Commentaries

Children of survivors

I have long admired Pier Marton’s film consisting of interviews of children of Holocaust survivors. It’s called Say I’m a Jew.

Pier Marton is a second-generation artist who has wrestled with problems of his parents’ survival and the impact of contemporary anti-Semitism. This led him to merge the video interview of children of survivors, called Say I’m a Jew, with an installation entitled Jew, set in a cattle car. Being a member of the second generation and experiencing European anti-Semitism in France in the 1950s and 1960s led Marton to the inability to openly express his Jewishness. Drawing from his own experience, Marton was obsessed with the question of how children of the second generation have coped with growing up in Europe after World War II. While attending a convention of second-generation survivors, Marton advertised for individuals willing to tell the story of their European and Jewish identity experiences on camera. Many volunteered. Marton edited bits and pieces of the video together to form an engaging artistic and psychological work. The American-European painter R. J. Kitaj has represented what he terms “diasporism” as a major component in contemporary artistic life. This is a useful concept to explain the works of many artists in this show, who constantly have to deal with a Jewish identity problem in a world that is potentially enticing and supportive and also contains anti-Semitism, denial, and insult. Marton’s space was made to represent a blend of cattle car, barracks, and a mausoleum. As Marton has written, “Memory can fuse separate locations in an inextricable blend.”[19] Within the installation area were seats where the video played continuously. Those attending the show were encouraged to write their responses on the walls of the entrance and boxcar itself, recalling the memory of how deportees did the same on their way to death camps.” — from Stephen Feinstein, Witness and Legacy

Renewed dance of the intellect

Hank Lazer reads from his poetry an hour ago at the Kelly Writers House.

More poets in my office

From left: Marcella Durand, Hank Lazer, Eli Goldblatt, Al Filreis — this afternoon. (Well, they came to record an episode of PoemTalk.)

College is for winning the war of words

I’ve just read an op-ed piece published by an undergraduate named Irwin Kahn in the Daily Pennsylvanian (the student newspaper at Penn) dated October 6, 1952. We were losing the war in Korea, Kahn argued, because “we” (he seems to mean only anticommunists and pro-capitalists) were losing the rhetorical battle at home. Schools (he presumably meant Penn, too) should be active in teaching the benefits of capitalism and the horrors of alternative economic theories. Any fair and free curriculum would teach “that the path of capitalism and free enterprise is the road for them [the ‘masses’].” Don’t think too much: “Probably the individual’s right to strive, the highlight of the American way, is lost amid our own introspection.” Here’s a link to the whole text.

Fifty million poems

Here is a note we’re sending around tonight:

Dear friends & colleagues:

Users of PennSound downloaded four million mp3 sound recordings and related media files in the past month. At this point, we are projecting fifty million downloads for 2009. This is far, far beyond what we expected when we created PennSound in 2003–04, and we’re grateful that the project is receiving such a positive response.

Al Filreis & Charles Bernstein, Codirectors
Mike Hennessey, Managing Editor