Altered Books – 'Stilled Lives'
The prospect of making a work of art in any form or mode, relating to or concerned with the Holocaust, was one I approached with trepidation and, I trust, a degree of humility.
I realised these qualities taken together might form a barrier to experimentation, risk taking and formal inventiveness, which are aims and qualities I might aspire to as a contemporary practitioner. I therefore decided to work on a series of sculptures with the generic title ‘Stilled Lives’, and in so doing hoped that the practice of making would help in resolving a complex of ethical problems besetting my thoughts.
This strategy might have worked had I not embarked on a programme of research and re-reading. In particular Primo Levi’s ‘If This is a Man’, Theodor Adorno’s writings ‘Cultural Criticism and Society’ and ‘Negative Dialectics’.
However, rather than smoothing the way, the effect of these utterly profound writings compounded my concerns and doubts about the path I was taking, and the potential for a creative blockage emerged.
As is often the case, a simple task resolved this problem - for the time being. In the course of research for what turned out to be the first completed work, I discovered the Hebrew word for writings, which when inverted appeared to me as flames. I then learnt that in essence ‘Holocaust’ means ‘Burnt Sacrificial Offering’.
From then on everything fell into place, resulting in four works from which ‘K’tuvim’ was chosen for this exhibition.