My Ghetto  2 July until 21 November 2010

By Itay Ziv. In the Hollandsche Schouwburg

'I was looking for signs, but it was nothing, there was nothing.'                              

While he was studying at the National Academy of Art in Amsterdam, the Israeli artist Itay Ziv (1976) embarked on his project My Ghetto.

Ziv, the son of a Polish Jew, grew up in Israel. In Israeli society, pictures of Polish ghettos symbolize the Shoah. During the Nazi regime, the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe were forced to live in ghettos, most of which were surrounded by walls and barbed wire that cut them off from the outside world. Conditions inside were generally appalling and degrading, and many people died there. Those who lived in the ghettos were later deported and murdered. My Ghetto was created as a personal statement about the way in which one Israeli individual deals with the memory of the Shoah.

Ziv created an imaginary ghetto, into which he incorporated images of his neighbourhood, his studio, and some of his friends. Meanwhile, he decided to make a trip to Poland, to go and look around the site that had once been an actual ghetto; he wanted to know how it felt to stand on that historic ground. After this trip, he realized that it was impossible for any photograph to do justice to the reality of what had taken place in a ghetto during the Second World War. From then on, he decided to film himself at locations he classified as 'safe': hotels and his room, as well as in his studio, in which he shares his experiences in his own imaginary ghetto with the viewer.

In a 15-minute monologue, Ziv provides a detailed account of a visit to a nameless destination in Europe. The artist, or more precisely eight fictional characters, conjure up bare walls and huge, locked buildings, swastikas, and a grey, hostile atmosphere. The fragmentary presentation of the images, combined with the grim and emotional narrative tone, create the impression that Ziv is talking about events that he has just witnessed himself. He draws on familiar visual images of the Shoah, but Ziv's ghetto is his own fictional reality; it is an arbitrary location.

In the second part - with a blues-like melody playing in the background - the artist translates the song My Ghetto (sung in Hebrew) by the Israeli playwright Hanoch Levin: Bitter ghetto, sweet ghetto, hated ghetto, beloved ghetto. My Ghetto provokes questions about the relationship between image, history, and memory, about identity and personal experience, and about the way in which the Shoah is embedded in the collective memory of Israel.

Itay Ziv belongs to a generation of artists who approach the Shoah in a new, confrontational and associative way: they do not see it as an event that took place in the past, but as a collective trauma of the present day. In their work, they set out deliberately to elicit an emotional response from the viewer.