1989-1990, 22 collages on handmade paper

“This series is a meditation on the Holocaust and its reverberations in the post-Holocaust generation, my generation. It consists of 22 collages on handmade paper with inclusions of painted Xeroxes, gold leaf and other materials such as hair, leaves, ashes, bark, burnt construction material.

The work is divided into two sections, Day and Night. Like unleavened bread, with its connotations of the Jews’ flight from Egypt, Day conveys feelings of haste and fear. I used very simple elements, always the same- gold leaf, pigment, identity pictures, hair, pages from ledgers. The handmade paper is use d both as a background in large sheets and as a thin layer pressed over the images, conveying the frailty of human skin.

Night uses larger formats, darker backgrounds, this time not in skin tones but in purples, greens, grays, blues: imaginary landscapes with theirmists, clouds and perspectives are summoned. More complex layering intervenes with torn edges of handmade paper, a mixture of abaca and linen, making the collages appear almost tri-dimensional, as in bas-reliefs. Words by witnesses from the camps, such as “ The color of the Germans, green, like this”, “I have seen flames”, “The earth rippled like waves because of the gas”; as they were spoken in Lanzmann’s film Shoah, appear in the compositions.

While Day is more of a narrative without words, Night deals with memory, obsession, maybe even exorcism and hope. In both parts I have used symbolic elements from the Holocaust (hair, identity pictures, gold, ledgers), but have tried to turn these symbols of death into signs of life, growth and transformation. The gold becomes a background, as in icons; the hair, plant or flame; the identity pictures are given the dignity of portraits.
My family, like all Egyptian Jews, was untouched by the Holocaust: Rommel was stopped at Al-Alamein before he could reach Cairo. Why then have I found necessary to explore this theme that is not “mine”?

Perhaps it is because of the recent birth of my first-born son that images of children’s deaths began to haunt me. I felt both obsessed and vulnerable. People in my generation, I began to feel, should understand the legacy of the Holocaust and keep it within their memory.
As a European (I grew up in Switzerland and France), I believe that as Germany reunifies, this understanding becomes a necessity: otherwise the Shoah will float I Europe’s memory like a ghost, haunting Jews and Germans alike.

It cannot be a coincidence that these collages were done since the political liberalization of East Germany”

--

“ This artist proves in her collages a most impressive aesthetic and material control, integrated with visual sensitivity and are strained emotional drama, which achieve their fullest expression in the “Holocaust Series”. Here Carole Naggar exhibits an outstanding ability to combine the post personal with the metaphysical without ever falling into the traps of sentimentalism and melodrama.”
Dr Gideon Ofrat
Curator and Art Historian, Jerusalem


“ Carole Naggar resumes an acquaintance with the imaginary of the Shoah not on the basis of a personal or family experience but as a preoccupation that surges again in her on the occasion of her child’s birth. So that it is all the density of the drama that comes back to her through the mediation of the new generation. This come-back also has this particularity that memory’s work is done through the remoteness of the object, confirming what memory specifically is: an obsession whose object is distanced, since no life experience, and no sentimental dramatization, is a-priori implicated in it: so I associate Carole Naggar’s techniques, for instance Xerox and collage, with this double reality of distance and painful violence.”
Jacques Leenhardt, President, Association of Art Critics
December 1990