SHOAH AND POSTMEMORY
“Shoah and Postmemory” is a project to re-visit Shoah. It is an attempt to analyse the aesthetic, psychological and sociological reasons, which are at the basis of past remembrance, that is, the ability of the second and third generation to re-live a drama, which is for them extra-biographic. For them it is a fundamental compensation passage, of a void caused by the lack of correspondence between images and experienced reality.
In this, images assume a symbolic, iconic strength of traces which go back (through a compensation progress) to an index of ideas and images sedimentary in time both in the collective and individual memory (G. Croppi).
In 2008 Gabriele Croppi started to be interested in Shoah after a visit to the concentration camp of Mauthausen.
I could see the outline of the concentration camp watch towers and I started to cry without knowing why, for nearly two hours. …. My cry was strange but even then deeply felt, apparently without any obvious reasons to fall back on. An «empty» crying (G. Croppi).
After that episode he began his research on the subject of postmemory. Marianne Hirsch’s studies proved to be essential for his work, because they explained his cry and spurred him to follow a new vocational guidance, which was no longer aimed at making reportage and documentary photography but was instead focussed on doing research and on redefining the relationship between ethics and aesthetics.
The overwhelming emotions he felt in front of the watching towers of the concentration camp was due to the passive and unconscious absorption of the symbols and the icons related to the Nazi extermination, which had been broadcasted by the media over time. It is the aesthetic fact that is important in these representations, because it can enable a son of the second-generation of sharing, suddenly and unconsciously, the tragedy of a whole population.
The Mauthausen experience was revealing. The aesthetic fact therein confirmed itself to be fundamentally important, because it triggered the post-memory mechanism and the participation to a tragedy which had not been experienced personally. Figures, symbols, metaphors, somehow helped to maintain the historic fact itself (G. Croppi).
It is on this basis that he asserts that fiction and performance can vouch for the socially known historical truth: aesthetics at the disposal of ethics. In order to prove it, he travelled around Europe taking artistic pictures of the symbolic places of the Shoah.
Today thirty of these images constitute the art exhibition Shoah and Postmemory. They are artistic representations that want to touch the viewer, working on the mechanism of postmemory and making him relive the tragedy of the Shoah.
To Gabriele Croppi, the different interpretations of the photographic image do not cancel each other out, but can increase the level of persuasiveness so that «the scientific and historic-geographical approach can also come as a consequence of a real aesthetic and emotional “infatuation” of the postmemory mechanisms» (G. Croppi).
WHY THIS EXHIBIT
Shoah is the term recently adopted by many countries, mainly in the non Anglo-Saxon area, to refer to the dramatic events that involved millions of Jewish during World War II. It was after Lanzman’s docu-movie Shoah (1985) that this Hebraic word started to spread as a valid alternative to Holocaust, a word which was perceived as trivial and misleading for its religious implications.
Up to twenty years ago it was a niche subject, mostly discussed through the recollections and the accounts of survivors. Basically there wasn’t an organic and methodical research on the subject. Today these stories are dying, buried under by the unavoidable flow of time, and many people are starting to wonder about the need to preserve this memory so that what occurred in those days won’t happen ever again.
But how is it possible to keep the memory of something we didn’t experience without loosing its true meaning? How can we prevent the waves of time from erasing every trace of the crimes committed?
Gabrile Croppi’s work originated from these questions. To him revisiting of the places of Shoah proved to be «both an opportunity for iconographic production and a test for the production itself, in which the “lie” of aesthetic act could contribute to keeping an historical “truth”» (Gabriele Croppi).
The art exhibition Shoah and Postmemory presents the thirty most meaningful pictures taken by the author in concentration camps and ebraic districts and graveyards during his journey across Austria, Germany and Poland between 2008 and 2011. These are artistic representations in which the aesthetic worth prevails over the documentary, in order to awaken in the observer emotions that can activate the mechanism of postmemory.