AFTER ALL (50 years later)
I would rather not look.
Too much familiarity,
Zyklon gas was an improved
TV brain lures
I work on TV, taming
It takes repetition,
Pier Marton is a second-generation artist who has wrestled with problems of his parents' survival and the impact of contemporary anti-Semitism. This led him to merge the video interview of children of survivors, called Say I'm a Jew, with an installation entitled Jew, set in a cattle car. Being a member of the second generation and experiencing European anti-Semitism in France in the 1950s and 1960s led Marton to the inability to openly express his Jewishness. Drawing from his own experience, Marton was obsessed with the question of how children of the second generation have coped with growing up in Europe after World War II. While attending a convention of second-generation survivors, Marton advertised for individuals willing to tell the story of their European and Jewish identity experiences on camera. Many volunteered. Marton edited bits and pieces of the video together to form an engaging artistic and psychological work.
The American-European painter R. J. Kitaj has represented what he terms "diasporism" as a major component in contemporary artistic life. This is a useful concept to explain the works of many artists in this show, who constantly have to deal with a Jewish identity problem in a world that is potentially enticing and supportive and also contains anti-Semitism, denial and insult. Marton's space was made to represent a blend of cattle car, barracks and a mausoleum. As Marton has written, "Memory can fuse separate locations in an inextricable blend."  Within the installation area were seats where the video played continuously. Those attending the show were encouraged to write their responses on the walls of the entrance and boxcar itself, recalling the memory of how deportees did the same on their way to death camps.
from Stephen Feinstein, Witness and Legacy
The prophet Joel said tell your children about the exodus. Here we are a generation after the Holocaust and it is unbelievable as the waters parting! My parents' generation will slowly disappear, but the energy that created the Holocaust is still there. To forget is to kill twice. Pier Marton was born in France. His father was in the French Resistance. Being an artist and photographer, he forged documents and helped hide German deserters, actions for which he was almost shot by the German Gestapo. At the same time, Marton's mother was hiding in Hungary, in the back room of a commandant's office, sharing the space with eight other people, including a baby.
Marton grew up in a Parisian apartment building that contained active memories of the Holocaust years in France. Years before, his father had created an escape route in the same apartment by sawing through an iron grill, which could be removed quickly. The presence of an escape route served as a constant reminder to Marton that one had to have fast legs to stay alive legs his great grandfather and grandmother did not have. They perished in Auschwitz.
After his father's death, Marton left France for America. For him, living in France was like living in a place where one needs constantly to know the route for escape. That claustrophobic cloud prompted his departure from France, where Marton felt he was surrounded by the same people who had betrayed his grandmother. Marton recognized the direct linkage of his family annals to his artistic oeuvre: "Knowing our parents had almost been killed many times, we grew up with a particular chill in our bones...in our homes and elsewhere, our families' grief, terror and anger found very little room to heal. I am a witness to my parents, their wound is mine." 
However, unlike Altman and Rossmer, Marton elected to escape from European soil, where the Holocaust occurred. He carried with him his Jewishness as a badge of shame, and only in his new world could he free himself from his haunting ghost-the shame of being Jewish. Thus, in Marton's installation Jew, which includes a powerful, short documentary film Say I'm a Jew, the viewer is immersed into the artist's search for Jewish identity among the second generation. Seated on wooden benches in a simulated railroad cattle car, the viewer sees a video of collaged interviews with men and women who, like Marton, are children of European survivors now living in the United States. Those who speak on Marton's video describe their struggle of carrying the legacy and their rejection and acceptance of their Jewish heritage. The chorus of different voices says things that are hard to say and hard to hear. For Marton, to say the unspeakable is the only process for liberation "to communicate one's own inhibitions, own oneself, the positive and negative, neglecting neither."  The purpose of the exhibit for Marton does not end with self-healing, nor is it about creating guilt. It is about "what we can do to fight racism and anti-Semitism." 
fromYehudit Shendar, And the Lion Shall Dwell With the Fish
Pier Marton (born in France after the war) also used a simulated cattle car for one of his video pieces entitled Say I'm A Jew, first seen in 1985. The piece lasts twenty-eight minutes. From benches viewers watch a video screen on which European-born Jews now living in the United States discuss anti-Semitic incidents experienced in Europe. Works of this sort serve as historical reminders of European anti-Semitism as well as help exorcise those experiences by allowing the participants to talk about their feelings. But such memories can be so traumatic that one of the first times Marton had to say "I am a Jew" before a group of people he almost fainted, so overwhelming were his anxiety and fear. 
Many American-born Jews, in search of an ancestral home, have enshrined the shtetls and ghettos of Eastern Europe with a bittersweet nostalgia based on family reminiscences, novels and short stories. American-born Eleanor Antin, who in 1992 produced a silent, black-and-white film The Man Without a World, has said, "What haunts me is the loss of the rich Jewish culture of Eastern Europe, the world the Holocaust destroyed. That loss, and the need to invoke it, are at the core of my Jewish works." The Man Without a World, starring Pier Marton, evokes the lost world of the shtetl. And in 1994, Antin completed an installation in the Jewish Museum of New York called Vilna Nights, in which the viewer looks into a courtyard partially destroyed by bombs. In the windows, the viewer sees aspects of Jewish life projected by video discs.
All of these artists are involved, as historian Lucy Dawidowicz has stated, in a "secular act of bearing witness to Auschwitz and the mystery of Jewish survival."  But serious questions must be raised about these works and what they might represent, particularly in the United States where so many Jews have been acculturated if not totally assimilated. Does remembering the Holocaust substitute for a live ethnic culture? Does remembering the Holocaust substitute for some distinctive everyday practice? Do these works contribute to the substitution of a Holocaust memory for active participation in Jewish life? As Pier Marton, the author of the video Say I'm a Jew, has said, "As a non-religious Jew, you have only a tradition of martyrdom. I don't say that one needs to become religious. But to look at this huge body of Jewish knowledge and not to do your best to pass it on, to honor it, is another type of murder. It is my responsibility to know as much as I can."  For Jews, the value of all of these works, then, must lie not just in memorializing the most tragic episode in Jewish history, but in helping forge a modern Jewish identity.
from Matthew Baigell, Persistence of Holocaust Imagery in American Art
Defining terror, terrorizing definitions: who's an authentic Jew?. Shma Journal, upcoming.Reviews:
Thomas E. Billings. Review of The Man Without a World.
Installation with the video Say I'm a Jew, Dimensions vary
1985. Collection of the Artist
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