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Kamczycki, A. (2013). YIZKOR, THE JEWISH WAY OF MEMORY. THE CASE OF CHRISTIAN BOLTANSKI’S ART. Studia Europaea Gnesnensia, (7), 309–326. Pobrano z https://pressto.amu.edu.pl/seg/article/view/2509


Christian Boltanski’s art in principle refers to memory as an important eternal imperative in the Jewish culture, and to the way and kind of representation, that is, artistic language. However, he does not do it by a simple allusion to Shoah but by reference to ‘indexicality’ of the essence of memory (F. Ankersmith) – where memory is juxtaposed with the history referentiality. His artistic work responds to a certain kind of ‘fears’ (J.E. Young, E. Van Alphen, A. Appelfeld, A. Huyssen, S. Friedman) of the possibility of art turning into a soulless attempt of embalming memory, with its influence becoming the opposite of the originally intended one, that is, contributing to forgetting (an anti-monument).

Unlike historical archiving (of history as such), art is one of the most significant forms of preserving memory, thanks to artistic activity’s permanent capability of evoking memory – a social, cultural and political perpetual motion serving memory as such.

Christian Boltanski’s works, especially the photographic medium that he uses most often, refer to old formulas of memory and commemoration used by Jews called Yizkor, which literally means, remember, recollect.

Such conceptualization of a work, that is, formalization or even celebration of the impermanence and changeability of this medium opposes the belief in permanence of a material object, which paradoxically contributes to the death of its implied idea, that is, memory. However, by negating the form, Boltanski does not negate memory but only the false traditional belief in its stability and permanence.

Thus, his art is both a suggestive play with history as well as its criticism at the same time. He shows us presence of what is absent by constantly evoking only memory.



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