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Christian Boltanski | France

Rezerve: La Fete de Pourim
Reserves: The Purim Holiday, 1988

10x10 Boxes,
5 B/W Photographs, 5 Lamps, Cables 140x230 cm

Courtesy of Kewenig Galerie, Cologne

Christian Boltanski's works are a combination of real and fictional evidence on his and other people's existence, presenting assemblages of documentary photographs wrenched from their original context, including flashbacks to segments of time and life that blurred memory with invention.

Reconstructing pictorial terms became Boltanski's most favored medium for exploring forms of remembering and consciousness. He handles his installation as if it were painting, photographing slices of nature and carefully arranged still-lives of banal everyday objects, ready-mades (objets trouvés) in order to convert them into grid compositions that reflect the collective aesthetic condition of contemporary civilization in a stereotyped way.

The work Reserves: The Purim Holiday is composed of enlarged portraits of children. The s faces robs them of ׳ blurring of the children their identity. They become shadow-children, their own ghosts, death masks immortalizing facial features that no longer exist.

The photographs are piled on an orderly stack of rusty boxes that serve as relics – containers for the remains or belongings of the dead. The boxes serve as a kind of archive for the remaining memories of those who no longer exist, and they correspond with the piles of personal belongings the Nazis confiscated from their victims.

The electric bulbs, pointed at the portraits, casting a threatening light upon them, arouse associations of investigations and torture. The combination of boxes, photographs and the strong and focused lighting turns the installation into a kind of monument to those tender victims.

"Part of my work has been about what I call ‘small memory'. 'Large memory' is recorded in books and 'small memory' is all about little things. Part of my work then has been trying to preserve 'small memory' because often when someone dies, that memory disappears. Yet that 'small memory' is what makes people different from one another, unique. These memories are very fragile, I wanted to save them", says Boltanski.