I watched the Frieze 3 Minute Wonder last night on Channel 4, interesting to see my video-walk from the camp in that context. I was pleased to have my name on the end credits as a director of the piece; it came up as ‘Jonathan Moss Video’, which I use as my user name on YouTube. Helen (my wife) joked that it was a good thing I didn’t upload the video under my other user name (which I use for my non art-related videos): ‘Jonny Moscovitch’. It sounds comic, but in a round-about way may have been appropriate as Moscovitch is the original surname of my Jewish family who travelled to Britain from Russia as refugees at the end of the 19th Century.
A few weeks ago, during the discussion following the War and Peace screening at the Arnolfini, one of the audience asked why I am so interested in the camp at Rivesaltes, was it simply that it is a landscape local to me? It is my love of landscape which led me to film at Rivesaltes initially – the fact that the landscape has a dark history which is connected to my family’s heritage made it real to me personally.
I like that my videos work on two levels, they present beautiful images but of a landscape that has a horrific past (a ‘landscape of trauma’, as Paul Gough would describe it). I still find it difficult to believe that in such an idyllic part of France a camp of this kind could have existed – every time I visit the camp the atmosphere is heavy with the weight of the past: 2,313 Jews were sent to Auschwitz from there during a 2 month period, the remaining 3,000 died at the camp from disease and malnutrition and this was in ‘Free-France’, they were sent by the French from an area not governed by Germany. I plan to visit the camp over the next few days, this time to project my videos on to the walls of the huts at night and to photograph the images made.
Top: 'Rivesaltes 1942'. Courtesy: Conseil General Pyrenees-Orientales.
Middle: 'Refugees at Rivesaltes 1942'. Courtesy: Conseil General Pyrenees-Orientales
Bottom: 'The Rivesaltes Camp Memorial'. Courtesy: Conseil General Pyrenees-Orientales