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art installation

I Offer You the Birds

Je vous offre les oiseaux – Us ofereixo els ocells (I offer you the birds) is an installation inspired by a perception expressed by many survivors of Nazi concentration camps: that they had not seen any birds overflying the camps.

The installation is a symbolic offering, but it also seeks to remind us that any act of memory is also a failed attempt to recover an event as it was experienced by its protagonists, whether victims or perpetrators. Therefore, all the elements that form the installation, starting with the title in two languages, are aimed at expressing the inherent difficulties implicit in any memorial act.

The installation takes the camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau as its point of reference in order to highlight the contrast between day-to-day life and its distortion under a situation of extreme violence. Birkenau was both a concentration camp for those persecuted for political, religious, sexual and social reasons, and an extermination camp for European Jews, Sinti and Roma.

Birkenau was also a large birch grove that later served as a screen to hide the gas chambers and the crematoria. In 1940, the ornithologist Günther Niethammer, who had enlisted firstly in the SS and later in the Waffen-SS, was granted permission to bird watch in the zone from a rather secluded observation point. He catalogued 127 birds.

The installation invites visitors on a brief journey into some visual and sound landscapes at the camp as it is in the present through images filmed in Birkenau and a sound composition created from the sounds and songs of all 127 birds. At the end of the installation, visitors might wish to offer the dead and the survivors the song of a local bird. These offerings will be recorded and stored by touching an illuminated sensitive screen. On April 28, the closing day of the installation, a new sound art composition, assembled from all the offerings made during the three months of the exhibition, will be presented for a public listening. A symbolic act to return to the past the sounds that victims were not able to perceive.

Dates

  • Opening: Jan. 27, 2017 Act in commemoration of International Holocaust Day.
  • Run: Jan. 28, 2017 – April 28, 2017.

Credits

  • Author: Marta Marín-Dòmine.
  • Sound composition: José Manuel Berenguer.
  • Image: Blai Tomàs Bracquart.
  • Film editing: Blai Tomàs Bracquart.
  • Script and texts: Marta Marín-Dòmine.
  • Where: Chapel of Santa Àgata, Plaça del Rei, Barcelona.
  • Sponsors: Programs of Memory, Barcelona City Council; Barcelona City History Museum.

Contact Us:

Marta Marin-Domine

E: mmarin@wlu.ca