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MICHAEL MIRABITO: LOST VOICES – A Remembrance, Poland 1940–1945

Brushes confiscated from prisoners; Auschwitz.

Photo Credit: June 2011; Auschwitz-Birkenau; Inkjet print with encaustic medium.

Suraci Gallery
Feb 01, 2012 - Mar 18, 2012

The exhibition explores the Auschwitz–Birkenau and Treblinka World War II concentration camp sites as they appear today. Treblinka is a particularly haunting site. The camp was dismantled in the mid-1940s and, now, only monuments mark the site. Yet in this contemporary bucolic setting, some 800,000 souls perished. The show consists of photographs and photo encaustic works accompanied by an original musical suite, Voices Speak - A Musical Journey, composed by Dr. Douglas Lawrence.
Reception: February 24, 4:30–6:30 PM
Gallery Talk: February 15, 3 PM

Exhibition Statement by Dr. Michael Mirabito

LOST VOICES focuses on the contemporary appearance of three concentration camps in Poland. The camps are Auschwitz, Birkenau (sometimes written as Auschwitz-Birkenau) and Treblinka. Treblinka is not as well known as all the camp's structures were demolished in the mid–1940s. Yet some 800,000 individuals perished on this site, which is now marked by monuments and surrounded by fields and trees.  

The Music
An original music score, composed and played by Dr. Douglas Lawrence, is the program's audio component. Dr. Lawrence is a Grammy nominated composer, and his work cuts across a number of musical styles and modalities.

As you will hear in his composition, Dr. Lawrence's work creates an atmosphere that envelops the listener. It captures the sense of the era portrayed in the photographs...the horror of your world being swept away. The music is also poignant. It pulls at your senses as you hear the notes intermingled with voices of individuals who lived through the Holocaust. It is a powerful composition, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank Douglas for the use of his compelling work.

The Photographs
As you walk through the exhibition, you'll note that several of the photographs are from 1940s and depict certain events that took place in the camps. These photographs are used by permission from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The images are married to contemporary views of the camps. This juxtaposition, though not originally planned when the project was conceived, helps tie these past events to our own time.

Five of the images are also photo encaustic works. Photographs printed on matte paper are dipped in encaustic medium. This medium and process makes the paper translucent. By subsequently sandwiching identical photographs and backlighting this combination, a photograph has added depth, density and luminosity. Another technique is to use filters to tint a photograph. One such tinted image is included in the exhibition.

The 'Why' of the Show
I had a chance to visit  Auschwitz-Birkenau and Treblinka this past summer. Through my department, Communication Arts, Marywood's Campus Ministries (Sister John Michele), and Scranton's Holocaust Education Resource Center (Tova Weiss), I've  had the opportunity to meet concentration camp survivors as well as US Army personnel who helped liberate such camps at the end of World War II. This led to my wanting to visit the sites--to see them for myself.

It was an incredible experience. It was also a challenging visit in regard to creating the photos. You're trying to produce a sequence of images that are visually compelling and, possibly, even beautiful. Yet, they're also images of sites where horrific events took place.

During this process, I also realized that we sometimes group people together who have been killed in the camps. Rather than thinking of them as individuals, they may become an abstract number and part of a mass grouping.

But a picture may shatter this perception. A case in point is the shot of the brushes included in the show. Each brush was the property of an individual who passed through Auschwitz. These most personal possessions were once owned by living, breathing souls. For me, and I hope for others who may visit the exhibit, they give the abstract number a face and a human identity.

I also wanted to produce the exhibition in light of the work of some revisionist
historians. A number disavow the Holocaust and other historical events where people were savaged. And as time passes, and witnesses fade away, these events have the potential to disappear from our collective memory.

But as men and women of good will, we have an obligation to see that the memories continue to live -- to serve as guides to help prevent other such events from
occurring. This hope may be fleeting, though, as genocide still sweeps our world, and the innocent perish. There is much more work to be done.

It may be appropriate to end with a quote from a memorial plaque at a monument in Birkenau. The same quote is used in the show's final installation piece.

“For ever let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity, where the Nazis murdered about one and a half million men, women and children, mainly Jews from various countries of Europe.  Auschwitz-Birkenau 1940–1945.”

Michael Mirabito, February 1, 2012

Bunks; Birkenau.

Photo: June 2011; Auschwitz-Birkenau; Inkjet archival print

Auschwitz; cans of Zyklon B.
Zyklon B was used to poison prisoners.

Photo: June 2011; Auschwitz-Birkenau; Inkjet archival print

Crematorium ruins; Birkenau.

Photo Credit: June 2011; Auschwitz-Birkenau; Inkjet print with encaustic medium.

Detail, exhibition installation

Detail, exhibition installation

Detail, exhibition installation

Detail, exhibition installation

Detail, exhibition installation

Detail, exhibition installation

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