There is a new exhibition at PinchukArtCentre, named ‘Loss. In Memory of Babi Yar’. It has recently opened in the space of the biggest contemporary art space in Kiev and is going to last until January 8, 2017.
The exhibition coincides with the commemoration of Babi Yar (Kiev, Ukraine). This tragedy happened 75 years ago at the ravine of Babi Yar where more than 34.000 Jews were killed over the course of 2 days by German forces. It became known as one of the first acts of mass killings during the Second World War. This big international group exhibition includes the works of such famous artists as Christian Boltanski, Berlinde De Bruyckere and Jenny Holzer.
The theme of forgetfulness of the collective memory, central in the work of Boltanksi, runs throughout all works in the exhibition. Simultaneously Berlinde De Bruyckere and Jenny Holzer confront the audience with the risk of losing our sense of humanity in the face of a violent death. With older works such as Lustmord Table (1994) by Jenny Holzer, the act of a violent killing itself becomes a central subject. And Berlinde De Bruyckere, with 3 newly produced monumental sculptures, reflects on the theme of a theme of collective death. Christian Boltanski created for this exhibition Le Chemin de Babi Yar/The Path of Babi Yar (2016). Hundreds of metal boxes form a long and narrow corridor towards a monumental pile of dark clothes. The boxes, most of them numbered randomly, evoke a chilling relation to funeral urns of unknown persons. They bring to mind the process of killing in Babi Yar where victims brought their valuables and papers (mostly kept in small metal boxes). Once arrived at Babi Yar as an announcement of death, the papers were burned before their eyes.
Lustmord Table, (1994) by Jenny Holzer, shows a group of human bones are lying on a wooden table. Some of them carry a silver band engraved with fragments of the text Lustmord. The text itself describes a rape-killing from three different points of view: the victim, the perpetrator and the observer. The work and text were conceived in response to the atrocities during the conflict in the ex-Yugoslavia. Combined with stone benches engraved with texts fragments from Under a Rock (1986), the act of killing itself and the use of violence as a political tool is central to the work. The bronze plaques with texts from the Living Series (1981) and Survival series (1984) ponder on the individual state of mind when confronted with acts of extreme violence. The plaques are combined with the Lustmord Table and Vanwege een Tere Huid III and IV (2016) by Berlinde De Bruyckere.
Penthisilea IV, (2016) by Berlinde De Bruyckere shows a fragile skin of flesh-like wax hanging through a rusty hook on a shield-formed steel surface. The confrontation between materials is sexual, harsh and fragile. A sense emphasized in a combination with a series of four drawings called Met Tere Huid I-IV, (2016). Penthisilea IV proposes a singularity opposed to Vanwege een Tere Huid IIIand IV (2016) two monumental sculptures of metal pallets with stacked animal hides (made from wax, polyester, and iron). The initial sculptural form of these works is inspired by observations of the processing of animal hides in a slaughterhouse. De Bruyckere used however a colour palette that replaced sense of the animal hides by that of human skin. And through the sculptural process the layers of skins start suggesting a presence of bodily forms. It brings to mind a landscape of people piled up and molten into each other. Although the image is dark and apocalyptic De Bruyckere speaks of a dying together opposed to a lonely death. It suggests through all the violence, the loss and pain a spark of hope.
The occasion and topic of this new exhibition at PinchukArtCentre does not carry an entertainment purpose: it is much more deeper than that. And this fact makes it more valuable and invites everyone to see it.
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