The concept of A Living Memorial –
Memorial Project Against the Forgettingm Rassism, Xenophobia and Antisemitism
was outlining in total 7 parts – exhibitions – each one dedicated to another colour, eg. Brown, Blue, Green, Red, Yellow, White/Grey and Black – and a connected symbolism. Each part was supposed to transport another artistic contents according to the goals of the project, as well as stand alone, but finally it got its actual meaning only in the context of the totality of the project.
It was an essential idea to install the exhibitions of this multi-parted and various enterprise again and again as colour spaces simultaneously or time-shifted at different places of another region or major city. The venues were supposed to be locations which mostly did not have any connection to art, but by installating the exhibitions the spaces – now recreated – were changing their identity and how the spectator was perceiving and experiencing the space (at least) while the exhibition was running.
Planned on long term, the dynamic project had no limits of time, its conceptual goals went far beyond the usual, „art“, „commemorating“ or dealing with the Holocaust and Hitler’s totalitarianism. It was created out to activate the passively consuming spectator – to be extended optionally by complementary events like lectures, a symposium, discussions and much more.
While the first of all exhibitions „1000 years, 50 years and still so terribly young“ became the contents of the „Brown Space“ – the colour brown is standing for – „blood and soil“ – the dirty mud of the NAZI ideology – and remained unchanged to a great extend, the memorial project development was on a good way, when, as earlier mentioned, it was brutally stopped by a terror attack in autumn 1998.
Thus, the realisation of the artistic memorial remained uncompleted. The ruins of the project became theimselves a memorial of their own aims. This, however hadn’t that effect afterwards to exhibit these ruins, for instance, as a memorial and project of their own. From the current point of view, the question may be permitted, how to deal with these ruins nowadays after a number of art objects had been reconstructed by the artist.
Particularly the installation of the „Brown Space“ was affected by the destructive attack. Many of the objects were so seriously damaged that it did not make sense to consider restoring or reconstructing them, while some individual objects had the potential to be restored.
The development of the „Blue Space“ and the „Green Space“ was already quite advanced when the attack was executed. This was manifesting itself in the dynamic compilation of the exhibition installations. The installation of the „Red Space“ could be considered rather as a kind of experiment searching for an ideal integration of new computer controlled media, at least, as far as it was technically possible at that time.
The „Blue Space“ incorporated a series of art objects as a basic component, entitled: “Everybody is an artist“, based on a citation by the German artist Joseph Beuys. While Beuys did not explain who exacly was becoming an artist and why, the art objects do however. In addition, the „Blue Space“ was juxtaposing historical and contemporary phenomena related to the victim“ and the „perpetrator“ and was dealing this way, with their perception in the current society. The colour „Blue“ is also related to the colour of the Israeli flag.
As a colour, „Green“ is standing for life, rest, tranqullity, survival and hope. Regarding the artistic contents of this colour space, these interpretations seem to be quite ambivalent.The installed art objects were juxtaposing documents of a lost Jewish culture with the concepts of language – primarily German – but alternatively also English.
When the artist was travelling in the East of Europe (once a traditional settling area for Jews for many centuries) after the Fall of the Berlin Wall, especially on Polish ground quite often there wasn’t any trace left that Jews had been living there once, although the Jewish population had the majority at most places. Only after some intensive research, in many cases ancient Jewish cememetries located outside of the settlements were giving evidence of Jewish life once.
The artist was documenting dozens of such Jewish cemeteries with his camera, which however, do not say much about Jewish life in ancient times and the history of the families. Nevertheless, often these cemeteries represent the only starting point for an advanced research.
However, not only the Holocaust was causing the depopulation of Jews in Eastern Europe, but also the poverty and the desastrous living circumstances the Eastern Jews were living on the country side and occasional local progroms killing or expelling Jews causing many of them to emigrate searching for a better life elsewhere on the globe. The systematic extermination of Jews during the Holocaust completed a development which started already much time earlier.
The green colour is also dedicated to those survivors leaving their home country already before the Holocaust, representing hope for the survival of Jewish culture.
The exhibits of the „Green Space“ are partially based on photographic documentations. Because the negatives are still existing, it is possible to restore the majority of objects. A more comprehensive reconstruction of the „Green Space“ is therefore feasable.
Red colour is marking the „Red Space“, of course. It stands not only for the blood of the victims shed by the perpetrators, but also the incredible aggression of the latter kindling hellfire of the Holocaust.
The exhibition at Gladbeck City Art Gallery consisted of a spatial installation of objects combining static photographic elements with moving images capturing the space in a collage-like way making the spectator feel like an intruder. This spatial installation might be reconstrcuted in parts as well, with some material expenses.
As for the remaining coloured spaces and exhibitions, which could not be realised any more due to the early mentioned attack, it’s no more than a conjecture, how the artist would have created them concerning esthetics and contents. The conceptual processes to be initiated had no chance to bring any visible results, and this way any consideration is unnecassary to reconstruct anything which had not been realised before.
The reasons for a reconstruction of what remained as fragmentary ruins lie the current project „://self~imaging – artist show face against Intolerance, Racism, Xenophobia and Antisemitism, – which Agricola de Cologne initiated 2015 on occasion of the recent refugee crises, representing at the same time a crisis of the Western society. This project is based on similiar aims as „A Living Memorial“ which are nowadays as current as nearly 20 years ago.
Nothing else might represent better the madness of the sick Nazi ideology than the leftover of an artwork destroyed by Neonazi, nothing else might serve better the purpose of a „living“ memorial
Related questions have to be answered in future.