Arbeit Macht Frei
Single-channel video 10 min. 20 sec.
Series of 13 C-prints, blueprints
Single-channel video, 7 min. 39 sec.
‘ARBEIT MACHT FREI’, a slogan placed at the entrance portals of a number of German concentration camps including Auschwitz 1 became emblematic for the schizophrenic use of language in Nazi ideology and for the Holocaust. The signs in metal work were usually produced by skilled prisoners, in the case of Auschwitz 1, where the sign is now part of the memorial site, it was installed upon the order of commandant Rudolf Höss.
The video is a documentation of a replica of the sign beingmade in 2006, when 13 rusty spots had been detected on the sign and it underwent conservation oversight. For two months, the sign was replaced with a specially manufactured copy, a replica made by a Polish metal workshop. By coincidence, it was at the same time when another replica was made in Israel for a museum. Amir Yatziv went to both workshops and spoke to the metal workers about the work as such as well its technical requirements. But the artist collages the two interviews in a way that a dialogue and a dispute seem to evolve between the Polish and Israeli workers. The work consists of large-scale prints of microscopic images of the thirteen rusty spots which were produced as part of the restoration analysis. Without context, the images don not reveal the horrific potential, but resemble abstract color painting. The dialogue as well as the prints deal with the symbol in a very matter-of-fact way and thus enhance the presence of the dreadful narration behind it.
Hausbaumaschine is based on the plans of a ›Hausbaumaschine‹ (House building machine), developed by the German architect Ernst Neufert in 1943—a former Bauhaus student and one of the most prominent representatives of modern architecture who collaborated with Walter Gropius and is the author of the famous Bauentwurfslehre (Architects’ Data), a reference book on spatial norms for architects published in 1936, also simply known as the Neufert, which became a huge success in Germany as well as all over the world and was translated into 17 languages. In 1939, Neufert was appointed by Albert Speer for the modernization of the national industry and building sectors at the German Ministry of Armament. His plan foresaw a half-automated assembly line moving along tracks in order to construct a potentially endless row of five-story, concrete building shells. The Hausbaumaschine developed in 1943 as part of the reconstruction plan for Europe after the war and to fix the post-war housing shortage was never realized; later attempts to adapt the concept in the GDR also failed. Amir Yatziv uses this material and the original texts on the historical Hausebaumaschine and transforms them into a kind of ironic promotion video. Transferred to our times and seen from our perspective, it questions the megalomania and the ideology behind the formation of conceptions of history and the constitutions of power.
Amir Yatziv, born 1972 in Karmiel, studied art at Bezalel Academy of Arts & Design, Jerusalem and lives and works in Gent.