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Police probe Swede's Holocaust ash art work

Published: 07 Dec 2012 15:26 GMT+01:00

Carl Michael von Hausswolff claims he used ashes he took from a crematorium at the Majdanek concentration camp in 1989, mixing them with water to create the painting entitled "Memory Works".

The monochrome work, featuring vertical brushstrokes in a rectangle representing the suffering of the victims, is on display at the Martin Bryder Gallery in the southern Swedish town of Lund.

A member of the public filed a police complaint against von Hausswolff on December 5 for "disturbing the peace of the dead", calling the artwork a "desecration of human remains", said police inspector Annika Johansson.

She said the police complaint was "very unusual", noting that von Hausswolff took the ashes in Poland, not in Sweden. It was unclear if using the ashes was considered a crime in the Scandinavian country.

Police said the prosecutor's office would investigate the case and decide whether to press charges.

Gallery owner Martin Bryder refused to comment on the work when contacted, and said the artist was also unavailable.

On the gallery's website, von Hausswolff explained that he travelled to Poland in 1989 for an exhibit and while there visited the Majdanek concentration camp.

"I collected some ashes from one of the crematoriums but didn't use it for the exhibit -- the material was too emotionally charged with the cruelties that had taken place there," he said.

"In 2010 I pulled out the jar of ashes and decided to 'do something' with it. I took out a few sheets of watercolour paper and decided to cover just a rectangular space with ashes mixed with water.

"When I stepped back and looked at the pictures, they 'spoke' to me: figures appeared... as if the ashes contained energy or memories or 'souls' from people... people tortured, tormented and murdered by other people in one of the most ruthless wars of the 20th century."

Swedish author and doctor Salomon Schulman condemned the exhibit as "offensive".

"I'm never going to step foot inside this gallery to view this desecration of Jewish bodies. Who knows -- maybe some of the ashes come from some of my relatives," he wrote in a debate article in regional daily Sydsvenskan.

The gallery's website said the exhibit could only be visited by appointment.

AFP/The Local/at

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Your comments about this article

16:57 December 7, 2012 by Cornelius Hamelberg
A sick man. Like Lars Vilks.
17:52 December 7, 2012 by Toonie
Another shallow stunt with a lot of vacuous verbiage justifying whatever talent the artist possesses. If the theft of human ashes from any site commemorating their lives is not regarded as theft, it should be. I would expect to hear condemnation from the Polish ambassador to Sweden, at the very least. Let's hope there will be a few cultural commentators in Sweden not intimidated by the 'von' in the man's handle and will take him to critical task with some sharp questions, for once. Do these pretentious dimwits not realize that posturing on the unearned moral high-ground looks like nothing more than profiteering from other people's suffering. Feeble 'concepts' like this do nothing to express it, which is the artist's true role. It ought to be the gallery owner's or curator's job to alert artists to their self-centered follies. But there's probably less money in that.
19:19 December 7, 2012 by calebian22
Ah yes, not doubt there will be protests, embassy attacks, and murders perpetuated by Jews all over the world because of this, err, maybe not. That sounds familiar though. I wonder which group does that?
19:25 December 7, 2012 by Trenatos
I hope he goes to jail.
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