With What remains of the day – 71 Years After the End of World War II, I explore issues of memory and time. The memory of WWII in Germany is fading as people who experienced the war firsthand get older and die. Many oral histories have been recorded but once the survivors die, most of their memories will be buried with them. Yet the memory of WWII is living history because the recent arrival of refugees from the Middle East and Africa has reinvigorated important questions. Most notably: what responsibilities do Germans have based on their history?
I explore these issues by visiting places in and outside Berlin that were important for the creation of the Third Reich and for Hitler’s aims of extending the ‘Lebensraum’ for the Germans to the East, of proceeding with the ‘Endloesung’ by eliminating all Jews, and of gaining superiority over other nations. Particular places of importance are for example the concentration, labor, and death camps, train stations from which Jews and other people were deported, prisons, or public places in which important events took place, e.g. the Nazi Party Rally Ground in Nuremberg.
A way of showing how our memories of these places fade is by overexposing negative film for seventy-one seconds (this interval was chosen because the intervention will occur in 2016, seventy-one years after the war ended in 1945). Overexposing film means that only traces from the photographed places will be recorded, which is the same thing that happens to our memories. Our memories are fragmented and not always clear. I will also interview and portrait witnesses of the war: those who were victims and those supporting the Nazi party. Depending on the outcomes of the interviews I will decide whether to print the images in color or black and white – as one of my questions is if the interviewees remember certain events or places from the war in color or black and white.
I began exploring this topic in 2014, with the ‘Oppressive Architecture’ project. I photographed plantations in the American South as well as concentration and labor camps in and outside Berlin, Germany with the aim of showing connections between architecture and oppression. I would like to add to that work by overexposing images of the historic sites, which should be an emotionally-powerful complement to the work I have already begun.