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DAN ELBORNE

DEATHGATE (IN PROGRESS), 2015-18.

Pinched clay, expanding dimensions, 2015-2018.

Deathgate is a ceramic installation artwork currently in progress. The completed work will be a physical representation of all those who were detained in the Auschwitz I & Auschwitz II (Birkenau) concentration camps. I am producing an individual ceramic object for each of the detainees: 1.3 million people/pieces.

The objects I am creating are comparable to the stones that cover and surround the railway, which was used as the main mode of prisoner transportation into the Auschwitz camps. Using a pinching process and a wide range of clay types, I am creating each of the ceramic ‘stones’ by hand, which consequently leaves a fingerprint on each object. This is a way to example individual attention given to each victim/survivor, as well as their creation aiming to introduce human sensibility into an overwhelmingly inhumane event. Both the time and labour behind the production of this work are important elements to its desired impact.

Dan Elborne, making process, Death Gate, work in progress 2016, photo- Hannah Roche 3.jpg
Top and bottom: The pinching process behind creating the ceramic 'stones' (photographs: Hannah Roche).

Top and bottom: The pinching process behind creating the ceramic 'stones' (photographs: Hannah Roche).

The final work will display two separate lengths of my created ‘stones.’ One length containing 1.1 million ‘stones,’ and the other containing 200,000. This will give a direct visual reference to the staggering amount of deaths (1.1 million) against those who survived the Auschwitz camps (200,000).

Aesthetically, the final installation will be reminiscent of the railway leading into the Auschwitz II (Birkenau) extermination camp, which led through the main entrance to the camp, also know as 'the deathgate.' Various elements of the work including my choice of clay types and my method of installation are directly responsive to my own experience of visiting the Auschwitz camps over two days in January of 2016 (immediately prior to beginning heavy production of the ‘stones’). My choice to represent those detained in Auschwitz is largely because of this opportunity to visit the preserved site of those camps, which allows me to represent the history and those affected relative to my own limited experience.

auschwitz rocks.jpg
Top: the stones covering and surrounding the actual railway at Auschwitz II (Birkenau) (photograph: Dan Elborne). Bottom: an assortment of Dan Elborne's created ceramic 'stones' (photograph: Grace Yu)

Top: the stones covering and surrounding the actual railway at Auschwitz II (Birkenau) (photograph: Dan Elborne).

Bottom: an assortment of Dan Elborne's created ceramic 'stones' (photograph: Grace Yu)

My decision to create ‘stones’ is conscious of a Jewish tradition of placing stones on gravesites. This practice has been interpreted in various ways but is commonly considered as a way to place something that embodies the permanence of memory and long lasting legacy, unlike that of flowers, which wither and die.

Development of this project began during my June-July, 2015 residency at Ateliers Fourwinds in Aureille, France, where I produced the first ‘stones’ and began 'number work’ on the logistics of the project, as well as searching for an efficient and effective way to produce the ‘stones’. The first ‘stone’ was produced on Sunday, June 28, 2015 and the work is scheduled for me to complete the last ‘stone’ on Wednesday, November 21, 2018. This production timeline will match, to the day, with the first gassings of prisoners at Auschwitz (Wednesday, September 3, 1941) to the liberation of the Auschwitz camps (Saturday, January 27, 1945): totalling 1242 days or 3 years, 4 months and 24 days.

A single ceramic 'stone' with the featured fingerprint (photograph: Grace Yu).

A single ceramic 'stone' with the featured fingerprint (photograph: Grace Yu).

I intend for the work to not just represent those detained in the Auschwitz camps, but be presented as a relative fraction of the total victims of a largely inconceivable event. I also wish for it to broadly speak of the abhorrence and ongoing issues of prejudice, discrimination and genocide, while simultaneously acting as an exercise in empathy for both myself and viewers.

Updates on the work will be posted via this and the news page of my website, as well as regular updates on my Instagram page @danelborne. For any questions or discussion, please don’t hesitate to contact me: danelborne@gmail.com

Background photograph by Alec Shultz.