Dolls of Majdanek

Białystok Cultural Centre has the pleasure of inviting you to a photography exhibition:

Dolls of Majdanek

BCC/LZC, 19 Warszawska Street
exhibition opening and a meeting with the author Tal Schwartz: October 5th, 2018, 6 PM

exhibition open until December 9th, 2018
exhibition can be toured from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 AM to 5 PM
tickets: exhibition opening and Sunday – free entry, remaining days – 4 PLN

“There are tears for things — sunt lacrimae rerum — and there are cries for them. Oh, the tears for things that have been abandoned for centuries […].
Mistreated at the hands of strangers, like unburied corpses that have no one to grant them this final favor […].
He who has never seen the tears for  these things nor heard cries for them has never seen sad things in his life.”
Rachel Auerbach, The weeping of dead things

What kind of a thing is a doll?

It is a basic and certain truth that we know little about the objects that surround us, and perhaps even less about this thing we call a doll. A doll could be so many things: a source of comfort, a friend, a reminder of the outside world or a person far away; a remnant of home, a keepsake. It could be none or all.

Sixteen dolls lie in the Collections Department of the State Museum at Majdanek. They were found on the grounds of the former concentration camp after its liquidation in 1944. Nothing is known about their owners. Suppose we could have asked one of the owners what this thing, a doll, was for them, what it meant to her or him. Would we have gotten the answer we were expecting? Or should we be open to the possibility that in every doll lies a secret — perhaps one hidden even from its owner? Once archived, the position and function of the dolls change — they become historical evidence, filed away in a box on a shelf. Every last detail is catalogued: a fracture, a tear in a dress, a mutilated limb.

As I photographed these dolls, I tried to consider their other functions — ones that the process of archiving paradoxically threatens to conceal or erase — though this paradox is arguably inherent to photography in general, as it is itself an act of archiving. Nevertheless, photography — at least in the field of research and historical archives — is held to the values of scientific objectivity and historical truth. Objectivity, with its strict norms and rules, is traditionally associated with a certain type of photography, one that precludes intervention (i.e. “staging”) and demands consistency, sharpness, and clarity.

By challenging these rules and norms through various means of deliberate intervention, the displayed works try to re-mark the process of archiving while reconsidering the dolls and their possible functions beyond the realm of the historical evidence.

Tal Schwartz

Tal Schwartz
Israeli photographer and curator. She graduated from the BA in photographic communication at the Hadassah Academic College in Jerusalem and a MA in policy and theory of arts at the Jerusalem Bezalel Academy of Art and Design. She is currently the chief curator at the Azrieli Gallery of the Hadassah Academic College. From 2014 to 2016 she worked for “Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre” Centre in Lublin.

The exhibition comes from the collection of the “Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre” Centre in Lublin. The photographs were taken with permission and using the collections of the State Museum at Majdanek.

BOK Białostocki Ośrodek Kultury