ethnicity (Jewish), nationality (Greek), age (57), politics (left), cultural identity (artist) and education (professor). “

Review “My German Vocabulary”


Another but much younger artist, and also of Greek origin is Konstantinos-Antonios Goutos His film, entitled: theFlâneu® shoots Auschwitz, 2008-2010, 29;48 – is documenting his visit of Auschwitz, expressed in his own words: “ , the first and extraordinary visit of the Flâneu® and his camera in Auschwitz –  an exi[l]stencial experience –  through auschwitz II and auschwitz I –  on december 13, 2008, between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. with a normal digital video apparatus –  without tripod – without camera moves – without a zoom lens –  without special lighting – without extra microphone –  the sound and the length of the shootings are the original no moment of the shooting was removed by cutting the sequence of the scenes is the same as the shooting was, without any cut or use of effects comments, archive material or music was not used.

Review “theFlâneu® shoots Auschwitz”


A very touching authentic document and the longest film in the collection is “My Grandma – Frau Masha”, 2006, 57:00 – by the Israeli video maker Yonatan Weinstein.

Yonatan, a 13-year-old boy, sets out with his camera to document for the very first time the story of his 90-year-old grandmother, Masha, a holocaust survivor. Masha tells Yonatan her story in such a way that revives events that she surpassed during the holocaust in front of the spectator’s eyes: Life in the shadow of war, the impossible decisions she had to face, the separations, the loss…The movie reveals a unique encounter between a grandchild and his grandmother, which serves as a bridge between the third generation, the grandchildren, and the holocaust survivors who outlived the atrocities.

Review “ My Grandma – Frau Masha”


Jay Needham’s film “This is a Recording, 2009, 4:29
- was created for SFC – Shoah Film Collection

This is a Recording recounts some of the experiences I had while videotaping survivors of the Holocaust for the Shoah Visual History Foundation in the late 1990’s. The piece is a part of a series of inter-related works that include 13 Buildings and OPENED. These pieces are recomposed largely from my own fragmented family albums and sound recordings, and are essentially post-memory works, sound and visual pieces that explore personal migrations and erasures of memory. In the research and creation of my work, I situate narrative and documentary elements together in order to heighten creative relationships and also to reorient my audience’s expectations. As my memories of those interviews with survivors begin to fade, I am reminded of how vitally important it is to tell the stories of our many genocides, both historic and in progress.

Review “This is a Recording”

To be continued.

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