Damian Candusso and Johannes Klabbers
Return to Oswiecem (2004-8)
“The silence that surrounds the phrase ‘Auschwitz was the extermination camp’ is not a state of mind, it is a sign that something remains to be phrased which is not, something which is not determined.”
Jean-Francois Lyotard. The Differend: Phases in Dispute. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988 (56-57).
I am a Mischling’s son. Mischling is what the Nazis people called people with Jewish grandparents. They were not allowed to vote or marry Aryans without special permission or join the army. On the other hand they were not exterminated either.
In the winter of 2002 I travelled by train from my home town of Utrecht to Krakow in Poland and from there to the town of Oswiecem, to the former Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz, a pilgrimage I had long wanted to make. In the warmer months Auschwitz is a significant tourist attraction but this day there was half a metre of snow and it was ten degrees below zero so it was virtually deserted. I decided that I would try to record the peculiar silence in the (reconstructed) crematorium there. Unsurprisingly the results were less than spectacular but I was wondering if one of the leading sound producers in Australia who had recently joined the staff of SVPA, could do anything to bring out this silence, and I handed the sound files over to him.
After a few weeks he rang me and said : Have you got any other versions of these recordings that you can send me? No, why? I asked. He said : There’s not much there.
He is right.
Working in sound up until this point in my career, I have been used to filling silence with sound. Whether it be recorded or created. This is very different - Johannes wanted the artwork to replicate this silence. There was no sound - and I was not going to “create” any new sounds. What I am doing is working with these “captured frequencies of silence” and working with them to convey a sense of journey to the unknown, whilst still preserving the silence of Oswiecem.