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Gary Spicer

Distance matters: A visual archeology of the Plaszow concentration camp in Krakow

Why do I keep going back to sites of Holocaust memory and how might it be possible for me to use drawing as a tool to excavate a past personally unlived? My research involves regular visits to Poland and to sites in Krakow to the south of the country. The triumvirate of Kazimierz (the historic Jewish area of the city, Podgorze, (site of the Jewish ghetto) and Plaszow, the forced labour camp to the south of the city are the sites of my concern. In addition to asking myself why I keep returning to these Lieux de memoire /histoire (Nora) articulating a visual response to these ‘places’ forms the basis of my research questioning. So, in drawing and writing on site, feeling and sensing the timbre, a type of graphic sorcery or necromancy emerges and perhaps in the process, I excavate an alternative and auxiliary response to these ‘memory places’? These particular sites are often innocuous and forgotten, desolate. Nonetheless, they exist in layers and can be pierced through memory and recollection to discharge stories. Foucault describes this approach to writing history as archaeology, where discursive traces of the past are investigated in order to write a ‘history of the present’. This is important because it expresses a desire to link with something beyond myself and by using marks and gestures, to connect and evoke something that isn’t there anymore.

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