i am: Narratives of the Holocaust
December 8, 2017 - January 17, 2018
ReflectSpace at Downtown Central Library in Glendale and the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust (LAMOTH) present “i am: Narratives of the Holocaust” an exhibition that brings together contemporary photography and rare artifacts/archives to examine various narratives of survival and identity created during the Holocaust and later. “i am” explores the core genocidal process of de-humanization and presents works from an inclusive and deeply personal perspective that affirm as well as disrupt traditional narratives of inheritance of historical violence.
“i am: Narratives of the Holocaust” runs from December 8, 2017 to January 17, 2018. The opening is Saturday, December 9, from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m., with an Artist Talk by Jeffrey Wolin at 7:00 p.m.
“i am” is co-curated by Ara and Anahid Oshagan of ReflectSpace and Eric Hall of LAMOTH.
“i am” explores notions of identity and identification—person, place, time—and de-humanization during the Holocaust through a rare collection of artifacts from the LAMOTH. Identification armbands, numbers and symbols worn by prisoners of concentration camps and identity cards (often stamped with a letter for further classification) from a multitude of European countries are on display. Their owners range from a broad cross-section of groups persecuted by the Nazis: Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Romani gypsies, political prisoners, habitual offenders, and members of the LGBTQ community.
An extraordinary instance of identification—through portraiture—was made by 21-year old artist Dina Babbitt. In 1944, while imprisoned at Auschwitz, she was recruited by the infamous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele to draw portraits of Romani inmates subject to horrific medical experimentations. “i am” presents four of her Romani watercolors that are simultaneously portraitures of identification and an intervention to enable her own survival. The Auschwitz museum retains her original work, we present the only available reproductions donated to the LAMOTH by the artist. The subdued color and unsettling beauty of these portraits run counter to all intuitions of that dark time.
Similarly against-the-grain and disruptive of the traditional narratives of sites of trauma are contemporary artist James Friedman’s vivid color photographs of Holocaust sites from his series “12 Nazi Concentration Camps.” Friedman rejects the tendency to picture these sites of depravity, torture and murder in “timeless” and somber black and white; instead his work explodes with color and documents the often surprising juxtapositions of the mundane activities at these sites in the 1980s with the historical memory of the horrors that occurred there. Including himself in many of his images, Friedman’s work places the second and third generation witness at the very center of the spaces occupied by the Holocaust and forces viewers to reconsider their perceptions of these sites of unimaginable violence.
Photographic artist Jeffrey Wolin is also a post-Holocaust witness. Sourced from a deeply personal space, his series “Written in Memory” merges photography with testimony and creates a different kind of identity of the survivor. He makes portraits of Holocaust survivors and writes their testimony directly onto the photographs. Here the visual and textual narratives are intractably intertwined and present a world of witnessing where the present-day context is wiped out and the narrative/testimony takes its place. The work alludes to the core identity of survivors: their inability to imagine themselves outside their survival.
The last part of the “i am” is an impossible remnant and narrative from the Holocaust. Selma and Chaim met at Sobibor camp. They did not speak each other’s language but fell in love. During the Sobibor camp uprising, they somehow found each other and escaped. They went into hiding for two years and during that time, they wrote a diary. Of the 160,000 prisoners at Sobibor, only a few hundred survived and none but Selma and Chaim kept a diary. Their diary, every single page, in its actual size and in totality, is reproduced and presented in “i am” as an installation: a statement of “presence” and a narrative of survival. Selma and Chaim’s diary digital scans are courtesy of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Expanding on the themes of “i am”, reproductions of Erich Lichtblau-Lesky’s A Ghetto Pictorial Diary will be displayed in the PassageWay. Lichtbau-Lesky was deported to Theresiendstadt Ghetto where he made graphic pictorial narratives depicting ghetto life. He hid the diary’s sketches, watercolors and graphics in the floorboards in his barracks and was able to retrieve them after liberation. Later, he re-worked them into larger images. His ironic and deeply-felt pre and post pictorial narratives are displayed alongside each other in the PassageWay gallery. Also available will be Lichtblau-Lesky’s book, A Ghetto Pictorial Diary, published by LAMOTH.
The highly anticipated and reimagined Downtown Central Library is pleased to announce the reopening of its doors with ReflectSpace: a new exhibition space designed to explore and reflect on major human atrocities, genocides and civil rights violations. Immersive in conception, ReflectSpace is a hybrid space that is both experiential and informative, employing art, technology and interactive media to reflect on the past and present of Glendale’s communal fabric and interrogate current-day global human rights issues.
The approach is intimate. Emphasis is placed on the witness narrative: who saw, wrote, spoke or has been affected by genocide or human rights calamities. The narratives will unfold through multiple technologies--projection, interactive media and immersive sound design--and multiple discipline of thought and arts. ReflectSpace will also present installation art and engage with the archives, books and texts in the library in which it exists.
ReflectSpace is an inclusive exhibition space. First, it will explore the Armenian Genocide, presenting personal as well as reflective narratives from survivors and artwork from descendants. Also, in the coming months, it will present the fate of the Rwandan Tutsis and, later, the Holocaust, then subsequent genocides. With a focus on Glendale as well as an international perspective, ReflectSpace will also delve into contemporary issues like immigration, violence in society, Korean comfort women, interned Japanese, as well as the disappearance of Native Californians and the roots and routes of slavery in the US. And this is just the beginning.
ReflectSpace will be an intimate experiential space for reflection and exploration. At times it will be immersive, at other times disorienting and yet at other times overwhelming. But it will always engage.
Wake: The Afterlife of Slavery
September 15 - November 5, 2017
ReflectSpace at Downtown Central presents Wake, an exhibition tracing a jagged narrative of slavery in the US from the slave trade to the present. Revolving around the ideas of Black scholar and author Christina Sharpe, Wake engages various meanings of that word to address the aftermath and the evolution of the institution of slavery into its virulent forms today. The exhibition runs from September 15 to November 5, 2017. An Opening Reception was held on Friday, September 15 from 6 to 8 pm.
The notion of wake has myriad layers of meaning: it is the distortions in the aftermath of a ship’s passing and the ruptures that persist long after its passing; an attendance and a witnessing of the dead, a kind of final act of caring; the state of rising out of sleep to move and act--being present today and now. Wake cuts both ways: into death as well as life.
What is the “wake” of the estimated 350,000 slave ships that crossed the Atlantic? “I talk about ‘wake work’”, says Christina Sharpe. “The wake is keeping track of the ship, keeping watch for the dead. It was a way for me to think about the persistence of Black death and the persistence of Black life, the ways in which Black people nonetheless make spaces of joy. ‘Wake work’ is the work that we Black people do in the face of our ongoing death, and the ways we insist life into the present.”
Anchored by the works of Pulitzer-prize winning photographer Clarence Williams and photographer and installation artist Nicola Goode, Wake reflects on Sharpe’s ideas and traces a non-linear narrative of slavery from various points of view.
Williams was in New Orleans for a wedding when hurricane Katrina struck. Rescued from atop a house, Williams stayed to be a witness and document the destruction of Black communities there: a Black death due to long-term government neglect and horrific abandonment of Black citizenry in a time of dire need. Williams presents his work as large-scale, fiber-base photographic prints, made by master printer Andrew Hall.
Nicola Goode, employing archival images, documents and photographs, re-configures and presents her Black family history over three generations in the Los Angeles area while addressing issues of exclusion and marginalization. Goode’s work, which is part image, part installation, part ephemera, is about life which inspired the great migration West and how Blacks in the aftermath of slavery’s legacy have navigated and negotiated limits placed on their “freedom.” Her work touches upon what Sharpe calls “Black life”: an “insistence” of life into the present and recognizes that survival in the aftermath of slavery’s legacy depends on the preservation and celebration of life.
Alongside artwork, Wake presents digitally reproduced archival material as artifact: series of documents and images that stitch together a narrative of the “afterlife” of slavery in multiple contexts to complete and complement Williams’ and Goode’s works. Casting a wide net across space and time, Wake re-appropriates various actual and online archives to generate this narrative. It mines the archival collections at Glendale’s Downtown Central Library and the online collections of the Library of Congress, the National Archives and various universities. Included in the exhibit are reproductions of documents, photographs and audio material from “Born in Slavery” collection, runaway slave ads, slave ship manifests and newspaper clippings and other documents from Glendale’s past.
From A Place for all People: Introducing the National Museum of African American History and Culture Collection and courtesy of the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibitions Services program, the poster exhibit in Downtown Central’s Passageway enhances and complements Wake in ReflectSpace as it further explores the African American story characterized by pain and glory, power and civility, enslavement and freedom.
Wake is a jagged narrative of the “afterlife” of slavery, its continuing destruction of Black communities as well as the unstopable force of life that inspires the same communities. Wake is at once a reflection, an act of mourning and a call to life. Wake is co-curated by Ara and Anahid Oshagan.
Do The Right Thing: (dis)comfort women
- Exhibition: July 20 - September 3, 2017, ReflectSpace
- Opening Reception: Friday, July 21, 6:00 - 9:00 p.m., ReflectSpace
- Commemoration of Comfort Woman Day: Friday, July 28, 6:00 - 9:00 p.m., Auditorium Read More>
- The Apology film screening: Friday, August 11, 7:00 - 10:00 p.m., Auditorium Read More>
- The Last Tear film screening: Thursday, August 24, 7:00 - 10:00 p.m., Auditorium Read More>
ReflectSpace at Downtown Central presents Do the Right Thing: (dis)comfort women, an exhibition reflecting on the silence and dialogue by and about the women who were forced to become sex slaves by the Japanese Imperial Army before and during World War II. The exhibition presents the work of twelve international documentarians and artists and runs from July 20 to September 3, 2017. Co-curated by Monica Hye Yeon Jun, Ara and Anahid Oshagan. An opening reception will be held on Friday July 21, from 6-9 pm, Downtown Central Library, 222 East Harvard Street, Glendale CA 91205.
The term “comfort women” is a Japanese euphemism coined by the military to soften the scope and viciousness of their system of slavery. The (dis)comfort women exhibit turns this term on its head and develops alternative narratives of the experience by survivors as well as artists. The exhibit includes drawings, watercolor, paintings, sculpture and audio-visual material drawn from a wide range of North American and international artists, professional as well as amateur. (dis)comfort women will show the work of Remedios Felias, a former sex slave who late in life drew a graphic picture diary of her harrowing experience, as well as giant public art banners by NY-based artist Chang-Jin Lee.
The artists’ work invites reflection and dialogue but also creates tension: between the inability to speak about personal trauma and the deep human urge to tell. Artists explore this silence and simultaneously break it. (dis)comfort women is held taut in this tension and is a vociferous presence urging the acknowledgment of the horrors, lifelong indignity and shame suffered by the comfort women.
Artists in (dis)comfort women: Steve Cavallo, Yoon Jung Choi, Shon Jeung Eun, Remedios Felias, Arian Kang, Chang-Jin Lee, Melly Lym, Hong Sun Myeong, Kim Siha, Gim Deok Yeoung, Shin Chang Yong and Seo Soo-Young.
Before and during World War II, over 200,000 women from South Korea, Taiwan, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and East Timor were coerced or forcibly transported to so-called “comfort stations” across Japanese occupied territories and repeatedly raped, tortured and brutalized for months and years. Most women were under the age of 20, some as young as 12. Many women were murdered or committed suicide during their enslavement.
And the horrors of their experience did not end with the end of the war. Many women were severely traumatized and never married or were unable to have children as a result of the torture they suffered. Many did not return home and those who did were branded as “Japanese leftovers” and were often derided and ostracized. Humiliated and ashamed, comfort women survivors remained silent for nearly six decades: in isolation, shame, mental and physical ill-health, and often in extreme poverty. Breaking the silence about their experiences was a courageous task. The first public pronouncement by a survivor came in 1991, nearly 50 years later.
ReflectSpace is a new exhibition space inside Downtown Central Library designed to explore and reflect on major human atrocities, genocides and civil rights violations. Immersive in conception, ReflectSpace is a hybrid space that is both experiential and informative, employing art, technology and interactive media to reflect on the past and present of Glendale’s communal fabric and interrogate current-day global human rights issues.
Landscape of Memory
May - June 2017
The inaugural exhibit, called Landscape of Memory: Witnesses and Remnants of Genocide, unfolds in two distinct but interconnected parts and reflects on the Armenian Genocide through the cross-disciplinary work of witnesses, survivors, and artists, across four generations.
In the newly constructed ReflectSpace, witness (in) humanity examines the relationship of official history to survivor testimony and its generational aftermath. Leslie A. Davis, the US Consul in the Ottoman Empire in 1915, risked his life in saving Armenians and taking photographs of the Genocide. Davis’ critical work as a photographer and documentarian are contextualized and presented as part of witness (in) humanity. He is connected to contemporary photographers’ portrait and oral history of Hayastan Maghakhian-Terzian, one of the young girls Consul Davis saved.
Coming nearly a century after Davis, New York-based artist Aram Jibilian’s “Gorky and the Glass House” explores Arshile Gorky, the renowned Armenian-American painter, as an artist-survivor through a series of conceptual photographs made at Gorky’s final residence. Jibilian channels the artist’s ghost to address the ambiguous space the survivor occupies: between life/death and past/present.
Just outside ReflectSpace, within a few yards of the library’s south entrance at Glendale Central Park, will be the second part of Landscape of Memory: Witnesses and Remnants of Genocide, the highly popular iwitness public art installation.
The iwitness installation is a large-scale artistic disruption of public space and consists of an interconnected network of towering asymmetrical photographic sculptures wrapped with massive portraits of eyewitness survivors of the Genocide. The sculptures have no right angles and their irregular angular shapes speak to an unbalanced world, continually at risk of war, ethnic cleansing and genocide. They range in height from eight to twelve feet.
Conceived and constructed by artists Ara Oshagan and Levon Parian and architect Vahagn Thomasian, iwitness will be the first ever large-scale public art installation in Glendale. Design concept is by Narineh Mirzaeian.
“This remarkable installation, coupled with the ReflectSpace exhibition, honors the 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide and tells the personal stories of survivors--first-hand eyewitnesses to one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century,” said Cindy Cleary, Director of Glendale’s Arts and Culture.
“iwitness is a temporary monument to the men and women who rebuilt their disrupted lives and communities in the aftermath of genocide,” said artist Levon Parian. “The proximity and clustering of the sculptures alludes to, and reflects the new communities they created after being dispersed across the globe.”
Landscape of Memory: Witnesses and Remnants of Genocide is an immersion in an internal conversation taking shape at the very onset of the Genocide and stretching over four generations. The diplomat/documentarian, eyewitness survivors and contemporary artists are all intricately linked in a network of imagery, image-making and testimony. Landscape of Memory is curated by Ara and Anahid Oshagan.
- iwitness public art installation at Glendale Central Park will run from April 27 through June 14.
iwitness (in)humanity @ ReflectSpace | iwitness @ Central Park
Curated by Ara and Anahid Oshagan