Agents of Liberation

Holocaust Memory in Contemporary Art and Documentary Film
$69.00 / €56.00 / £50.00
$24.95 / €21.95 / £18.95
Kindle edition is available through Amazon
Co-published in cooperation with Helena History Press
Publication date: 
180 pages, 40 photos from films

The book offers case studies on the representation of the Holocaust in contemporary art practices. Through carefully selected art projects, the author helps to understand the specific historical, cultural and political circumstances that influence the way people in Eastern Europe speak—and do not speak—about the Holocaust. It examines film projects made by key artists of the international art scene that are capable of reflecting critically upon forms of Holocaust memory and their historical, political and cultural aspects. Kékesi connects the moral implications of the memory of the Holocaust with a critical analysis of contemporary societies, focusing upon artists who are deeply engaged in doing both of the above within the context of three regions: Eastern Europe (especially Poland), Germany, and Israel. The case studies apply current methods of contemporary art theory and try to unfold their implications in terms of memory politics and social critique.

List of Figures


Part I: The Politics of Testimony

Chapter 1 The Reappropriation of Violence: The Speech of the Resistance Fighters

Claude Lanzmann: Shoah (1985) and Sobibór, 14 October 1943, 4pm (2001)

Chapter 2 The Restoration of Difference: The Speech of the Perpetrator

Claude Lanzmann: Shoah (1985)

Part II: The Archive, In Spite of All

Chapter 3 The Melancholy of the Archive

Chapter 4 The Afterlife of Images

Harun Farocki: Respite (2007)

Chapter 5 Mediating the Perpetrator's Speech

Romuald Karmakar: The Himmler Project (2000)

Chapter 6 In the Leading Role: Adolf Eichmann

Eyal Sivan: The Specialist (1999)

Part III: Site and Speech

Chapter 7 The Erasure of the Trace: The Restoration of Meaning

Artur Żmijewski: 80064 (2004)

Chapter 8 Trauma and Simulacra

Omer Fast: Spielberg’s List (2003)

Chapter 9 From the Culture of Grieving to the Politics of Imagination

Yael Bartana: Polish Trilogy (2007–2011)

Chapter 10 Agents of Liberation

Clemens von Wedemeyer: Rushes (2012)



"In this powerful volume, the Hungarian-born scholar and researcher Zoltán Kékesi examines selected artworks produced over the past three decades that transform or reframe social memory of the Shoah. the author contends persuasively that paradigms and concepts of Holocaust memory have in fact shifted significantly from the era in which survivor testimony and trauma were the dominant tropes, beginning in the aftermath of the war, when recordings of survivor accounts were first made. The identity of survivor and witness began to emerge as a result of the Eichmann trial of 1961 and of psychological research into the sequelae of trauma, as practices of remembrance and 'memorial culture' developed in the West in the late 1970s and 1980s and valorized public accounts of personal experience. Persuasively elaborating the concern of contemporary artists and filmmakers to mobilize an interactive approach that engages with the present, Zoltán Kékesi's major study makes a... more