Artist and Newsgrist pal Susan Silas has been working on the project Helmbrechts walk since 1998. She has just opened as the current exhibition at Toronto's Koffler Gallery:
November 3 - December 18, 2005
Curator: Carolyn Bell Farrell
Reception: Sunday, November 6, 2 – 4 pm; Artist talk: 2 pm
Readings by the Artist: November 3 and 4, 1 – 2 pm
Presented in conjunction with Holocaust Education Week
Free Guided Bus Tour: Sunday, November 27, 1 to 5 pm
In 1998, New York artist Susan Silas visited former Holocaust sites to film and photograph the existing landscape. She began by retracing the steps of 580 Jews, mostly Hungarian women, who were forced to march from the Helmbrechts labour camp in Germany to the Czech city of Volary at the close of World War II. On the fifty-third anniversary of these events, between April 13 to May 5, 1998, Silas walked the route of the Helmbrechts death march—a distance of 225 miles in 22 days. She followed the day-to-day progress of the march as closely as possible, beginning and ending each day in the same location as these women, while taking photographs of the surrounding countryside on the first leg and a video in the reverse direction on the return.
Helmbrechts walk, 1998–2003 comprises a suite of forty-eight 13 x 19 inch colour prints, presented as an unbound bookwork. Essentially, it is a visual representation of this act of walking though a landscape marked by the historical specificity of the forced march of these prisoners. Silas's photographs and video footage may be seen as the byproduct of the product, which was centrally about the act of retracing the steps of victims, performed by the secondary witness. As the artist comments, "In the way of '70s conceptual art, the act of walking the walk in time and space is probably the work… and everything else is genuinely something else."
SUSAN SILAS: Helmbrechts walk, 1998 - day twelve, the road between Straz and Vilkanov, NEWSgrist Splash project, Nov. 4, 2001, Vol.2, no.31.
Dora Apel. Memory Effects: The Holocaust and the Art of Secondary Witnessing. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press. 2002. 256 pp., 6 color ills., 63 b/w. $65; $28 paper.
Irrepressible. - book on the Holocaust - book review
Art Journal, Summer, 2003 by Eunice Lipton