Whether buried or laid bare
Art | 11 September 2010

Whether buried or laid bare

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These images were taken during my time at the Ravensbruck Concentration camp. Just two hours outside of Berlin, the Ravensbruck camp was the largest all-female camp during the Nazi reign in Germany. Although only approximations are available, the camp is assumed to have imprisoned 130-132,000 women throughout its existence.

The camp itself was established as a memorial in 1959. I was interested in visiting this site partly because I was curious about what expectations people might have in visiting a site of such atrocities. What kind of experience might they hope to have? Do visitors want to learn? Or is there something about simply visiting a site like Ravensbruck that allows someone to feel that they understand it more fully? I’m not sure a correct answer exists, but I think there is something to learn in Maria Tumarkin’s description of a “traumascape”:

“The past is never quite over. Because trauma is not contained in an event as such but in the way this event is experienced, traumascapes become much more than the physical settings of tragedies: they emerge as spaces, where events are experienced and re-experienced across time…  It is through these places that the past, whether buried or laid bare for all to see, continues to inhabit and refashion the present.”

– From “Traumascapes: The Power and Fate of Places Transformed by Tragedy

I tried to remove myself from everything I knew already about the trauma and focus on this place. How has it changed; how does it function now? For example, the hostel I stayed in was the former SS barracks that had been transformed into shared rooms, dining areas and even a game room for visitors. This type of transformation, which facilitates visitors to the area is intriguing. To function as a memorial, the space itself had to change and this became a focus in my imagery from the camp.

It has been over one year since I visited the camp and took these pictures. I’m still unsure how they function as images or within my larger body of work as an artist. I’ve been thinking a lot about these images and wanted to share a few for this belated Foto Friday post. I posted some other images from the camp in a previous post you can view here.

What is Foto Friday? I post a photograph every Friday.  Let me know what you think!

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