Ten years ago, I started to meditate about the history places of the World War II, about the memory, its conservation and the contemporary subject about the museum.
A text written by Arno Gisinger in the catalogue of the exhibition Mémoire des Camps : Photographies des camps de concentration et d’extermination nazis 1933-1999 - Camp Memories : Photographs of Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camps 1933-1999 - deals with “the evolution from communicative memory (survivors), to cultural memory”, and thus the creation of “memory tanks.” My first travel is highlighting this danger.
“Auschwitz enters culture” (Clément Chéroux). That kind of phenomenon could be called “museification” of these symbolic places. Auschwitz is now called a museum.
The XXIst century sees the places of memory being changed into entertainment.
We consummate Auschwitz.
I tried to identify and to re-present the signs of this process of trivialisation that physically transform this place into a common one : the bar/cafeteria at the entrance, where it is possible to eat eggs or sausages and to drink coffee or beer like in any other pub, the fire extinguishers in plain sight, very casual items becoming really perverse.
Visitors come there and can buy souvenirs as any other tourists visiting such a famous place. They run around taking pictures proving they have actually been to Auschwitz and they will file them up on to a photo album amongst other "tourist attractions".
Is the visitor of Auschwitz an ordinary tourist? But what is it that he has really seen? How one can show the unspeakable ?
Six kilometers away from the Auschwitz museum is located the Auschwitz III-Monowitz camp.
A ‘low level camp’ exploiting prisoners’ workforce, in the same locations that the German industrial stations of IG Farben Group. The industry of the Buna was built during the war.
There, in front of Buna, was interned the author Primo Levi.
What are now the remains of this concentration camp belonging to the Auschwitz complex ? Some watchtowers, bunkers nearby the road. All the camp is upside-down to receive new industries.
The Buna Werke is still there. It is expanding.
The signposts show the nice places where slepping, the Auschwitz museum direction.
Conservation and memory around the idea of museum open the way to “surroundings”. AuschwitzII-Birkenau stretches out over almost 170 hectares. Behind the barbed wires, the landscapes give out a terrific vision. Far from the official mediation, I want to go to places
unknown of Auschwitz visitors, like surroundings camps, which sometimes no traces are left of.
The choice of frontal framing was forced itself like the strongest way to expose this "normalization”. What is up to be seen ? A “No esthetisation” choice is for me the way to emphasize about people’s passiveness in front of those pictures.
In France, “internment camp” - of course, they were not extermination camps such as Auschwitz, "only" concentration camps - were threatening the myths taught for many years as history in school textbooks. France would like to forget but it is not really possible as long as those places still exist.
Sometimes, a part of the camp is being transformed into a seaside walkway.
Sometimes, there is a monument there, as some kind of alibi. But most of the time they are
deserted and abandoned.
I had lots of difficulty to take photographs of those places because there are no directions, no indications to find them. Leaving a place into oblivion always begins with the robbing of its identity.
These pictures are not an attempt to document Auschwitz, Monowitz, Harmeze or Rivesaltes, to commemorate historical events.
This one rather aims at understanding the impact of these places on contemporary context and getting a glimpse of the possible manipulations of History.