I had already decided on the theme that I would like to explore before the start of the second year. I felt this would give me time to research and formulate my ideas better.
Can Togay: Empty Shoes
I discovered an image of this installation whilst research Arthur Tedder and found it to be particularly moving representing the loss of life during WW2.
One of the most poignant monuments in the Unites States Holocaust Memorial Museum is the mountainous display of empty shoes. Thousands and thousands of ownerless shoes; old people’s shoes, young people’s shoes, sturdy shoes, torn shoes, large shoes, little shoes and even infant shoes. All are empty; their bearers never to walk again.
This jarring image brings the Holocaust home with a vengeance. It doesn’t just tug at the heart; it figuratively tears it apart. Each one of these shoes was worn by a vibrant, breathing, creative human being. The souls that inhabited the shoes were cruelly driven from earth before their time; the shoe, forlorn and alone, is left to bear witness. The image is jarring precisely because the shoes remind us that we too bear witness. We are living testimony to a vibrancy that would have been.
The shoes are jarring for yet another reason; they proclaim the sanctity of this place. Where six million die there is horror. Where innocent souls are shattered there is tragedy. Where human beings are transformed into gruesome piles of bones and charred flesh there are no answers. There is no room for musing, no room for understanding; travesty numbs the mind. There can be no thought; there can be only reverence. Six Million souls demand stillness and respect; acknowledgment of G-d’s infinite vastness. The room is sacred; the memories are holy. As G-d said to Moses, “Remove your shoes you tread on hallowed ground.”
It might have been a fitting tribute for all visitors to remove their own shoes and leave them beside this display. We are not more worthy than they; our shoes no more deserving than theirs. Yet we don’t do that and for good reason. Our creed does not celebrate death; we mourn it. Our response is not to join the ranks of despair, but to commit to ever more vibrant life. We are determined to move forward; to fill our own shoes and, in the process, to fill theirs too. Their memory is hallowed, their death tragic, but we aim to sanctify it; by allowing it to energize us in life.
The paintings of Italian artist Lorenzo Villa are rendered on the sheets of plexiglass. Each portrait is not only a tedious and complicated work, but an odd fusion of abstract beauty, innocence and chaos. The emotionally charged portraits of children depicted in a chaotic war zone environment is simply heartbreaking. Though Lorenzo’s work is dreamy and abstract, his creative imagination seemed to portray the reality of war, where the lives and innocence of children are being destroyed. These little ones cannot do anything but to Dream of Peace.
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