Today marks Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, 75 years after its end.
For so many Jewish Australians, Yom HaShoah is a seminal event each year, but more than that, it is a seminal part of life. Memories and stories from the Holocaust still very much weave and whittle their way into emerging generations, much the same as contemporary antisemitism.
“Survivors – through generations, and I speak from the third generation – are raised in the Holocaust shadow, often bringing a complex set of influences on the psyche,” says Sian Darling, co-founder of Museum of Inherited Memories and co-chair of Right Now.
“In shadows, we can find shapes. Much like in memories as they morph with time. This is why the Museum of Inherited Memories exhibits artistic interpretations of those stories from witnesses of the shifting shapes of memories over time.”
Many Australians watching the Netflix series Unorthodox would have several questions about what it means to be Jewish in 2020. The answers, unsurprisingly, vary greatly.
The Jewish diaspora and subsequent events have seen vast secularisation within Jewish culture, including the Hasidic Jewish traditions we see in Unorthodox.
All of us, Jewish or not, have different experiences and inherited memories from our families, some are universal, others incredibly singular; both undeniably make us who we are.
For Jewish people, from young to old, the Holocaust is a universal experience and an experience like no other; a distance-defying force that is felt by all and remembered in ways uniquely magnified by the individual.
The Museum of Inherited Memories celebrates Jewish Australian artists and their work, exploring themes like intergenerational trauma, cultural identity and antisemitism in today’s world, as well as what it means to be Jewish in 2020.
Remembering the atrocities of this time is important for all of us, not just as an acknowledgement of a dark period in human history, but as a warning against the unchecked and unchallenged proliferation of bigoted views.
We asked a few of the artists involved in the project to share their memories of Yom Hashoah and how inherited memories come into their practice.
How does inherited memory inform your practice and manifest itself in your work?
Anita Lester (AL): There is a thread for me between the past and future always.
I feel it manifest almost psychedelically, because when that is channelled, it feels somewhat like a ghost on my back.
I also think that there is something energetically potent about being Jewish.
It’s most often unspoken, as well as being shrouded in a certain level of shame due to the subject being subversive at times- however, that taboo, as well as many others such as sex, death, contemporary femininity, drives me harder and heavily informs the way I make art.
Epigenetics is at the core of all my work.
What has Yom HaShoah meant to you during your lifetime?
AL: Yom Hashoah has been as present in my world as Christmas. My parents have Holocaust survivor fathers and it is a sad and rich part of my family history, conversation and response to the world.
Contrary to how people often comment on the Holocaust’s rhetoric being tired, I believe the opposite. It is endlessly fascinating, devastating and a reflection of how we can be in crisis…more relevant now than ever.
Toby Gotesman Schneier
Both of my parents were Auschwitz survivors. (Zichronim Livracha)…
An artist doesn’t CHOOSE to paint such heinous subject matter…It most decidedly chooses YOU…
Having said all of that, I feel that I am creating a sort of “Footprint” visually…
Forgetting is obviously not an option…
Mine are an “in your face” set of allegorical paintings…
Impossible to ignore really ….
This is my life’s work…
It means everything…
“LIBERATION OF AUSCHWITZ- SWEET BITTER”
48″ x 60″
Mixed Media in Archival Canvas
Follow the Museum of Inherited Memories on Instagram @museumofinheritedmemories.