Conservation Camp (Send me a Postcard)
Sarah Schoenfeld’s comments on her work
I’ve noticed that writing about these pictures is as difficult as making these pictures speak out what happened. You cannot explain this without sounding flat and inappropriate or infinitely naive. It always falls short of what is to be said and I really would not like to contribute a meaningless text to these images. Maybe a good statement on this subject would be that nothing is to be said about it or that any explanation just remains stuck in your throat.
I would rather use Paul Celan’s “Death Fugue” to express the hopelessness and in some way the arrogance that underlies the work as a strategy. No one can really speak about Auschwitz; each posture is inappropriate or grotesque. The arrogance of silent laughter in this context – a self-portrait – seems to me the only naively and arbitrary act which opens up a space by its own failure to give meaning to the hopelessness of the situation. And this is the voice of the Greek tragedy that always means guilt.
The Self-portrait in front of the fence in Auschwitz: a reminder photo of an unforgettable moment. Is there a moral obligation to preserve Auschwitz of the profanation by tourism, to consider as totally inappropriate the renovation of the site, the reconstruction of Auschwitz ? Or is this an indissoluble ulcer that we must keep alive, so that everyone can continue to visit it? By installing hot dog stands and removable shithouses, through preservation and conservation we take away its power and menace. The monster is tamed and perhaps will allow us all the more to sense the dark side of human existence.
The postcard is a tamed, trivialized form of paradise, the “other place”. But one could also write a post-card from hell.