Gareth Davies
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23 - London - Male

What labels me negates me - Nietzsche.

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The Visionary Artist in The Seventh Seal

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Ingmar Bergman’s ‘The Seventh Seal’ is one of those movies which has sat around in my flat for in excess of two years without being watched. Having finally taken the plunge and committed myself to it I can’t help feeling a little ashamed that I had neglected it for so long. It’s a film whose reputation precedes it. I remember reading about how Woody Allen loves Bergman, and how these Swedish movies were rooted in this kind of Kierkegaardean existentialism. It always sounded up my street, but I had never quite got there, until now.

The movie starts out on a beach on the Swedish coast. A knight and his squire have been washed up on the shore, presumaby after a battle. Upon awaking, the protagonist Antonius Block, finds himself face to face with the allegorical figure of Death, who has come to collect him. Stating that he is not ready to die, he makes a bargain and challenges Death to a game of chess. If Antonius wins, Death will release his grip. If Death wins, he can claim Antonius. During the game Antonius and his squire roam Swedish coast, in one last attempt to understand life, death, love, and the prospect of God.

The medieval Sweden portrayed in the movie is ravaged by the black death, triggering community investigations into the meaning of life, and the fear of death. Bergman’s use of collective investigation into an individualistic issue is novel. The existentialists, by nature, are prone to think in terms of the individual, but what about individuals facing the same personal crisis together? The only other example of this which I can think of is Camus’ ‘La Peste’. We see a range of reactions during Antonius’ travels, including last minute flings, despair, murderous tendencies, and the absurd tension of our protagonist, as he searches for meaning where there is none.

The most fascinating character for me, however, is not Antonius, but rather Jof. He is a performer and entertainer, who leads a nomadic existence with his wife Mia, and young child Michael. We are first introduced to Jof, as he tumbles acrobatically from his cart in the morning, having just woken up. He is full of playfulness, chatting with his horse, and smiling, exuding a joie d’vivre unshared by other characters. During this dawn scene Jof experiences a vision. In the quiet morning meadow in which he sits, he sees an apparation of the Virgin Mary with the baby Jesus. Upon seeing this he runs back into his cart to tell his sleeping wife what he has seen. Jof is such an endearing character because he is naïve, accepting, and seems to live in the present. He is filled with wonder at his vision, but typically no-one seems to really believe him. Later on in the film he is the only character who is able to see that Antonius Block is playing chess with the allegorical Death.

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There is a certain parallel between Jof and the fool characters in Shakespeare’s plays. It always seems to be the coxcomb/fool/entertainer character who is able to see the true nature of things. Jof is able to penetrate the surface reality of situations and see into a symbolic realm beyond. Jof’s character forms a counterpoint to almost all others in the movie. It is telling that the characters who search for meaning, who are past and future oriented, are those who never achieve this higher plane of vision. Bergman seems to be implying that Jof is only able to see these things because his life is totally present oriented. He is the typical idiot character, who, ironically, is able to obtain more answers than any of the others who scrabble around trying to rationalise, or ‘believe’.

Perhaps Bergman is trying to make some kind of statement about the artist as a visionary. After all, the one who can express himself most freely is the one who is able to transcend reality. The amusing thing, for me anyway, is that Bergman’s work undercuts the endeavours of the existentialists like Sartre, and Kierkegaard whose rational philosophy leads to answers, but can rarely lead us into a pure acceptance of the wonder of life and death.

The Pianist

I’m alone tonight in my flat. It’s dark outside, and I live on the main road connecting central and north London. This means that I can hear all of the cars going past, and the more wet it is outside the more of a ‘whoooosh’ noise they make as they go past. To drown them out I’m listening to this:



And sitting here, in this ambient half-light, thinking about Chopin I suddenly realised the significance of that amazing scene near the end of Roman Polanski’s movie The Pianist, where the main character, malnourished, shell-shocked and disorientated is caught by a Nazi soldier in an abandoned house. The protagonist tells the soldier that he used to be a pianist, and so the soldier asks him to play. What the man plays is key - he plays Chopin - not one of the great German classicists like Beethoven or Wagner - but Poland’s crown jewel Chopin.

Now this is significant because what follows is a mind-blowing performance, and at the end of this movie we see the German soldier accepting Polish beauty. He lets the main man leave, unharmed. It seems that he is humbled by the fact that a human being in such a wretched condition is able to express such beauty. But the fact that it is Chopin which elicits this reaction is so awesome. Poles were the ethnic group most severely affected by the Holocaust in terms of death toll at concentration camps.

The fact that Chopin is played is also an expression of pride and nationalism, and a continuing affirmation of identity in the midst of Nazi terror. Maybe I’ve been a bit naïve, but I hadn’t connected the dots before. This has made me love this film even more than I already did.

For anyone who hasn’t seen it, I highly recommend it. Based on my experiences in Warsaw and reading, it seems to give a relatively accurate portrayal of the Warsaw ghetto, and the severe destruction the city faced during the war.

The Girl who had a Plan

The jazz café in town. I sit down and arrange my things at a small bar overlooking the street. Through the filthy window, pock-marked with the pattern of dried raindrops, the buses drive past. They are full of passengers, and the windows are steamed up. All I can see are muffled figures, as if through frosted glass. A small child rubs his arm across the window, clearing for himself a portal to the outside world. He looks out, and for a second or two we make eye contact. We stare at each other while the bus is stationary, and somehow, across this space, it’s as if we’re not actually looking at each other. We are separated by a window, and the distance between. The child leans in towards the window, and soon his continued exhalations erase him, as the window clouds once more. The bus heaves a little, and a green light says go.

A girl sits next to me on the bar-like area, which is lined with wooden stools. These stools are so close together that I can’t turn to see her face without visibly moving around, and triggering her attention. Nonetheless what I do see are her hands, which are slender and pale. Up towards her wrist are the first shadows of freckles, and a slim brown watch. She arranges her own things at the table. She has a small black notebook, a pen, and a grey Samuel Beckett book. I consider starting a conversation.

I begin to think: if I was reading a Beckett book in public and someone commented on it, I would instantly like that person. I consider whether she has decided to read this book for pleasure or to study. Anyone who reads Beckett for pleasure must be someone who enjoys reflecting on the aesthetic parameters of hopelesness. It seems apt given the nature of this day. We sit here, looking out onto a grey and dismal street, and the people walk past, like in a Lowry painting, small and miserable and cold. I am too shy and I don’t say anything.

What happens as she sits down is that the Beckett book is discarded in favour of the small black notebook. Far from watching her every move, I am concerned with my own work and trying to make progress in a neutral environment, free of most distractions. As I work I find myself looking across, but still not seeing her face, and I notice that she is writing into this book with conviction. As I sit, trying  my hardest to push even fifty words out of my fingers, I wonder how this girl is just trail-blazing a stream of consciousness next to me. I lean back slightly in my chair, and I can see the back of her head, and medium-length brown hair.

I read the notes she is making, peering over her shoulder. I see that it’s not anything explicitly creative, but instead, of all things, it seems to be a life plan. I see bits of text like ‘Ok, so first I need to…’, making her sound as if she were trying to get her thoughts together. I realised that this actually was a stream of consciousness. Something was coming together. She mentioned that she would need to sell her Cello, and at the bottom of the page her end goal was ‘be free’. Upon reading this a smile materialised on my face. The irony of reading Beckett and writing about ‘freedom’ seemed too perfect in this situation. 

I was reminded of a quote I had read by Beckett during my undergraduate degree: ‘All life long the same questions, the same answers’ (Endgame). The irony of what I saw struck a chord with me. I had read Beckett too, and this time last year I recalled having spent a sullen night in Russia, making my own life plan, feeling like I was trapped and needed to get out. I stayed up that night with a traveller I had met discussing what comes next, and in the company of that stranger I felt unusually positive. My end goal was also freedom of a sort back then. An escape from my working life at that point, and a grand entrance into something different and fulfilling.

Still sat in this cafe, I considered how the girl sat next to me seemed to be doing the exact same thing, and I knew that there was something I wanted to say to her, but I didn’t know what it was. With a kind of sadism I watched her making this plan, wondering how long it would be before she was dissatisfied once again.

Life goes in cycles, and we create prisons for ourselves. Sure, we are slaves to universal bondages, the revolt of the flesh, sexual desire, anger, pain, but more frustratingly, we are slaves to our self-made bondage. What could this girl have been trying to escape from? It must have been something which she felt that she had enough agency to feasibly change. ‘Think about Waiting for Godot’, I wanted to say, ‘and the illusion of progress’. When we make a change, our new life inevitably becomes our new bondage. We make the same decisions again and again, and even though we take a different route, we still ‘try again, fail again, fail better’. Things might be better in the short term,  but by living anything other than an animal existence, we cannot be happy. We may take a different path, things may be better in the short-term, but eventually we become bored, complacent and need to re-invent again. This is a good thing, but at the same time making plans with a view towards attaining freedom is absurd. We may be able to achieve contentment or satisfaction, in a limited capacity, but never will we achieve freedom. As Estragon says in Waiting for Godot: ‘that’s how it is on this bitch of an earth’.

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Albert Camus

Albert Camus

blue-voids:

Anna Hepler

(via nminusone)

dictionaryofobscuresorrows:

Sonder [2:39] from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, written by John Koenig.

sonder - n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own

Bitcoin: An Introduction

In May 2008 Bitcoin’s pseudoanonymous creator Satoshi Nakomoto published an article outlining his vision for a peer to peer based currency system which would not be reliant on any financial institutions. The grounding or unique idea behind this was the fact that Bitcoin would be entirely decentralised. Nakamoto identified a central weakness in our current financial system: namely that we have to place faith in third parties to hold our money. For most of us this third party is usually a bank. The key weakness with our banks, as we saw during the wall street crash, is that the stability of our investments in banks is based on public faith. When faith wanes, and people withdraw en masse, the banks will crash.

The Background

Bitcoin has gained significant traction and increased credibility in 2013 despite its inception four years ago now. Nevertheless, although the currency has been around for a significant amount of time, so much mystery continues to surround it. Despite the many Bitcoin simplification videos and articles floating around on the internet, it requires significant cross referencing and ‘digging’ to come to an understanding of how this currency works, and why its design is so revolutionary. Bitcoin has presented itself as an alternative in an economic climate dominated by fear and uncertainty - unlike our current bank-based system Bitcoin is founded on a stable algorithmic base, rather than a trust base, which helps to mitigate risk of financial collapse.

Wikipedia defines Bitcoin as 'a cryptocurrency where the creation and transfer of bitcoins is based on an open-source cryptographic protocol that is independent of any central authority' - whilst this is a technical description, it’s not particularly useful in coming to an understanding of Bitcoin. I think the most challenging stumbling block in terms of understanding Bitcoin is that firstly, it is different to anything we know, and secondly all  transactions are entirely intangible. Therefore I will try to structure my explanations by reference to tangible analogies. 

How does it work?

The easiest way to think of Bitcoins is as physical money. One of the key benefits of Bitcoin is that it is not regulated by a third party. Consider a simple transaction. You go into a shop to buy a bottle of water, and you pay by card. Your card tells your bank to pay the seller the required amount of money. Bitcoin is more akin to cash in that bitcoins are stored by the owner, rather than by an institution. Think about if you have £500 cash. You can store this in physical places, and there is no third party involvement if you want to buy something with it. You simply hand over the cash in exchange for goods. Bitcoin functions in just this wat. It can be stored in a Bitcoin wallet and any transactions result in the coins being transferred directly to the receiving party.

How is new money created? 

One of the most ingenious elements of Bitcoin is the method by which new currency is introduced to the Bitcoin pool. Unlike with the federal reserve or bank of England where money can theoretically be printed in an infinite amount, there is a cap on Bitcoins. There can only ever be 21 million Bitcoins. This is the limit imposed by the system code. Currently approximately half of the total Bitcoin population has been mined, with about 10 million still to be mined. The mining algorithm is incredibly sophisticated and self-regulates the Bitcoin economy.  

When it comes to our current financial system, there is no limit to the amount of money which the Bank of England can print. However, the number of Bitcoins is pre-determined and finite. This gives Bitcoin a stable base. Just looking at case studies such as Zimbabwe, and Weimar Germany in the ’20s, we can see that if new currency is pumped into a system too quickly it can totally lose its value. Conversely, if currency is introduced too slowly or ceases to flow effectively, we experience economic stagnation. The goal of the banks is to try and plot the middle ground, but as empirical evidence shows, this isn’t always so simple.

Bitcoin seeks to mitigate the risk of boom and bust, as its built in algorithms ensure that currency is not released into the Bitcoin economy either too quickly or too slowly. The process through which currency is introduced is known as ‘mining’.

The actual process of mining involves the solving of ‘blocks’ which are complex algorithms. These are solved using keys, which are 64 digit codes. The correct code will release 50 new Bitcoins to the pool. This is effectively free money. Bitcoin mining is becoming an incredibly competitive business, and increasibly people are coming together into mining pools, whereby each person in the group receives their share of coins every time a block of code is collectively solved. Bitcoin regulates the flow of currency through its reactive algorithms. If it were the case that Bitcoins were being released too fast, the algorithm would become more complex and therefore be more difficult to solve, thus slowing the flow of Bitcoins into the pool. To clarify the process of mining the following illustration may be useful. 

There is a room, and in this room there is a metal box including 50 gold coins. However, there is a padlock attached to this box which prevents the gold from being accessed. Within the room you have 100,000 keys to the lock, and only one of the keys will release the gold. It’s a matter of trying to unlock the box and access the gold, but the number of keys results in a time lag, which monitors how often the gold can be obtained. The first one to unlock the box gets the coins.

Now imagine that the keybearers begin to efficiently open these locks through their speed and power. If this were the case, the system would ensure that for the next 50 coins we have the same padlocked box, but instead a significantly higher number of keys. This helps to slow down the release of currency.

What about Bitcoin performance?

A quick glance at the graph below serves to show the extent to which Bitcoin has grown in value over the last 12 months. Since August last year the value of one Bitcoin has grown from approximately $10, to $105 today, representing a growth of over 1000%. The graph below also shows the volatility of the currency. Within one year the value of coins has fluctuated by about $250, starting off at $10, and peaking during April at a huge $260.

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The viability and long term value of the currency is a subject of much debate at the moment, as the use value of Bitcoins continues to be relatively low. Some websites such as Wikileaks, Wordpress, and OkCupid have begun to accept Bitcoins as a valid currency, however the relatively small practical use of the currency constantly threatens to reduce its value. Only when and if Bitcoins are more widely accepted will their values become less volatile.

The currency has also been under considerable scrutiny by financial regulators, who are worried about the presence of illegal activity in the trades of Bitcoins, as a piece of software known as Tor, allows users to hide their identity in trades, allowing them to trade on what is known as ‘The Silk Road’ (An online black- market), with impunity. To clarify here, there is no impunity because to sign up for Bitcoins you are not required to submit the sort of detailed personal information you would expect to submit to a bank (such as name, address, etc). This makes transactions difficult to trace back to an identifiable party.

What next?

What we see with Bitcoin is a radical currency which destablises our current financial paradigm, and proposes something which is entirely digital, and through which we don’t need to place faith in a state run bank, or any other financial institution. Instead we solely put our faith in the Bitcoin code (which is totally open source and anyone can review). Interestingly Bitcoin made such an impression in Canada that the government has devised its own decentralised currency known as MintChip. If more countries follow suit we could see a radical shift in the way we think about and use our money.

But for now Bitcoin still has a long way to go in convincing investors that it is not a high risk product, that it is truly built on a sustainable model, and that the public can use Bitcoins without the fear of coins being hacked and stolen. Nonetheless, I hope that this serves to clear away some of the mystery surrounding this fascinating phenomenon. 

As a final note, Bitcoins can be traded freely on MtGox, which is the most well-established platform for Bitcoin trading.

If that still doesn’t make sense check out this video:

The Act of Killing: An Experiment in Reconciliation

Fiction has always occupied an important role in the process of ‘working through’ the traumas of the past. A new documentary by Joshua Oppenheimer entitled The Act of Killing invites perpetrators of Indonesia’s 1965/66 genocide to re-create their memories of the past through film, instigating a long overdue reconciliation process.

The events of Indonesia’s para-military coup of 1965/66 remain a mystery to many westerners. Unlike other mass killings in Rwanda, Srebrenica, or Cambodia, Indonesia’s past seems to have somehow faded from history books on this side of the world. However, a new documentary by Joshua Oppenheimer entitled The Act of Killing seeks to cast light on Indonesia’s anti-communist purges of ‘65 and ‘66, by encouraging leaders of anti-communist death squads to re-enact the murders they committed nearly fifty years ago. Oppenheimer allows the self proclaimed ‘gangsters’ to re-create their memories of 65/66 on film, and in any style they wish, with whatever props necessary. The results are fascinating.

The role of fiction in understanding such acts of mass violence is key. Primo Levi, one of the most famous commentators and survivors of the holocaust states explicitly in his book Moments of Reprieve that fiction is a key pathway to understanding, as it helps develop empathetic experience. By allowing Indonesian war criminals to re-enact the past through fiction Oppenheimer encourages them to remember, and re-consider their past actions. 

Cathy Caruth, a leading scholar in the emergent field of trauma studies highlights the importance of fiction in the process of understanding and working through traumas of the past. Trauma theory usually comes into play as a result of victim status. However, Oppenheimer’s documentary asks us to question to what extent the perpetrators of such crimes also experience trauma from an awareness of their own actions. Just because a person has killed over 1,000 other human beings that person does not cease to be a human, and sometimes this is something which is easy to forget. This realisation of humanity enhances the horror of such acts, as it is much easier to disassociate the perpetrators of such crimes from the rest of us, but they are still human, and their actions will still elicit psychological reverberations. 

The war criminals followed in the movie, led by Anwar Congo, experience total impunity in Indonesia, where they are hailed as national heroes for their acts. The criminals are members of a right-wing paramilitary group – ‘The Pancasila Youth’ - which actively collaborated with the government to effect a purge of around five-hundred thousand PKI (Indonesian Communist Party) members and Chinese immigrants. Worryingly, the documentary shows the way in which the collaboration endures to this day, with Chinese immigrants and ‘communists’ facing continued intimidation and discrimination.

Other case studies such as Serbia have shown that the normal process if for war criminals to face charges by the international courts of justice in The Hague. A fact which led Serbian killer Radovan Karadzic, as one example, to disguise himself and go into hiding. The Act of Killing shows us that there is no such fear in Indonesia. The criminals are shown to appear on TV speaking about the murder of communists, and the continued discrimination of chinese and communist groups as if nothing were amiss. During the movie one of the gangsters states that he would love the international courts of justice to call him to trial, because he believed he had done nothing wrong. 

What is perhaps most shocking about The Act of Killing, is the way in which the war criminals choose to portray the past. Anwar Congo, the lead man, tells the audience how he was inspired by Hollywood cinema in Indonesia, and used to run a ticket touting business for the western movies. Re-enactments of murders and torture are often rendered by him in the style of the cliche American movies he is so in awe of. In one scene Anwar plays a John Wayne esque character riding a horse. In another scene a prisoner interrogation is acted out in the style of an American gangster movie. The adoption of these forms is uncomfortable and fundamentally problematic. However, the killers’ choice of form goes a long way towards exposing how lightly the genocide is taken by them to this day.

Trauma theory is fixed on the notion of the victim  overcoming trauma through repetition and understanding. The Act of Killing shows us this process from the side of the aggressors rather than the victims. The perpetrators of these crimes are shown to also experience trauma. Lead man Anwar Congo speaks of a particular image which haunts his dreams of a man he decapitated with a machete, as well as facing other night terrors from his murdered victims. The dawning realisation of the gravity of their past actions slowly seeps through in these re-enactments, provoking a long deferred realisation and regret.

We can only hope that the high profile nature of The Act of Killing and its critical acclaim will help to bring war criminals to justice, and to raise awareness as to the continued discrimination and seeming lack of remorse for the killings of 1966.

Originally posted at The Wiener Library

Estranged Spaces: Curatorial approaches in the presentation of Dachau and Auschwitz

To visit a concentration camp memorial is to visit an estranged place. A place where the disconnect of time alone, from the liberation of the camp in 1945 to the present day, creates a feeling of unshakeable discomfort and disorientation. In this place where the birds sing idly, oblivious to the legacy of history, you feel incredibly aware of where you are standing: on a former concentration camp site, and yet somehow it is so difficult to reconcile this immaculate place of calm to what you know it represents.

Walking across the expanses of land which comprise Auschwitz or Dachau, one can reach out for an understanding, trying to recall historical truths from the pages of books you have read, or by superimposing photos of the past onto the precise places where they were taken, but this revelation never comes. I’ve previously thought to myself, if only I could kneel down, put my head to the ground, and bring myself into contact with the earth; maybe it would reveal to me its hidden secrets, locked away for so long. Maybe it would unwittingly confide in me and convey all that it had witnessed, this dumb, blind, passive observer. But no, I would have to use the tools afforded me: the site in its current form, and my own judgement.

Earlier in the month I made a trip out to Munich. A ten minute train journey out of the city leads you to the relatively quiet suburban Dachau. Like the small town of Oświęcim which is more commonly known as Auschwitz, this place seemed like any other small town. It is the burden of a name which seems to weigh heavy on these places, and although it represents a naivety on my part, I can never help feeling uneasy upon realising that in these places, despite all that has happened, life seems to continue as normal.

Dachau was the first concentration camp set up by the Nazis in 1933, and in comparison to other camps such as Sachsenhausen or Auschwitz, it was used mostly as a forced labour camp. Dachau was the initial incarceration centre for those singled out by the Nazi’s as presenting an immediate threat to Hitler’s power. During its early years a significant number of inmates were political prisoners, such as rival party members, and outspoken proponents of communism. However, as Hitler’s war progressed, the demographic of the camp changed radically to include all types of Nazi branded outcasts.

Before visiting Dachau the only other camp I had visited was Auschwitz, and it was only upon seeing a second camp that I began to fully appreciate the role of curation in guiding understanding and perception. In fiction for example, which is wholly narrative, it is easier to perceive the ways in which narrative voice and tone can sway us in different directions, forming and guiding our opinions. However, when it comes to physical spaces this is somehow less apparent. We are more inclined to think of physical objects, such as the concentration camp barracks, or watch-towers, as being immutable. They are brick and mortar, and surely that fixes their meaning in the past? At Dachau this is not the case. The deletion and selective reconstruction of parts of the site mean that these spaces have a power to guide thought or carry narrative, and it is this narrative formed of selective presentation which can sometimes tread a difficult ethical line.

When I had visited Auschwitz three years ago, I recall how raw the experience of seeing the camp was. When you walk out through the gatehouse at Auschwitz-Birkenau and onto the train tracks you are presented with barracks almost into the distance, and the scale of this site inspires terror. Most pressingly what I felt at Auschwitz was that somehow the site feels unchanged, unmanipulated. The brick furnaces at the end of the camp, (which the Nazi’s attempted to destroy before making their retreat), look untampered with. They are a crumbling ruin, showing an indication of the partially standing former structure, but there has been no attempt at re-construction. These furnace foundations seems to have sat unchanged, only for the wearing effects of time. The point I am trying to make here is that at Auschwitz-Birkenau in particular, the site almost seemed to present an unmediated ‘as it was’ view of things, and for me this was incredibly affecting. 

I was surprised to have such a different experience at Dachau, and maybe the clue to this difference is in the name. We have on the one hand ‘Auschwitz Concentration Camp Museum’, and on the other ‘Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site’. On a basic level the role of a museum, we might say, is to educate and inform, whereas the purpose of a memorial site is to commemorate or to serve the purpose of encouraging remembrance (although these definitions are not mutually exclusive by any means). At Dachau I was surprised at how calm and peaceful the site felt,a dn I was struck upon coming into the camp, by the seemingly landscaped and well kempt banks, which gave me the first impression of a place which is highly maintained.

Every inch of Dachau is carefully crafted. A number of watch-towers have been re-constructed. Of the 17 rows of ‘barracks’ which stood on the site only one row remains. At the far end of the site are three large religious memorials. Taking the central position at this end is a Catholic worship memorial, to its left a Christian memorial, and to the left of that a Russian orthodox church. Far off to the side is the Jewish monument, which interestingly unlike the others is not a religious shrine. It is instead a cave of mourning.

Walking around Dachau I couldn’t help thinking back to Auschwitz – how the site had been devoid of religious influence, and how it felt untouched. There were no immaculately kept lawns, physically deleted parts of the camp, or religious shrines. Dachau seemed so different. How could I pick out what was real from what was not? I began to question what each part of the memorial site conveyed to me, and then how it conveyed it. The extent of reconstruction and deletion at Dachau led me to question why it wasn’t conveyed more like the other camp I had been to.

Another student I met raised a question which continued to play in my mind for the rest of my trip. She asked whether this difference in presentation, and the choice to create a ‘memorial’ rather than a ‘museum’ could be tied back to some kind of cultural obligation based around aggressor and victim statuses in the post-war period. Upon leaving Dachau I began to think of the camps as being in dialogue with each other, and this is something which will remain with me. Where the Polish curated Auschwitz seems to be a very raw and unforgiving experience, the German curated Dachau seems to be an exhibition of national mourning and remembrance, it is somehow more solemn and reflective. It is like an apology. A site of atonement. Whereas Auschwitz is a stark proclamation of horror.

Originally posted at The Wiener Library

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