Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Art in Schindler's factory?

Jonathan Jones in The Guardian online:

...Why not create Krakow's Tate Modern here? Some are shocked at the very thought. But it is only offensive if you want to embalm the past in glowing sepia tones. Modern art is unsettling, as seems right in such a place. From Anselm Kiefer's history-laden painted fields to Damien Hirst's mortal thoughts, the best art of today resonates with the terrors of modern times.

Krakow should create a modern gallery - rather than a Holocaust museum - in Schindler's factory because this would end today's kitsch memory cult where it began. The film Schindler's List, with its incredibly disrespectful scene of people being led into the showers and surviving, inaugurated a strange cultural period in which memory "inspires" and "moves" popular culture while high art luxuriates in memorials. Bland and ineffective, tearful and self-congratulatory, the culture of memory is epitomised by the story of Schindler, which manages to give the Holocaust an upbeat ending.

In reality an occasional good person like Schindler created no more than a hair's width of light at the top of an unfathomable well of suffering. A contemporary art gallery will preserve Schindler's factory - the stuff of history - without turning it into a trite monument. It will provoke thought, instead of mere sentiment. Thought is what we need now.

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