Arye Wachsmuth’s works, multilayered images and installations, transform technology, history, perception and memory into an object of artistic exploration. The focus of the two-part installation is on the attempt to understand abstraction as the scientific and philosophical foundation of human progress, but also as an instrument of total domination.
›Our entire culture is called into question‹, wrote Vilém Flusser. He referred to the – as he called it – unique event of Auschwitz. For this reason, any attempt to come to terms with the present leads to the question: How could it come to Auschwitz? According to Flusser, Auschwitz is not only a result of the Western way of thinking, but rooted much deeper in occidental culture: ›Therefore, the question is not: How did it come to Auschwitz? The question is: How could it come to Auschwitz?‹ And thus: How can one continue living in a culture capable of Auschwitz?
The starting point of the installation is formed by concrete images and objects from the history of art and culture, as well as technological achievements and attempts at a philosophical interpretation. The six volumes of the interrogation minutes of Adolf Eichmann (which came to the family estate through Alexander Wachsmuth, Arye’s father who in 1961 followed the trial in Jerusalem as a reporter) are a part of the considerations, as are the ambivalent symbol of the pentagram and Lucio Fontana’s Concetto spatiale, Attesa as a reference to the potentials of the dystopian, the fractured and fragmented as positive dimensions of non-totalitarian thought.
In analogy to crystalline descriptions (Deleuze), it is subjective constructions of reference that Arye Wachsmuth is interested in. The mirror recurs in Wachsmuth’s works as a metaphor of reflecting on and embedding what one has seen, with organic and abstract forms superimposing and contrasting each other. The installation entitled Shever (Engl.: fraction) addresses the break with civilisation as the inevitable condition of our present-day life, while the title of the second installation in the same room, Shlavim, means stepwise. In a preliminary experimental set-up, Arye Wachsmuth examines the medial and bureaucratic surface of current asylum policies and establishes formal analogies between the mechanisms of exclusion, persecution and murder of the National Socialist state and current European government policies.
In the installation Shever, one can find the reproduction of a ‘self-portrait’ of looting persons from the 1940s in Vienna, a citation from the installation Retracing the Tears, which Arye Wachsmuth developed together with the art historian Sophie Lillie in many years of research work. By showing the back sides of dispossessed pictures from Jewish property, Retracing the Tears performed a retracing: They bear witness to persons who were robbed of their culture before being murdered or deported – with the aim of annihilating them in their entirety. Even more than the views of the painted pictures, the back sides of the paintings auctioned in 1996 as ‘abandoned cultural assets’ reveal the Nazis’ attempt to establish a cultural identity based on the destruction of Jewish property.
Arye Wachsmuth (*1962 in Hamburg) lives and works in Vienna.