Wednesday, April 18, 2007

It's All There, Behind Glass

Years ago, I remember the Olympic French synchronized swimming team concocting a routine that consisted of the swimmers acting out parts of the Holocaust -- both the Nazi guards and their Jewish victims, being marched to the gas chambers and reenacting various deaths. Faces of Death! Underwater! With French swimmers goose-stepping! In the words of Tony Soprano, One bad idea after another . . . In his moving defense, the routine's creator said he thought it clever and innovative, even witty in places. Dear Lord, the man could have lied! The French already have that little to no sense of humor reputation. (Being part French, I can say this is true if my relatives are any example. Their sense of humor consists of attacking your weakest spots and laughing hysterically. Ha!) He could have put it in the category of "trauma art," art that helps to heal old wounds by doing strange things. Jochen Gertz and Esther Shavlev-Gertz's anti-fascism memorial in Hamburg, Germany started as an attempt to help heal the trauma of the Holocaust. The memorial (1986) consisted of a single pillar enrobed in lead so that visitors could scratch their names and thoughts into the surface. The pillar was designed to sink beneath the ground in stages as to mimic the nature of memory. Because a fair percentage of the visitors scrawled anti-semitic sentiments on it, it can now can be viewed only through a glass wall.

So the question becomes an interesting one. What started out as a supposed healing is now a humiliation, sinking ever so slowly into the earth. The memorial wasn't monitored -- it was supposed to be honest, to let everyone have their say. Only when it was discovered what people actually would say were government officials horrified. Does honest expression heal trauma or perpetuate it? I suppose our whole life is kind of like that peculiar piece of art -- the things people say to us written forever on our hearts until they fade into the ground, the marrow of our bones. Some trauma you can see clearly; other trauma has long since sunk below the surface. But it's all there, behind glass, waiting for someone to take a brick and bust it open, to right things or ruin them some more. Like the artists found out, if you open it to everyone, you never can predict what will happen.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days." Ecclesiastes 11:1
Cocktail Hour
Drinking movie suggestion: Melinda and Melinda
Benedictions and Maledictions
Your Wife Is Outside
You are trying to tell me something
but your wife is outside, waiting. It is
the dark hour between office and home.
The moment passes; I shake out my
umbrella, still wet with this morning's
rain. I let you leave first. What can I say?
I love the night, but it does not love me.


A. Hitler said...

In case of emergency, break glass.

Tony Soprano said...

I don't rememeber saying that "one bad idea..." thing, but after 80 episodes, it's easy to forget. Thanks for all your support of the show, Michelle.--Tony

Rush Limberger said...

If the French were seeing my docs, they would be nice, like me.

Charles Gramlich said...

The anti-semetic scratchings on the lead just go to show that there are plenty of people walking around who are a waste of good air.

Rush Limeberger said...

John Kerry was the French-looking candidate for the presidency.

the walking man said...

Humanity is very predictable.

Saul Steinberg said...

Please, it's "anti-semitic".

eric, 101st elephant cavalry said...

I love the "Your wife is outside" benediction/malediction. A nice comment on overreaching in our personal lives. Extra pieces of cake make us all smile, until we have to eat what we order up. Ah, day old love in a doggie bag...

john edwards said...

how y'all like my new do? Ain't it cute?

Tim said...

Hey Michelle,
Trauma buried beneath the surface... I guess it's what keeps therapists in business. You're so right about not being able to predict what happens when it's brought to the surface. Great writing!

paul said...

Shazamm O Mighty Eyes

JR's Thumbprints said...

Beautifully stated and very poetic. I just wish some of my trauma would sink a little faster.

Col. Parker of the 101st Elephant Cavalry said...

Now the officials freaked out, but perhaps the artist or artists knew there would be a mixed and often hateful reaction to the subject of the piece. But it still a smashing little artistic and poetic statement. All of those sentiments will eventually be buried by the cold earth of der Fatherland. Will not time and the dirt of ages balance the scales?

At least the art you present to us won't sink into the ground. Nor is it made of hazardous lead. It's made of fine black silk and the breath of stars, of course. Another fine post, m.