Arbeit Macht Frei: Work Makes you Free, 2014.
Handmade porcelain tiles, custom glaze, timber, metal. 251.5 x 109 x 111cm. 2014.
This project is a response to my 2012 visit to Sachsenhausen concentration camp, Germany. Exploring experiential connections between objects and their wider artistic and cultural histories, this work acts to memorialize both the Holocaust and its victims, initiated by physical contact with objects related to that history.
I chose to re-create the object that most affected me from this trip, an autopsy table, which remains in the pathology lab of the camp. The table maintains an illusion of sterility and stillness, a seemingly objective display embodied in the human sciences, and yet expresses the brutality, ugliness and suffering of innocent men, women and children.
The proportions of the table are situated between that of the original and my memory of being in contact with it, allowing the work to find a middle ground between replication and personal perception. The table is also cold to the touch, mimicking the conditions felt during my visit to Sachsenhausen, while also symbolizing the overarching nature of the work. By addressing multiple senses through the creation of an experience relative to my own, I introduce viewers to a space constructed for contemplation.
I have individually handmade each porcelain tile as a means of bringing the physicality of the body into an event shrouded by inhumane atrocities and trauma beyond understanding. Regarding my choice of material, porcelain personifies the preciousness and fragility of both personal and collective histories surrounding The Holocaust.
By creating this work, I am not suggesting that I could emulate the tragedy and horror of The Holocaust. Instead, I intend to empathetically address my limited experience of an event that affected, and continues to affect, so many.
Photography: Grace Yu.