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Spatial dialogues and Holocaust memory in contemporary Polish art: Yael Bartana, Rafał Betlejewski and Joanna Rajkowska

Blacker, U; (2014) Spatial dialogues and Holocaust memory in contemporary Polish art: Yael Bartana, Rafał Betlejewski and Joanna Rajkowska. Open Arts Journal (3) 10.5456/issn.2050-3679/2014s32ub. Green open access

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Abstract

The paper analyses how the work of three contemporary artists deal with the memory of Poland’s pre-war Jewish population and the Holocaust. Joanna Rajkowska is one of Poland’s leading contemporary artists and her artworks have been displayed in prominent public sites in Warsaw. Her most famous work is her palm tree in central Warsaw, Greetings from Jerusalem Avenue (2002, ongoing), which references, in its form and physical location on Aleje Jerozolimskie, or Jerusalem Avenue, both Jerusalem and Warsaw’s vanished Jews. Rajkowska has also used important Jewish locations in Warsaw in other work, such as Oxygenator (2007). Yael Bartana is an Israeli artist, but represented Poland at the Venice Biennale in 2011. In her trilogy of films set in Poland, And Europe Will Be Stunned (2006-11), Bartana uses prominent locations in Warsaw in which to stage performances (the Palace of Culture, the National Stadium, site of the future Museum of Polish Jews) that provocatively posit a return of Jews to Poland. Betlejewski has authored several provocative and creative responses to the absence of Jews in contemporary Poland, such as his I miss you, Jew! project (2004), and his Burning barn performance (2010). The paper will examine the varying strategies through which these artists deal with the problem of the absence of Jews, the trauma of their violent disappearance, and attempt to re-inscribe the vanished Jews back into the landscape of contemporary Poland. The paper argues that all three artists use actual and imagined space in order to create a complex, often ambiguous dialogue between diverse traumatic pasts and the problems of the present. This text is published as a counterpart to the contribution to Disturbing Pasts from the artist Rafal Betlejewski.

Type: Article
Title: Spatial dialogues and Holocaust memory in contemporary Polish art: Yael Bartana, Rafał Betlejewski and Joanna Rajkowska
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.5456/issn.2050-3679/2014s32ub
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.5456/issn.2050-3679/2014s32ub
Language: English
Additional information: This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Keywords: Yael Bartana, Rafał Betlejewski Joanna Rajkowska, contemporary art, Poland, Jewish histories, Holocaust, memory, trauma, Israel
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > SSEES
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1456145
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