I recall after the death of several close family members, I wanted the world to stop… I wanted everyone to stop what they were doing, and mourn the loss of my loved one –Today, I visited Bergen-Belsen with my son, a place that saw the extermination of countless thousands of human beings. I shan’t speak here of who and how and why, I shan’t apportion blame or demand reparation, I will leave those worthy tasks to others.
However, I will speak loudly in the cause of ‘tolerance’, I will appeal that those of us human beings who take upon ourselves labels of national or religious identity, labels related to gender, sexual orientation, physical or intellectual prowess, political persuasion, labels denoting wealth or social status – consider carefully the price paid when those ‘differences’ take precedence over the common bond we share – our humanity.
The roots of hatred and division run deep within ‘mankind’, never far from the surface. I have made art in the past on that theme, in relation to events within the community in which I grew up. Perhaps that was one of the reasons that I was immediately struck by the tree roots that protruded from the ground along one of the paths at Belsen. I walked around the complex photographing the stone markers that commemorate 800 buried here, 5000 there, 1000 in this area. To me the ground in that place cries out to the human race, even if the stone markers were removed, the soil, the roots of the trees will bear witness.
My response was intuitive and immediate; I had brought materials with me without being sure they would be used, but the 4 watercolour paintings that took form in a 30 minute period bore witness that immediacy of expression flows from places of deep passion.
I believe that roots of intolerance need to be contemplated and that as individuals it would serve our ‘humanness’ well to examine the labels we hold that breed division and intolerance.
In a highly personal manner, death also visited me today, not in the human realm, but the passing of my canine friend ‘weePuffy’ or Lucky as he was to those who knew him less well. Lucky was an ‘alien in a strange land’ – a refugee, a dog whose original owner had died and because of age and ill-health might otherwise have been put ‘down’. But Lucky both in name and in nature, found love and refuge with my dearest friend, Esther Brimage. I intend to upload a fuller account of the effect Lucky has had on me and on those around him, but here I want to pay tribute to the compassion and deep love shown to him by Esther. On a day when I watched film footage of man’s inhumanity to man, in the form of deliberate and premeditated starvation and neglect that lead to the deaths of thousands, when I watched the unceremonious dumping of the corpses of those people into mass graves, and I stood beside those graves – on that day it is the love I have witnessed between ‘creatures’ that enriches me.
I will include links to “meet me on the other side” a video piece about Lucky, and to images of Bergen-Belsen and the 4 paintings when I have time to upload them. I have uploaded some photographs of Lucky on my flickr account Lucky – weePuffy [no longer available]
Monday 30th June 2008
Location: Hannover to Berlin BHF Train (completed and uploaded at Art’otel Berlin Mitte; 01.07.08)
Originally posted: July 1st, 2008 | fine art practice, journal_ianf