Saturday, 25 February 2012

# 72 [2 November 2010]

I've been curating an exhibition called 'Rivesaltes: Landscape of Trauma' which is showing locally before it tours. It is a show including the work of artists with whom I have collaborated - sound: Lois Laplace, Blaise Merino; sculpture: Deev Vanorbeek; photographs: Peter Watkins, Chris Webb. My paintings, videos and audio works are also on display. Many of the collaborations are documented in this blog.

Some texts accompany the art: an introduction by me, the interview with Norbert Herz (intern at the camp in 1942), a quote from 'The Journal of Rivesaltes' (1942) by Friedel Bohny Reital, time-line and statements by some of the artists - just enough to give the work a context.

The show has been received well with sympathetic reviews in the local press.

I did a Google search for it and discovered that it is advertised on a site called 'Harkis and the Rights of Man' - which was a nice surprise. The Harkis (Algerians who fought against their countrymen for France during the civil war and thus not able to return to Algeria) were held / housed at the camp during the 70s.

I have been invited to take the show to Toulouse to be part of the CineEspagne film festival next year.

So, it is generating some interest. The director of the Rivesaltes memorial organisation in Perpignan is planning to visit, I'm hoping she will adopt the exhibition and help me organise the tour.

I'm looking forward to reading the comments made by the visitors - there may even be locals who have particular associations with the camp.

In my introduction to the show I wrote:

'Some people might say "Whatever happened half a century ago during the occupation is in the past." But now I see that my work is surprisingly relevant because the French Government is repeating history, seeing that we have arrived at the point where the Roma must be rounded up in accommodation centres or sent back from France to Romania.'

I'm hoping it will touch those who visit.

# 70 [28 June 2010]

At last I've done it... made a video featuring my interview with Norbert Herz, the intern at the camp at Rivesaltes during 1942.

I have been debating whether or not to make my videos self-explanatory, less abstract and more descriptive. A while back I posted on the AN forum how much information should you give in a work of art... My videos are usually quite abstract, so need some sort of context, which I usually provide at the start with a few lines of text explaining where the video was made and a little history of the camp, this time I've built on that.

The new video is entitled simply: 'Rivesaltes' (rather than my normal 'RQV' or 'RSA'); at the start is the usual text with the addition of a quote from the memorial stone at the camp which reads:

Delivered to the Nazis in the occupied zone by authority of the French government, deported to the extermination camp of Auschwitz, and murdered because they were Jews. We will never forget these victims of racist and xenophobic hatred.

Then dispersed throughout the video are five sentences spoken by Norbert Herz, for example:

People lost their lives, and many children, many, many children lost their mothers and fathers.

The images and sound are evocative, made at the camp, the sound is the howling wind and sometimes crunch of a footstep, the images are presented as a triptych... moving forms, occasionally a glimpse of a hut, but mostly shots of trees, bushes, grass and stones.

The images present a blurry indescriptive view of the camp... I've explored how we perceive the world and how we sometimes have a vague memory of something. I filmed a random walk in the camp - trying to avoid my personal reaction to it. Nothing is focused - I've not sought to emphasise any aspect of the filming, it's just a walk, not necessarily mine - a walk anybody could make at the camp. The images aren't ones I planned to make... just 'open' images for anyone to interpret.

This is all sounding a bit 'Death of the Author'... and to a certain extent that is what has guided the development of the video.

Norbert Herz is talking, explaining his experience of the camp, an experience he had 70 years ago, a strong memory, but more recollections of experiences and feelings.

Is there suspense in the video? I'm not sure there has to be, but it is a film, with a beginning, middle and end... the viewer may wonder who is talking and it is only at the end that this is revealed - I'm hoping it works.

So, I'm frantically promoting 'Rivesaltes' now and hoping there is some interest.

I hope to create my own vimeo channel and spend some time interacting with other members - all good networking - so little time though. I'm also bogged down with framing the new series of paintings on metal that I've just completed. They are quite fragile so need to be protected, quite good timing though as it's good weather now and I can work in the studio without a coat (at last).

# 68 [8 May 2010]

It is the Athens Video Art Festival this weekend - seems like bad timing; I've been following the terrible events on the news and contacted them via Facebook, as have other artists, to find out if it has gone ahead, but not yet had a relpy.

I also was part of a screening in Crouch End last Thursday: One Minute Volume Four - they showed RSA4. The programme will also be shown at PRISM hosted by S1 Artspace next week. I received an email this morning saying that it will also be shown at the Big Screen in Manchester and Liverpool, organised by the BBC.

I remember now that I sent the organiser of One Minute an email on the day of the deadline asking if I could submit a link to my website - she replied immediately and accepted my work... all was decided within five minutes - the fastest response I have ever had. I was pleased to be accepted for the screening in the bar at Crouch End - and now it has evolved into greater things - isn't it great when things work out.

# 67 [19 April 2010]

A year or so ago I read 'Love and War in the Pyreness' by the travel writer Rosemary Bailey - a good read and full of her personal encounters with ordinary folk who lived in this region during the war. One section of the book is dedicated to the camp at Rivesaltes. When I heard that she was giving a talk in a local restaurant / conference centre and that it coincided with my wife's birthday I booked us in immediately.

I chatted to Rosemary briefly before she gave her speech and told her about my current interest in the interaction that the Jews at the camp had with the Jewish community in Perpignan and the locals of the town of Rivesaltes. I told her that I had interviewed Norbert Herz and she was quite interested. I also mentioned that I had experienced more success with my videos on the theme of Rivesaltes in the UK than in France and she responded that that spoke volumes.

The talk was an overview of the book and focused on some of the personal encounters that she had during her research. Rivesaltes was referred to whilst she was explaining about the aid workers who helped the condition of the refugess in this area.

The conclusion centred on a quote from her book concerning the horrors of Rivesaltes - it was a poignant note to end on.

The questions which followed included one regarding the on-going research and accessibilty to information on Rivesaltes... Rosemary mentioned our chat about my research at the start of the event, which was great.

Following a great meal we spoke again and she said she'd be keen for us to be in contact - so I'll be sending her a link to this blog.

The prevailing memory of the day was Rosemary's reaction to the research on Rivesaltes and the harrowing stories that she came across, she found it particularly difficult emotionally... which is something that I can relate to.

# 63 [2 February 2010]

Wilried Agricola has kindly included my project on the camp at Rivesaltes in his Shoah Film Collection.

For those of you who have been directed from his site: Draft Title Shoah, please click on 'Reverse Order' at the top of the blog. Post number 1 gives a brief history of the camp, following that are sporadic bursts of information which put my videos made at Rivesaltes in the context of The Holocaust.

My videos made at the camp can be found here:

Wilfried'd site can be found here:

# 60 [29 January 2010]

Yesterday Georges FrĂȘche, the President of Languedoc Roussillon (one of the 26 regions of France), said of former Prime Minister Laurent Fabius (of Jewish origin): "voting for this guy in Haute-Normandie would be a problem for me, his face isn't Catholic".

He later claimed in a press release: "When questioned about not supporting Laurent Fabius, I answered with a popular expression which has been used by all the French for centuries".

Needless to say, this has caused a huge public outcry. The fact he is a Socialist is surprising. It seems that anti-semitism continues in the south of France.


# 59 [27 January 2010]

Today is the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

Netanyahu spoke at Auschwitz today:

“From the cursed ground at Auschwitz, Birkenau and other camps rise the voices of our brothers and sisters, our people who choked to death and were burned and murdered. . .

I have come here today from Jerusalem to tell you: We will never forget. We will not allow the Holocaust deniers or those who desecrate [Jewish] graves and signs to erase or distort [our] memory. . .

We will never forget and always stand guard. . .

Murderous hatred must be stopped in its tracks, stopped right from the beginning. All countries in the world must learn this lesson, just as we did after losing a third of our people in blood-soaked Europe. We learned that the only guarantee for the protection of our people is the State of Israel. . .

I promise, as head of the Jewish state, that never again will we allow the hand of evil to sever the life of our people and our state. . .

Am Yisrael Chai, we have returned to our homeland, to the land of our forefathers, to Jerusalem, our capital. We have converged from all corners of the world, Holocaust survivors, Arab Jews, Jews from former Soviet Union states, Ethiopian Jews. . .

We bow our heads in memory [of Holocaust victims] and raise our heads as our flag waves with its two blue stripes and the Star of David at its center. We still haven't lost our hope.”

In France Sarkozy sent a letter to European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor. The French president wrote that his country will continue taking action to remember the Holocaust and to commemorate the victims.

"This memory is a human obligation, it is a requirement, a sacred mission to restore the human dignity and the unique characteristics of the children, women, and men who encountered the unspeakable, the inconceivable. . .

Auschwitz is the symbol of absolute evil inscribed in a red flame upon humanity's consciousness."

Pope Benedict XVI has marked Holocaust Remembrance Day by denouncing the "horror" of the Shoah and the "unheard of brutality" of death camps created by Nazi Germany.

The German-born pope issued an appeal Wednesday "that such tragedies never repeat themselves."

Benedict called the death camps "abhorrent and inhumane places" and turned his thoughts to the "countless victims of a blind racial and religious hatred."

I couldn't find anything commemorating today on the Rivesaltes Memorial site, which is a shame.