There are lighter subjects one could take on to photograph. The disturbing and depressing feeling that continues to overcome one in light of the unspeakable horrors from the Nazi era is difficult to capture in a word or a picture. In an article by Jürgen Habermas that was published in "DIE ZEIT", a German weekly, in the course of discussion revolving around the Holocaust memorial designed by Peter Eisenman, the philosopher from Frankfurt wrote: "A depiction of a breach of civilization using the means of art is diffi cult, perhaps impossible. Yet there is no better medium for the act that seeks its symbolic expression here than that of fine art whose aloof taciturnity remains the most likely to spare [us] from embarassments, making light of things and the trap of false abstraction." The Spanish author Jorge Semprun, himself a survivor of the concentration camp in Buchenwald, banked on 'productive forgetting' in his texts as a result of the survival of the fittest, survival that necessarily fosters an interim disappearance of mnemonic symbols, their 'archaelogization'. But the former extermination camps are there, and with them the wretched certainty of the greatest crime against mankind in history. In the epilog to Dirk Reinartz's "Totenstill" ('Dead Silent'), an intense black-and-white documentary film, Christian Graf von Krockow writes: "The silence of the erstwhile camps and today's memorial sites, the deathly silence: To the extent that we hear it, we are faced with the last, burdening question: Can what once was return?" This special silence and atmosphere is what embraces one and generates a charged, emotion-laden presence that one cannot draw away from. As the non-affected we get a vague, terrifying inkling of the dimension and system inherent to the Holocaust. Photographers who lived during this dark age of history had an easy time supplying authentic proof of the horror. When George Rodger, a co-founder of Magnum, the legendary photographer's agency, photographed the mountainous stacks of corpses in Bergen-Belsen and Margaret Bourke-White focused her camera on the concentration camp in Buchenwald, the horrifi ed general public was confronted with the scale of Shoah for the fi rst time. And even those pictures were able to convey only little of what actually occurred in the camps and on what true scale. Margaret Bourke-White said that the camera was a relief because it created a barrier to the horror she had viewed in Buchenwald. The photographs of suffering and misery taken back then have become an inextinguishable part of our collective memory, a reminder that exists at all times that makes the yearning for normalcy impossible. More recent photographic treatments of the topic, such as the remarkably unpretentious color photos of Auschwitz-Birkenau by Andreas Magdanz coupled with moving text sources, mostly make use of the medium's matter-of-fact documentary level. Till Leeser has deliberately decided to take a different path in his work "Displaced Memories". He replaces image sharpness with blurring, unambiguity with veiled implication. He himself says that the eye doesn't come to rest on a blurred picture. The aspect of visual swimming creates uncertainty, an inconcludable process that corresponds to one's own bias. The situation here deals less with describing an indifferent state than with transposing that special, vague feeling that everyone is familiar with who has ever entered one of the former extermination camps. As a rule the visual process runs exactly the other way round: The precise order as if plotted by compass is immediately noticeable upon visiting one of the camps. "For the eye, the irregular is nowhere in sight," is how Christian Graf von Krockow describes it. Besides this, the memorial sites today are above all places for tourists where being alone with one's own feelings and impressions is hardly possible. One is acquainted with the pictures of the barracks, watchtowers, gas chambers, crematoriums, ramps and the rest of the camps' inventory consisting of films, books, documentation and, well, one's own visits, too. A few intimations are enough even in Till Leeser's pictures to call up the whole program stored within us. And yet, for all those who have not been traumatized and have no personal experience of existential suffering, this remembering aims above all at the shock experienced by the recognition that this immeasurable breach of culture was able to originate from a purportedly civilized Germany an unbearable stigma that keeps us suffering due to our own country to this day, because instinctively we know that this guilt is not the kind that can be atoned for. "Auschwitz remains insurmountable, a wound healed merely superficially through public mourning effort at the usual celebrations exchanging condolences," writes Evelyn Finger with logicalconsistency in her critique of the impressive Thalheim fi lm "Am Ende kommen Touristen" ('In the end, tourists come') published in "Die Zeit". The film makes how we deal with Auschwitz the theme of discussion. "Displaced Memories" illustrate the entire tragedy. Till Leeser terms it the disquieting blurriness. The vagueness of the pictures is equally an expression of the personal uncertainty, of the "indescribable" just as much as for the "danger of disappearing and being forgotten". The complete dissolution of form is implied by frayed contour. One doesn't have to explain the pictures to sense that blurriness has been deliberately employed as a stylistic tool because it cannot impart a clear attribution nor a description. Till Leeser is not hiding himself behind the laconic eye of pure documentary photography. He is risking something. His unusual attempt is a multilayered statement which can be interpreted and discussed in various directions. It is not least of all a significant expression of his own inadequacy and doubt in being able to give the unspeakable a name. He freely admits that visiting the camps triggers a feeling of great sadness within him. That is precisely the moment that is so authentic for all of us. Our personal confrontation with the Holocaust is comparable to the throes of Tantalus. We fi nd no relief. The things shrink back from us. Till Leeser avoids the trap of aesthetifi cation due to the latent threat and apprehensiveness emanating from the pictures. Like a nightmare, the black colonnade perspectives lead to dark holes. These are no places for hope. The light that wells up throughopenings here and there seems as if pressed out by the darkness. Reduced as they are, the pictures have an overpowering presence which retraces the density of experiences and feelings in a nearly pure form, thus becoming valid metaphors for the "untold".

Rainer Danne Städtische Galerie/ Kunstverein Iserlohn

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