Karen Finley's holocaust memorial at Gusen, Austria

One of Karen Finley’s recent installations is an ongoing (annual) holocaust memorial at the remains and site of the Gusen concentration camp in Austria. Finley, now professor of art and public policy at NYU, has focused on trauma for years, beginning with a semi-spontaneous performance in the display window of an abandoned JC Penney in San Francisco (a response, in part, to her anger at the suicide of her father).  In recent years she has done a run of dinner theatre performances called The Jackie Look (about the private trauma of Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Americans’ traumatic response to her trauma). Now, at Gusen, her “Open Hearts” project is a self-consciously sweet (heart-shaped clay pieces strewn on the ground) intervention in a town with a camp that it had not memorialized. She and Paul Nebenzahl travel to Gusen annually to clean up the installation, add new clay pieces (made by people she’s met during the previous year, including, this year, pieces made by me and my students), and participate in a remembrance that has grown a little each year, in part because of her persistent involvement. At right, a photograph of the barracks at Gusen under construction in 1940.