By Eliette Markhbein
The Holocaust project started on a cold January night in Paris seven years ago. Claude Lanzman’s documentary, Shoah, was on TV. I watched all 556 minutes of the documentary in a nearly nonstop marathon, mesmerized from beginning to end. I grabbed my camera early on in the program and spent the night shooting the powerful images skittering across the television screen. I transferred the images to my desktop and summoned them over and over again that winter. Some of them had double exposures of astonishing poignancy; all had a haunting quality to them.
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One image specifically became imprinted in the back of my mind all these years – the locomotive with its two round headlights, inexorably pushing into the night toward Treblinka, toward death. It resurfaced as a sketch on paper and on a copper plate when I first tried my hand at etching years later – it was my very first etching. I have no clear idea why... I had no plan at the time to do a Holocaust project.
Seventy-five years ago, the liberation of the concentration camps showed the world how the institutionalization and programming of hate could be achieved with seamlessly prodigious banality – and with devastating consequences for humanity.
Yet the rise of hatred is again infiltrating society at large. Today we face sweeping political, economic, environmental and social changes that will affect how we will relate to each other for generations to come. Ultra-nationalism, data manipulation and inequality carry the seeds of discord, racism, hatred, exploitation and mistreatment. Left unchallenged this hatred will only spread.
It is the responsibility of us all to stand up against hate. Only knowledge, unrelenting monitoring and unconditional rebuttal can keep it at bay and keep our society free of inhumane acts and terror.
As an artist, I wanted to address the rise of hatred with a body of work that stands against hate. Yet I was motivated by more than the necessity to plainly, painfully recall the crimes of the Holocaust. It is my hope the artwork acts as a warning signal against a return to the darkness of seventy-five years ago. I hope that people of all colors, faiths and walks of life will view my images, read the testimonials, and ask, what if it was me, my parents, my brothers, my sisters? What can I do, what should I do, to ensure it never happens again, to anyone?
My work is based on archival photographs, still frames of films, interviews, testimonies, journals and articles. The project comprises etchings, pen and ink drawings, digital prints, monotypes and silkscreens, as well as cyanotypes, palimpsests and photo-collages.
It is with great compassion and tenderness for the many victims I came to know intimately that I worked tirelessly and meticulously on each plate. This work is dedicated to them and the many victims of hatred worldwide.
Seventy-five years ago is yesterday! It seems inconceivable that hate shall rule again.
For more information, please contact Eliette Markhbein - Eliette.Markhbein02@myhunter.cuny.edu
All images property of Eliette Markhbein. Distribution is forbidden without explicit permission of artist.