Posts Tagged ‘Auschwitz


Exhibition: ‘Soulèvements / Uprisings’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 18th October 2016 – 15th January 2017

Curator: Georges Didi-Huberman, philosopher and art historian



soulèvement m ‎(plural soulèvements)

  1. the act of raising, the act of lifting up
  2. revolt, uprising


I believe this to be one of the most complex, original and important exhibitions of 2016. Conceptually, intellectually, ethically and artistically, the exhibition “Soulèvements / Uprisings” seems to stand head and shoulders above most others I posted on during 2016.

Through the profound curatorship of philosopher and art historian Georges Didi-Huberman (a man whose writing I admire), Soulèvements e/merges as a “trans-disciplinary exhibition on the theme of human gestures that raise up the world or rise up against it: collective or individual gestures, actions or passions, works or thoughts” actioned through five themes: Elements (Unleashed); Gestures (Intense); Words (Exclaimed); Conflicts (Flared up); and Desires (Indestructibles), evidenced across mediums: paintings, drawings, prints, video installations, photographs, fiction films, documentary images, writers’ manuscripts, tracts, posters, etc., without hierarchies. Unlike the earlier posting, Intersections: Photographs and Videos from the National Gallery of Art and the Corcoran Gallery of Art at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, where I noted that the self-contained themes of that exhibition seemed purely illusory, here the themes are active and engaging, fluid in meaning and representation (the choice of laterally aligned art works to the themes – dust breeding, waves, sea concertos, banners and capes, red tape, montages, posters etc…), which emphasis resistance, the raising up, the uprising as a desirous and joyful act, one that is performative (hence the wonderful video elements in the exhibition) and transgressive.

As one of the most important mediums of the twentieth century in terms of documenting, promoting, obscuring and forgetting “uprisings” – gestures of resistance and joy of any kind – photography is capable of concealing, denying and sustaining the social context in which we are living … obscuring the ethics and morals of dubious political positions; reinforcing or obscuring the issues behind revolution, rebellion, and revolt; or, through collective amnesia and inertia, through the millions of forgettable images produced each day, overwhelming the authenticity of living that leads to “uprisings” in the first place. Photographs, as people do, cross borders: they are transnational and multidisciplinary. They are global thought patterns that can, in skilled hands, document and sustain alternative ways of seeing the world through a “rising up” of feeling – the “soul” of soulèvement – the act of raising up, the act of lifting ones eyes and one’s spirit from the dire circumstances of oblivion to the hope of a future redemption.

Through photographs, we witness Insurgents killed during bloody week of the Commune (1871, below), where “the exposure of these bodies is transformed by the photographic act. The latter confers on the rebels a particular aura, passing thus from figures of guilty to those of martyrs.” The political act, although a failure in reality in this case, is sustained through time and space by the performance of the documentary image. Their monstration [the act of demonstrating; proof] – the insurgents act of demonstrating; the photograph as an act of demonstrating their death for judicial purposes; and also a certain monstration (proof) that these mostly young, skinny men died for a belief in a better world – is an evidentiary act of transubstantiation. Is the camera looking down on these bodies in cheap coffins from above, or are the coffins propped up against a wall? How do we feel about these people we do not know, who existed in past time now made present, without being that person who tucked a wreath into the hands of the man at bottom right, someone’s brother, father or son.

In “uprisings” (as the hands raise the camera to the face), there is also an acknowledgment of a certain despair at the death of an innocent. In Manuel Álvarez Bravo’s Striking worker, assassinated (1934, below) the young, handsome youth has been killed with a blow to the head. He lies prostrate on the ground, arm outstretched, hand curled, his body and clothes spattered with his own blood his eyes, open, staring at the now invisible sky. A flow of dried blood has discharged from his mouth and nose, coating and matting his thick long hair and running away in rivulets, soaking into the parched d/earth. Bits of dust and earth are still stuck to his arm through the viscosity of his blood. Earlier, he had dressed for the day in a white singlet, put on his trousers and fastened them with an embossed belt, then put on a crisp, stripped shirt and neatly rolled up the sleeves to his elbows. He might have had breakfast before heading of to a meeting outside where he worked. This day he died, protesting his rights – striking worker, assassinated! Assassinated – executed, eliminated, liquidated (to which the congealing blood attests) … slaughtered. For his right to strike, to protest, the conditions of his being. Any human “being”.

And, mortally, I comment on that one photograph, that one evidence of human beings transcending their own lives (knowing they were going to die) for the greater good – the anonymous photograph taken by members of the Sonderkommando of Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp that documents AS PROOF of the reality of the Final Solution: Women pushed towards the gas chamber of crematorium V of Birkenau (1944, below). The risks that these people took to capture this photograph speaks to the power of photography to transcend even the most barbaric of circumstances, to prove to the world what was happening in this place. As Georges Didi-Huberman affirms, “in the depths of this fundamental despair, the “solicitation to resist” has probably detached itself from the beings themselves, who have been promised to disappear, to fix themselves on signals to be emitted beyond the boundaries of the camp.” Among others, the image, this “eye of history”, is then invested with the only hope still possible: to make the hell of Auschwitz visible and therefore imaginable.”

In other words, the solicitation to resist is not singular or human, but collective and eternal, embodied and embedded in cultural thoughts and actions. Even though they knew they were going to die (almost none of the 2,000 prisoners placed in these Sonderkommando units survived to the camp’s liberation), because the have been “promised to disappear”, their spirit flowed beyond the boundaries of the camp into the ether of history, into the elemental upper air, the raising up of spirits: as an observation and representation of the difference between right and wrong. As the world enters a renewed period of right wing promulgation we must resist the rump of bigotry and oppression. Not just for ourselves but for all those that have passed before.

This is why this exhibition is so important. It speaks to the need for vigilance and protest against discrimination and dictatorship, against the persecution of the less fortunate in society. It also speaks to our desire as human beings that our actions and the actions of others be held to account. Intrinsically uprisings are all about desire, the desire to be stand up and be counted, to put your reputation (as Oscar Wilde did) or your life on the line for what you believe in. The courage of your convictions. As Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Dr Marcus Bunyan


Thank goodness for Google translate because otherwise I would have had no text to put under most of these images. This becomes problematic for weak images such as Dennis Adams’ Patriot (2002, below). Without text to support the image you would have absolutely no idea what this image is about… it’s just a plastic bag floating in the air against the azure sky.

The text states: “… considering the serenity that emanates from the photographs of this series, to imagine that they refer to a dramatic event: the attack of the World Trade Center. Located in Lower Manhattan, Dennis Adams’ studio is very close to the twin towers that were destroyed on September 11, 2001. However, rather than rushing to witness the catastrophe, Dennis Adams photographed for three months the roof of his building, the newspapers and the rubbish that fly away from the ruins.”

Who would have thunk it! From a plastic bag floating in the sky!

Such insight proffered months after the event by any plastic bag floating in the air. The image does not invite reverie and meditation because there is nothing to meditate on. It is an example of contemporary photography as graphic art THAT MEANS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! If an image cannot stand on its own two feet, without the help of reams of text to support its substance, its contention, then no wonder there are millions of vacillating images in this world. Including contemporary art.

Outdamned spot! the stain of thy blood cannot be exacted from your feeble representation.


Word count: 1,451

Translations of soulèvement

uprising soulèvement, révolte
rising soulèvement, hausse (rise), insurrection, montant, lever, élévation
insurrection insurrection, soulèvement, émeute (riot), rébellion
uplift soulèvement
upheaval bouleversement, soulèvement, agitation, perturbation, séisme, renversement

Many thankx to Jeu de Paume for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.






“For almost a decade, the Jeu de Paume’s exhibition program has been conceived with the conviction that twenty-first century museums and cultural institutions cannot be detached from the social and political challenges of the society of which they are part. To us, this approach is a matter of simple common sense.

The program it has shaped does not monitor market trends or seek complacent legitimacy within the field of contemporary art. Rather, we have chosen to work with artists whose poetic and political concerns are attuned to the need to critically explore the models of governance and practices of power that mold much of our perceptual and emotional experience, and thus, the social and political world we live in.

Because the Jeu de Paume is a center for images, we are aware of the urgent necessity – in line with our societal responsibilities – to revise the analysis of the historical conditions in which photography and the moving image developed in modernity and, subsequently, in postmodernity, with all its alternatives, provocations, and challenges.

Thankfully, the history of images and our ways of seeing and understanding the world through them is neither linear nor unidirectional. These are the sources of our fascination with images that don’t tell everything they show and with images affected by the vicissitudes of the human condition.

Photography, and images in general, represent not only reality, but things that the human eye cannot see; like us, photography is capable of concealing, denying and sustaining. It is only waiting for someone to listen to its joys and its sorrows.

The Jeu de Paume’s programming sites its oblique look at history and contemporaneity in this oscillation between the visible and the invisible in the life of images, creating a space for encounter and the clashing of ideas, emotions, and knowledge, accepting that the coexistence of conflict and antagonism are an essential part of community building.

For these reasons, and from this position, in the superb proposal by the philosopher and art historian Georges Didi-Huberman to form an exhibition from his research on the theme of “uprisings,” we found the ideal intellectual, artistic, and museological challenge.

While the notion of revolution, rebellion, and revolt isn’t alien in contemporary society’s vocabulary, the object of its action is replete with collective amnesia and inertia. That is why analyzing the representations of “uprisings” – from the etchings Goya, to contemporary installations, paintings photographs, documents, videos, and films – demonstrates an unequivocal relevance to the social context in which we are living in 2016. […]

Marta Gili, “Foreword,” in Uprisings, catalogue of the exhibition, p. 7-10.




Enrique Ramirez
Cruzar un muro [Franchir un mur] (Crossing a wall)
Vidéo HD couleur, son, 5’15”
Courtesy de l’artiste et galerie Michel Rein, Paris/Brussels


A series of images of people in a waiting room is in an unusual place, perhaps in our imagination, or perhaps anywhere. The short by Enrique Ramirez addresses article number 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country”.


Giles Caron. 'Anticatholic protests, Londonderry, Northern Ireland' August 1969


Gilles Caron
Manifestations anticatholiques à Londonderry
Anticatholic protests, Londonderry, Northern Ireland
August 1969
© Gilles Caron / Fondation Gilles Caron / Gamma Rapho



Known for his wartime photoreports, fascinated by liberating acts and the figure of the insurgent, photographer Gilles Caron carried throughout the 1960s an interest in the social conflicts that marked his time. At first he is led to cover is a peasant revolt which takes place in Redon in 1967. Anxious to produce an image which appears to him as a formal translation of the anger of these peasants, he seizes the gesture of a demonstrator sending a projectile in the direction of the forces of order. Photogenic, this suspended gesture gives the insurrections a choreographic dimension and testifies to the violence of the social demands that animate the demonstrators. The “figure of the pitcher” then reappears on the occasion of the events of May 1968 and then of the conflicts that took place in Northern Ireland in 1969. This archetype is part of the tradition of the representation of David against Goliath: the symbol of the power carried by the faith of one who is thought weak in the face of brute force. If there is no question of faith in the images of Caron, it is nonetheless an irrepressible form of desire that animates those bodies which revolt: no matter the imbalance of forces, the insurgents are carried by a feeling of invulnerability and of power in the face of the forces of order objectively much more armed. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)




by Georges Didi-Huberman, curator of the exhibition

What makes us rise up? It is forces: mental, physical, and social forces. Through these forces we transform immobility into movement, burden into energy, submission into revolt, renunciation into expansive joy. Uprisings occur as gestures: arms rise up, hearts beat more strongly, bodies unfold, mouths are unbound. Uprisings are never without thoughts, which often become sentences: we think, express ourselves, discuss, sing, scribble a message, create a poster, distribute a tract, or write a work of resistance.

It is also forms: forms through which all of this will be able to appear and become visible in the public space. Images, therefore; images to which this exhibition is devoted. Images of all times, from Goya to today, and of all kinds: paintings, drawings, sculptures, films, photographs, videos, installations, documents, etc. They interact in dialogue beyond the differences of their times. They are presented according to a narrative in which there will appear, in succession, unleashed elements, when the energy of the refusal makes an entire space rise up; intense gestures, when bodies can say “No!”; exclaimed words, when barricades are erected and when violence becomes inevitable; and indestructible desires, when the power of uprisings manages to survive beyond their repression or their disappearance.

In any case, whenever a wall is erected, there will always be “people arisen” to “jump the wall”, that is, to cross over borders. If only by imagining. As though inventing images contributed – a little here, powerfully there – to reinventing our political hopes.


Man Ray (American, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1890-1976 Paris) 'Dust Breeding' 1920


Man Ray (American, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1890-1976 Paris)
Dust Breeding (Duchamp’s Large Glass with Dust Motes)
Gelatin silver print
23.9 x 30.4 cm (9 7/16 x 12 in.)
© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York



One of Duchamp’s close friends and a member of the New York Dada scene, the American photographer and painter Man Ray (1890-1976) was also one of Duchamp’s collaborators. His photograph Dust Breeding (Duchamp’s Large Glass with Dust Motes) from 1920 is a document of The Large Glass after it had collected a year’s worth of dust while Duchamp was in New York. The photograph was taken with a two-hour-long exposure that beautifully captures the complex texture and diversity of materials that lay atop the glass surface. Dust Breeding marks a pivotal phase in the development of Duchamp’s masterpiece. After the photograph was taken, Duchamp wiped The Large Glass almost entirely clean, leaving a section of the cones covered with dust, which he permanently affixed to the glass plate with a diluted cement. (Text from The Met website)


Hiroji Kubota. 'Black Panthers in Chicago, Illinois' 1969


Hiroji Kubota
Black Panthers in Chicago, Illinois
Gelatin silver print
© Hiroji Kubota/Magnum Photos



Claude Cattelain
Vidéo Hebdo 46
Vidéo pal, 4/3, couleur, son, 6 min 30 s
Collection de l’artiste
© Claude Cattelain



Entitled Vidéo Hebdo 46, this work by Claude Cattelain is part of a series of short films made between January 2009 and March 2010, following a weekly rhythm. If many of the films in this corpus play with the conditions of video recording (shooting conditions, sensitivity of the sensor, editing …), the forty-sixth is more like the return of a performance. Executed with great economy of means, its performances follow a precise protocol whose action often resembles an absurd experience of which the body of the artist is the subject. Here, Claude Cattelain tries to raise a chair by interposing one by one the wooden battens – which look singularly like slices of books – under the feet of the said chair without ever going down or putting a foot on the ground. This progressive uprising of the foundation leads inexorably to its overthrow and thus to the fall of the artist. The uselessness of this exercise is commensurate with the concentration and attention with which it applies to try to get to the maximum of its possibilities. Each performance of Claude Cattelain is thus an experience of limits: those of his balance, his strength, his concentration and gravity. By voluntarily avoiding the logics of productivity and productivity, Claude Cattelain invites the viewer to observe a poetic action, a possible metaphor of existential or historical situations. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)



The exhibition

“Soulèvements / Uprisings” is a trans-disciplinary exhibition on the theme of human gestures that raise up the world or rise up against it: collective or individual gestures, actions or passions, works or thoughts.

They are gestures which say no to a state of history that is considered too “heavy” and that therefore needs to be “lifted” or even sent packing. They are also gestures that say yes to something else: to a desired better world, an imagined or adumbrated world, a world that could be inhabited and conceived differently.

These figures of uprising and up-raising will range freely across mediums: paintings, drawings, prints, video installations, photographs, fiction films, documentary images, writers’ manuscripts, tracts, posters, etc., without hierarchies.

The exhibition sequence will follow a sensitive, intuitive path along which the gaze can focus on exemplary “cases” treated with a precision that prevents any kind of generalisation. We will be mindful not to conclude, not to dogmatically foreclose anything. The sequence will comprise five main parts:




“All the uprisings failed, but taken together, they succeeded.”

“They rise, but they do not simply stand up – they rise up.”

Judith Butler, “Uprisings” catalogue of the exhibition Uprisings




The elements become unleashed, time falls out of joint. – And if the imagination made mountains rise up?

To rise up, as when we say “a storm is rising.” To reverse the weight that nailed us to the ground. So it is the laws of the atmosphere itself that will be contradicted. Surfaces – sheets, draperies, flags – fly in the wind. Lights that explode into fireworks. Dust that rises up from nooks and crannies. Time that falls out of joint. The world upside down. From Victor Hugo to Eisenstein and beyond, uprisings are often compared to hurricanes or to great, surging waves. Because then the elements (of history) become unleashed.

We rise up first of all by exercising our imagination, albeit through our “caprichos” (whims or fantasies) or “disparates” (follies) as Goya said. The imagination makes mountains rise up. And when we rise up from a real “disaster,” it means that we meet what oppresses us, and those who seek to make it impossible for us to move, with the resistance of forces that are desires and imaginations first of all, that is to say psychical forces of unleashing and of reopening possibilities.

Dennis Adams, Francis Alÿs, Léon Cogniet, Marcel Duchamp, Francisco de Goya, William Hogarth, Victor Hugo, Leandro Katz, Eustachy Kossakowski, Man Ray, Jasmina Metwaly, Henri Michaux, Tina Modotti, Robert Morris, Saburô Murakami, Hélio Oiticica, Roman Signer, Tsubasa Kato, Jean Veber, French anonymous.


Francisco de Goya. 'Los Caprichos' 1799


Francisco de Goya
Los Caprichos
Eau-forte, aquatinte et burin, 2e édition de 1855.
Collection Sylvie et Georges Helft
Photo: Jean de Calan



Between 1797 and 1799, Francisco de Goya composed a collection of engravings, Los Caprichos [Les Caprices], in which he portrayed in a satirical way the behavior of his Spanish fellow citizens. “Y aun no se van!” (“And yet they do not go away!”) is the 59th engraving of a set of 80. Each time the title constitutes an ironic commentary on the image. This one refers to the group of people represented on the engraving, with the bodies emaciated, folded on themselves, praying, looking scared. One of them tries to prevent the tombstone from falling on them, but all seem helpless, destitute of strength, unable to resist this final ordeal. The use of chiaroscuro, which produces a dramatic effect, as well as the thick slice of the slab that forms the diagonal of the composition, accentuates the desperate character of the scene. Finally, the massive aspect and the weight of the stone, opposed to fragile and denuded bodies, complete their inexorable destiny. This engraving thus seems to illustrate the absolute dejection felt by individuals under certain circumstances. For Georges Didi-Huberman, degradation is one of the conditions conducive to the uprising. The imagination and the critical eye of the artist – a fervent supporter of the Enlightenment – can constitute a force of resistance and struggle for the oppressed. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)


Léon Cogniet. 'Les Drapeaux' 1830


Léon Cogniet
Les Drapeaux (The flags)
Huile sur toile
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Orléans
Photo: François Lauginie



The Revolution of 1830 led to the overthrow of the government of King Charles X. After the publication of several ordinances, including a restriction on freedom of the press, this episode, which failed to restore the Republic, The tricolor flag, abandoned by the Restoration for the benefit of the white flag, symbol of royalty. This is evidenced by Leon Cogniet’s study of a painting that will never see the light of day.

These revolutionary days, also called the Three Glorious Days, are symbolically represented by three flags caught in the turmoil. The first, white, overhung by a menacing sky, is hoisted on a mast adorned with a fleur-de-lis. The second tears apart and reveals the blue sky as a promise of freedom. Finally, the third, torn and covered with blood, allows the reconstruction of the tricolor emblem created during the Revolution of 1789. Thus the blood poured during these days allows the people to reconnect with the revolutionary ideals. The unleashing of elements, a metaphor for the tempestuous popular revolt, accompanies the transformation of the banished flag of royalty to the national flag. This sketch is repeated and widely circulated at the time, accompanied by an anonymous poem: “To the darkness finally succeeds the clarity / And pale shreds of the flag of the slaves / And of the azure sky and the blood of our brave / The brilliant standard of our freedom is born. ” (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)


Victor Hugo. 'La vague ou Ma destinée (The wave or My destiny)' 1857


Victor Hugo
La vague ou Ma destinée (The wave or My destiny)
Plume et lavis d’encre brune, gouache, papier vélin
Maison de Victor Hugo
© Maisons de Victor Hugo / Roger-Viollet


This drawing is the witness of Victor Hugo’s fascination with the sea. His pen marries the movements of the ocean, which then becomes the symbol of his exile: “It is the image of my current destiny stranded in abandonment and solitude,” he says. On the drawing he calls ‘My destiny’, it is not known whether the ship, alone in front of the monster of the sea, enveloped by its foam, is carried or precipitated by the immense wave. It is a figure of his destiny, but also of the human condition.


Man Ray. "Sculpture mouvante" ou "La France" ("Moving Sculpture" or "France") 1920


Man Ray
“Sculpture mouvante” ou “La France” (“Moving Sculpture” or “La France”)
Musée national d’Art moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris, dation en 1994
Negative gelatin-silver on glass plate
9 x 12 cm
Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / image Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI
Image obtenue par inversion des valeurs du scan du négatif
© Man Ray Trust / ADAGP, Paris, 2016



An active member of the Dada group in New York with Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray joined the surrealists in Paris in 1921. He was interested in questioning the conventions of the world of art and considered photography as a means of expression. It explores all potentialities: experiments, diversions, portraits, advertising applications … The fixation of an element in movement constitutes one of the specificities of photography that fascinates the surrealists because the object thus grasped by the apparatus appears in an unexpected light: the linen which dries, inflated under the effect of the wind, becomes a moving sculpture as the title of the work suggests. This way the title can guide the reception of the passionate photography of Man Ray. This image is also published on the cover of the sixth issue of La Révolution Surréaliste in 1926, accompanied by the legend “La France”. This enigmatic title, rather than helping to understand photography, multiplies the possible interpretations and attests to Man Ray’s desire to subvert the use and meaning of the images. Thus this wind which “transforms” linen into sculpture, appears as a metaphor for the surrealist project, which makes the photographic medium the operator of a true conversion of the gaze. By this image of the “uprising”, Man Ray thus gives a visual form to the aesthetic and political revolution that the members of the Surrealist group called for. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)


Eustachy Kossakowski. 'Le "Panoramic Sea Happening - Sea Concerto, Osieki" de Tadeusz Kantor (extrait d'une série)' 1967


Eustachy Kossakowski
Le “Panoramic Sea Happening – Sea Concerto, Osieki” de Tadeusz Kantor (extrait d’une série)
The “Panoramic Sea Happening – Sea Concerto, Osieki” by Tadeusz Kantor (from a series)
Inkjet pigment print
Owner of negatives and slides: Musée d’Art Moderne de Varsovie
© Collection Anka Ptaszkowska



In 1967 Tadeusz Kantor with a group of other Polish avant-garde artists delivered Panoramic Sea Happening. They were working in frames of artistic plain-air in Osieki (near Koszalin) organized there every year since 1963. This complex action was in a way a preface to Kantor’s theatre. But it was also parallel to actions of Western artists, which led to the birth of performance art. In this important moment Kantor formulated a category of impossible. It derived from the night dream but as this one was compromised Kantor wanted to use a new word: ‘impossible’. At the same time the very essence of the happening, as he was saying, was to make impossible real. How did he do it? By reenactment, repetition and documentation.

Dorota Sosnowska. From the abstract for “Impossible is Real: Tadeusz Kantor at the seashore” 2016


Hélio Oiticica and Leandro Katz. 'Parangolé - Encuentros de Pamplona' 1972


Hélio Oiticica and Leandro Katz
Parangolé – Encuentros de Pamplona (Parangolé – Encounters of Pamplona)
Impression chromogène (sur papier et carton)
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid
Photo: Archives Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
© Projeto Hélio Oiticica / © Leandro Katz



“At the time when he was producing his first Penetrables, Oticica started to design Parangolés, banners and capes printed in a great variety of colors and designs, and occasionally inscribed with mottoes, advertisement lines, or found phrases. Oiticica premiered his (anti)fashion statements in 1965 in what he called a Parangolé Coletivo, in which he distributed his creations among friends and members of the Mangueira samba school – he had joined in 1964 – who paraded wearing them while dancing to samba… He would continue making Parangolés and staging Parangolé events throughout the rest of his life, at times through friends who acted as intermediaries, as in the Pamplona encounters of 1972 in Spain when Argentinean artist Leandro Katz ran a Parangolé event on Oiticica’s behalf.”

Juan A. Suárez. “Jack Smith, Hélio Oiticica, Tropicalism,” in Criticism Vol. 56, No. 2, Jack Smith: Beyond the Rented World (Spring 2014) pp. 310-311.


Henri Michaux. 'Untitled' 1975


Henri Michaux
Acrylic on paper
Private collection
© ADAGP, Paris, 2016
Photo: Jean-Louis Losi


Dennis Adams. 'Patriot' 2002


Dennis Adams
From the series Airborne
C-Print contrecollé sur aluminium.
Prêt du Centre national des Arts Plastiques, Paris, inv. FNAC 03.241.
© Dennis Adams / CNAP / Courtesy Galerie Gabrielle Maubrie



A plastic bag stands out on the azure sky and floats in the air. Difficult, considering the serenity that emanates from the photographs of this series, to imagine that they refer to a dramatic event: the attack of the World Trade Center. Located in Lower Manhattan, Dennis Adams’ studio is very close to the twin towers that were destroyed on September 11, 2001. However, rather than rushing to witness the catastrophe, Dennis Adams photographed for three months the roof of his building, the newspapers and the rubbish that fly away from the ruins. These images, although directly related to this highly publicized event have nothing of the “shock” images that then invade the press.

They carry neither sensationalism nor exaggerated patriotism, but rather invite reverie and meditation. By adopting this attitude to the antipodes of the media and political enthusiasm that follows September 11, Dennis Adams questions the relationship to temporality in the face of this type of event. He denounces the “greed of politicians and military men who have a definite opinion on moments of history”* and questions the imperative of hyperreactivity not conducive to the analysis and the constitution of a historical consciousness. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

*Dennis Adams quoted by Michel Guerrin, “In Madrid, photographers face history”, in Le Monde, June 15, 2004, p. 30.


Roman Signer. 'Rotes Band / Red Tape' 2005


Roman Signer
Rotes Band / Red Tape
Vidéo couleur, son, 2’07’”.
Caméra: Aleksandra Signer
Courtesy de l’artiste et d’Art: Concept, Paris


Tsubasa Kato. 'Break it before it’s broken' 2015

Tsubasa Kato. 'Break it before it’s broken' 2015


Tsubasa Kato
Break it before it’s broken
Video: color, sound, 4:49 min
© Tsubasa Kato / caméraman: Taro Aoishi



On March 11, 2011, a tsunami struck the Japanese coast and caused a nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The disastrous environmental and social consequences are still impossible to evaluate and the inhabitants, partly neglected by the public authorities, have to face an unprecedented crisis. Many of them have been displaced and most of their income from fishing is reduced to nothing because of the contamination of the ocean. Tsubasa Kato then decides to get involved with them by accompanying them daily in this difficult period. In addition to this support, he decided on November 3rd (03/11) – the day of the celebration of culture in Japan (Bunka no Hi) and date whose numerical writing is the inverse of that of the tsunami (11/03) – to achieve a strongly symbolic performance.

Entitled Break it before it’s broken, the video of this action shows residents of the region invited to overthrow the structure of a house washed away by the tsunami and destroy it definitively. Becoming actors of destruction and no longer passive observers, participants can then transform the event undergone into action. This festival of culture, for Tsubasa Kato, is an opportunity to initiate a unifying artistic moment that testifies to the strength of collective movements and the mobilization necessary to reverse the course of events. He will then reiterate this performance in other parts of the world, which are often subject to delicate social situations. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)


Mari Kourkouta. 'Remontages' 2016

Mari Kourkouta. 'Remontages' 2016


Mari Kourkouta
16 mm sur vidéo (en boucle), noir et blanc, silencieux, 4’ 10.
© Maria Kourkouta. Production : Jeu de Paume, Paris



“Body, mind and soul are uplifted by the divine energy of desire”

Marie-José Mondzain, “To those who sail the sea…” catalogue of the exhibition Uprisings


“To make the world rise up we need gestures, desires, and depths.”

Georges Didi-Huberman, “By the desires (Fragments on What Makes Us Rise Up)” catalogue of the exhibition Uprisings




From burden to uprising. – With hammer blows. – Arms rise up. – The pasión. – When bodies say no. – Mouths for exclaiming.

Rising up is a gesture. Before even attempting to carry out a voluntary and shared “action,” we rise up with a simple gesture that suddenly overturns the burden that submission had, until then, placed on us (be it through cowardice, cynicism, or despair). To rise up means to throw off the burden weighing down on our shoulders, keeping us from moving. It is to break a certain present – be it with hammer blows as Friedrich Nietzsche and Antonin Artaud sought to do – and to raise your arms towards the future that is opening up. It is a sign of hope and of resistance.

It is a gesture and it is an emotion. The Spanish Republicans – whose visual culture was shaped by Goya and Picasso, but also by all the photographers on the field who collected, the gestures of freed prisoners, of voluntary combatants, of children and of the famous La Pasionaria, Dolores Ibárruri – fully assumed this. In the gesture of rising up, each body protests with all of its limbs, each mouth opens and exclaims its no-refusal and its yes-desire.

Paulo Abreu, Art & Language, Antonin Artaud, Taysir Batniji, Joseph Beuys, Désiré-Magloire Bourneville, Gilles Caron, Claude Cattelain, Agustí Centelles, Chim, Pascal Convert, Gustave Courbet, Élie Faure, Michel Foucault, Leonard Freed, Gisèle Freund, Marcel Gautherot, Agnès Geoffray, Jochen Gerz, Jack Goldstein, Käthe Kollwitz, Alberto Korda, Germaine Krull, Hiroji Kubota, Annette Messager, Lisette Model, Tina Modotti, Friedric Nietzsche, Willy Römer, Willy Ronis, Graciela Sacco, Lorna Simpson, Wolf Vostell, anonymes catalans, français, italiens.


Gustave Courbet. 'Home en blouse debout sur une barricade (projet de frontispice pour Le Salut public)' 1848


Gustave Courbet
Home en blouse debout sur une barricade (projet de frontispice pour Le Salut public)
Man in a smock standing on a barricade (frontispiece for Le Salut public project)

Fusain sur papier
Musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris
© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet


Germaine Krull. 'The Dancer Jo Mihaly, danse "Révolution"' 1925


Germaine Krull
The Dancer Jo Mihaly, danse “Révolution”
Gelatin silver print
Museum Folkwang, Essen
© Estate Germaine Krull, Folkwang Museum, Essen



Pioneer and adventurous, Germaine Krull is one of those women photographers of the inter-war period who contributed largely to the emergence of a nervous and dynamic photographic approach, in step with a modern world in constant acceleration. In photographing Jo Mihaly, she portrays a dancer who shares this avant-garde sensibility. Indeed, a pupil of Mary Wigman, this singular figure of dance participates in the German expressionist movement and contributes to the development of a modern choreographic art: the unconstrained body emancipates itself from the conventions of classical dance, the gesture of the dancer is released and regains its vitality. The movement then becomes the result of the personal expression of the dancer whose photographer has the burden of seizing the fulgurance [dazzling speed]. Stretched arm, smoky eyes and feverish eyes, Jo Mihaly – who has always claimed her commitment to the Communist Party – realizes a gesture that resonates with her time but also with the youth of Germaine Krull, marked by its proximity to the Republic of the Soviets of Berlin in 1919. Thus, it is as much for these artists to participate in an aesthetic revolution in their respective artistic fields as to echo the social and political uprisings that have taken place throughout Europe since the the advent of the industrial era. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)



Alberto Korda. 'Don Quixote of the streetlamp, Plaza de la Revolución, Havana, Cuba' 1959


Alberto Korda
El Quijote de la Farola, Plaza de la Revolución, La Habana, Cuba
Don Quixote of the streetlamp, Plaza de la Revolución, Havana, Cuba

Vintage gelatin silver print on baryta paper
Leticia et Stanislas Poniatowski collection
© ADAGP, Paris, 2016


Kitai Kazuo. 'Resistance' (book) 1965


Kitai Kazuo
Resistance (book)
© Kitai Kazuo/ Collection privée


With a manifesto both aesthetic and philosophical, the Japanese publication Provoke proposed a radical break in only three issues, published in 1968 and 1969. Provoke (photographers Takuma Nakahira, Yutaka Takanashi and Daidō Moriyama, critic Kōji Taki and poet Takahiko Okada) proposes a new visual language – rough, grainy and blurred – that captures the complexity of the experience and the paradoxes of modernity suffered by all.


Wolf Vostell. 'Dutschke' 1968


Wolf Vostell
Peinture polymère sur toile
Haus der Geschichte der Bundensrepublik Deutschland, Bonn
© ADAGP, Paris, 2016


Art and Language. 'Shouting Men' (details) 1975

Art and Language. 'Shouting Men' (details) 1975

Art and Language. 'Shouting Men' (details) 1975


Art and Language
Shouting Men (details)
Screenprint and felt pen on paper
Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona collection
Photo: Àngela Gallego
© Art and Language


Patrick Zachmann 'The army blocked by the crowd at the gates of the capital' 1989


Patrick Zachmann
L’armée bloquée par la foule aux portes de la capitale
The army blocked by the crowd at the gates of the capital
Gelatin-silver bromide print on baryta paper
50.4 x 60.9 cm
Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac
© Patrick Zachmann


From the early 1980s, Patrick Zachmann carried out an in-depth investigation into the Chinese diaspora. Present in China at the time of the events in Tiananmen Square, he photographed particularly symbolic episodes. This picture, taken on 20 May, is located just after the beginning of the hunger strikes, and before the massive repression known as the Tiananmen massacre. The nocturnal atmosphere and the gestures of the orator confer on this “moment before” a dramatic theatricality.


Annette Messager. '47 Piques (47 Pikes)' 1992


Annette Messager
47 Piques (47 Pikes)
Soft toys, colored pencils on paper, various materials, and 47 metal pikes
270 x 570 x 70 cm
Annette Messager and Marin Karmitz collection/Marian Goodman Gallery, Paris
© ADAGP, Paris, 2016


Graciela Sacco. from the "Bocanada" (A breath of fresh air) series 1992-1993


Graciela Sacco
from the “Bocanada” (A breath of fresh air) series
Posters in the streets of Rosario, Argentina
© Graciela Sacco



This series of photographs of open mouths was immediately considered by Graciela Sacco as being intended to circulate in the public space on various supports (stamps, spoons, stickers, posters …). It is however in the form of a wild display that the artist has most often given to see this set. The first of these displays took place in 1993, during a strike, in public school canteens in the town of Rosario. It was then a question of questioning the impossibility of the municipal staff to make their claims heard and the consequences of this movement knowing that for the majority of the children, this meal was the only one of the day. Graciela Sacco then continues to post these posters in cities like Buenos Aires, São Paulo or New York, often during election campaigns or close to advertising images. Are they hungry mouths? Cries of claims? Of suffering? Or even breathing as the title suggests? Be that as it may, this repeated but inaudible message tends to become oppressive. By exposing them in public space, the artist seems to give visibility to those anonymous calls that we do not want or can not hear. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)




Poetic insurrections. – The message of the butterflies. – Newspapers. – Making a book of resistance. – The walls speak up.

Arms have been raised, mouths have exclaimed. Now, what are needed are words, sentences to say, sing, think, discuss, print, transmit. That is why poets place themselves “at the forefront” of the action itself, as Rimbaud said at the time of the Paris Commune. Upstream the Romantics, downstream the Dadaists, Surrealists, Lettrists, Situationists, etc., all undertook poetic insurrections.

“Poetic” does not mean “far from history,” quite the contrary. There is a poetry of tracts, from the protest leaflet written by Georg Büchner in 1834 to the digital resistance of today, through René Char in 1943 and the “cine-tracts,” from 1968. There is a poetry particular to the use of newspapers and social networks. There is a particular intelligence – attentive to the form – inherent in the books of resistance or of uprising. Until the walls themselves begin to speak and occupy the public space, the sensible space in its entirety.

Antonin Artaud, Ever Astudillo, Ismaïl Bahri, Artur Barrio, Georges Bataille, Charles Baudelaire, Joseph Beuys, Enrique Bostelmann, André Breton, Marcel Broodthaers, Cornelius Castoriadis, Champfleury, Dada, Armand Dayot, Guy Debord, Carl Einstein, Jean-Luc Fromanger, Federico García Lorca, Jean-Luc Godard, Groupe Dziga Vertov, Raymond Hains, Raoul Hausmann, John Heartfield, Bernard Heidsieck, Victor Hugo, Asger Jorn, Jérôme Lindon, Rosa Luxemburg, Man Ray, Germán Marín, Chris Marker, Cildo Meireles, Henri Michaux, Tina Modotti, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Pablo Picasso, Sigmar Polke, Jacques Rancière, Alain Resnais, Armando Salgado, Álvaro Sarmiento, Philippe Soupault, Félix Vallotton, Gil Joseph Wolman, German, Chilean, Cuban, Spanish, French, Italian, Mexican, Russian unknowns.


Raoul Hausman. 'Portrait of Herwarth Walden at Bonset' 1921


Raoul Hausman
Portrait of Herwarth Walden at Bonset
Postcard sent by Raoul Hausmann to Theo van Doesburg
Archives Theo and Nelly van Doesburg
Photo: collection RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History
© ADAGP, Paris, 2016



Herwarth Walden (actual name Georg Lewin, 16 September 1879 in Berlin – 31 October 1941 in Saratov, Russia) was a German Expressionist artist and art expert in many disciplines. He is broadly acknowledged as one of the most important discoverers and promoters of German avant-garde art in the early twentieth century (Expressionism, Futurism, Dadaism, Magic Realism).

From 1901 to 1911 Walden was married to Else Lasker-Schüler, the leading female representative of German Expressionist poetry. She invented for him the pseudonym “Herwarth Walden”, inspired by Henry Thoreau’s novel Walden, or Life in the Woods (1854). In 1912 he married Swedish painter Nell Roslund. In 1919 he became a member of the Communist Party. In 1924 he was divorced from his second wife.

With the economic depression of the 1930s and the subsequent rise of National Socialism, his activities were compromised. In 1932 he married again and left Germany shortly later because of the threat of the Gestapo. He went to Moscow, where he worked as a teacher and publisher. His sympathies for the avant-garde soon aroused the suspicion of the Stalinist Soviet government, and he had to repeatedly defend against the equation of avant-garde and fascism. Walden died in October 1941 in a Soviet prison in Saratov. (Text from the Wikipedia website)



John Heartfield. 'Use photography as a weapon !' 1929


John Heartfield
Benütze Foto als Waffe ! 
Utilise la photo comme une arme !
Use photography as a weapon !

AIZ, année VIII, no 37, Berlin, 1929, p. 17
37.8 x 27.5 cm
Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Kunstsammlung, Inv.-Nr.: JH 2265
© The Heartfield Community of Heirs/ADAGP, Paris, 2016



In the late 1910s, members of the Dada movement practiced the first collages using images from cheap publications. The iconoclastic dimension of these heterogeneous juxtapositions allows them to open up the critical potential of images. Then, in the 1920s in Berlin, the Dada movement became politicized and the idea that the affiliated artists of the Communist Party were to serve the proletarian cause was strengthened. Few artists felt as committed to this mission as John Heartfield (his real name was Helmut Herzfeld). From the end of the 1920s, he developed a practice of satirical photomontage for the press, and in particular of the Communist journal AIZ (Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung) for which he worked until 1938. He then produced 237 photomontages denouncing Fascist ideology, the financing of the Nazi party by the industrialists and the extreme violence of the national socialist program. Invited to the Film und Foto exhibition in 1929 in Stuttgart, he had inscribed above the section devoted to him the slogan found in AIZ the same year: “Use photography as a weapon!”. Through the massive dissemination of his photomontages, he wants to mobilize public opinion and incite him to rise up against the rise of the fascisms that threaten Europe. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

Heartfield lived in Berlin until April 1933, when the National Socialists took power. On Good Friday, the SS broke into his apartment, and the 5’2″ Heartfield escaped by jumping from his balcony and hiding in a trash bin. He left Germany by walking over the Sudeten Mountains to Czechoslovakia. In Czechoslovakia, John Heartfield rose to number-five on the Gestapo’s most-wanted list.


Federico. 'García Lorca Mierda (Shit)' 1934


Federico García Lorca
Mierda (Shit)
Calligram, Indian ink
Federico García Lorca foundation, Madrid
© Federico García Lorca foundation, Madrid / VEGAP


Réseau Buckmaster (Buckmaster Network) 'Tract clandestin (Clandestine Tract)' 1942



Réseau Buckmaster (Buckmaster Network)
Tract clandestin (Clandestine Tract)
17 x 25 cm
Collection particulière
Courtesy des éditions de L’échappée



This satirical tract was realized and distributed in 1942 by the network of the Resistance Buckmaster, during the German occupation in France. The flying leaf, given from hand to hand or slipped into a mailbox, the leaflet or the butterfly (smaller) is at the same time the expression of a refusal – that of yielding – and of an imperious desire to act and call for a start. Intended to mark the minds and to attract the adhesion, they can be formed of short and poetic texts, slogans or images. Open, it presents a caricature drawing of four pigs and, in the center, an inscription in capital letters which apostrophes the reader and invites him to look for the fifth … Indeed, if the recipient folds the sheet according to the dotted lines, he makes Hitler’s acrimonious face! Thus, like any clandestine message, the meaning of the leaflet is not given immediately. The system of folding conceals and intrigues before revealing, but also accentuates the critical and percussive nature of the subject. Opening and closing like two wings, this butterfly is an anonymous, ephemeral and fragile missive ready to fly in the air to carry its message of rising. Like a firefly gleaming in the night of war, “an indication of a desire that flies, goes where it wants, insists, persists, resists in spite of everything”*, in the words of Georges Didi-Huberman, this image constitutes a weapon at the same time frail and powerful. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

*Georges Didi-Huberman, “Through desires (fragments on what raises us)”, in Soulèvements, Paris, Jeu de Paume, 2016, p. 372.


Raymond Hains. 'OAS. Fusillez les plastiqueurs (OAS. Shoot the bombers)' 1961


Raymond Hains
OAS. Fusillez les plastiqueurs (OAS. Shoot the bombers)
Torn poster on canvas backing
Private collection
© ADAGP, Paris, 2016
Photo: Michel Marcuzzi



By the end of the 1940s, Raymond Hains paced the streets of Paris and sought out surprising agglomerates of torn posters that he picked up before painting them on canvas. The artist, flâneur, is the catalyst of a new form of urban poetry that gives rise to impromptu entanglements of words and images. This practice of hijacking posters largely echoed the world of art and French society after the Second World War. These torn posters formally evoke the canvases of “action painting” in vogue at the time, which Hains enjoys by calling himself “inaction painter”. The proliferation of these posters accompanies the rise of consumption but also the many political debates that agitate France. Thus futile advertisements co-exist promoting an eternally joyful world and political posters whose subjects are sometimes dramatic. In 1961, Raymond Hains realized an exhibition entitled “La déchirée France” [The Torn France] which presents itself as a sounding board of contemporary French history, marked by the decomposition of the Fourth Republic and what is not yet called the war of Algeria. The work OAS. Shoot the bombers testifies to the violence of the positions taken with regard to this organization favorable to the maintenance of French Algeria, but also to the reality of the attacks they commit. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)


Sigmar Polke. 'Against the two superpowers - for a red Switzerland' (1st version) 1976


Sigmar Polke
Gegen die zwei Supermächte – für eine rote Schweiz (1e version)
(Against the two superpowers – for a red Switzerland) (1st version)
Spray paint and stencil on paper
Ludwig Forum für internationale Kunst, Aachen
© The Estate of Sigmar Polke, Cologne /ADAGP, Paris, 2016


Henri Michaux. 'Untitled' 1975


Henri Michaux
Indian ink, acrylic on paper
50 x 65 cm
Private collection
© ADAGP, Paris, 2016 / Photo : Jean-Louis Losi



The poet Henri Michaux has endeavored to combine writing and drawing. Already in his invention of a new graphic alphabet in 1927, and then in his hallucinogenic experiments by absorption of mescaline from 1955, Henri Michaux sought to liberate, unbind language and drawing and thus to explore “the space within”. This ink on paper presents an entanglement of disorderly spots more or less energetic or impregnated. Just as his poems try to lift the tongue, this drawing seems to express what he calls “trembling in images”. Traces of liberating gestures, this expressive “new language”, noisy, made of floods of forms and collisions of signs, becomes the image of the disorderly world and the claimed insubordination of its author. In 1971, Michaux always seems to be looking for what he calls in the turbulent infinity “a confidence of a child, a confidence that goes ahead, hopes, raises you, confidence which, entering into the tumultuous universe … becomes a greater upheaval, a prodigiously great uprising, an extraordinary uprising, an uprising never known, a rising above itself, above all, a miraculous uprising which is at the same time an acquiescence, an unbounded, calming and exciting acquiescence, an overflow and a liberation.” Thus Michaux considered drawing as a movement, the very rise of thought and bodies. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)



“Uprising transforms consciousness and in this movement it reconstitutes it. It gathers needs together and turns them into demands, it turns affects into desires and wills, it positions them in a tension towards liberty.”

Antonio Negri, “Uprisings” catalogue of the exhibition Uprisings




To go on strike is not to do nothing. – Demonstrating, showing oneself. – Vandal joys. – Building barricades. – Dying from injustice.

And so everything flares up. Some see only pure chaos. Others witness the sudden appearance of the forms of a desire to be free. During strikes, ways of living together are invented. To say that we “demonstrate,” is to affirm – albeit to be surprised by it or even not to understand it—that something appeared that was decisive. But this demanded a conflict. Conflict: an important motif of modern historical painting (from Manet to Polke), and of the visual arts in general (photography, cinema, video, digital arts).

It happens sometimes that uprisings produce merely the image of broken images: vandalism, those kinds of celebrations in negative format. But on these ruins will be built the temporary architecture of uprisings: paradoxical, moving, makeshift things that are barricades. Then, the police suppress the demonstration, when those who rise up had only the potency of their desire (potency: not power). And this is why there are so many people in history who have died from having risen up.

Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Hugo Aveta, Ruth Berlau, Malcolm Browne, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Agustí Centelles, Chen Chieh-Jen, Armand Dayot, Honoré Daumier, Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri, Robert Filliou, Jules Girardet, Arpad Hazafi, John Heartfield, Dmitri Kessel, Herbert Kirchhorff, Héctor López, Édouard Manet, Ernesto Molina, Jean-Luc Moulène, Voula Papaioannou, Sigmar Polke, Willy Römer, Pedro G. Romero, Jésus Ruiz Durand, Armando Salgado, Allan Sekula, Thibault, Félix Vallotton, Jean Veber, German, Catalan, French, Mexican, South African unknowns.


Thibault. 'The Barricade of the Rue Saint-Maur-Popincourt before the attack by the troops of General Lamoriciere' Sunday, June 25, 1848


La Barricade de la rue Saint-Maur-Popincourt avant l’attaque par les troupes du général Lamoricière
The Barricade of the Rue Saint-Maur-Popincourt before the attack by the troops of General Lamoriciere
Sunday, June 25, 1848
11.7 x 15 cm
Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Photo © RMN-Grand Palais (musée d’Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski



This daguerreotype is part of a series of two exceptional views of the barricades taken during the popular insurrection of June 1848. Disseminated in the form of woodcuts in the newspaper L’Illustration at the beginning of the following July, these photographs were realized by an amateur named Thibault, from a point of view overlooking the Rue Saint-Maur-Popincourt, June 25 and 26, before and after the assault. The first photographs reproduced in the press, they show the value of proof given to the medium in the processing of information since the middle of the nineteenth century, well before the development of photomechanical reproduction techniques. The inaccuracies and ghostly traces caused by a long exposure time limit the accuracy lent to the medium. Also the engraver allowed himself to “rectify” the views for the newspaper, adding clouds here and there and specifying the posture or the detail of the silhouettes. The remarkable interest of these daguerreotypes, however, resides in their indeterminate aspect. In fact, they reveal the singular temporality of these events: both short (since each second counts during the confrontations) and at the same time extended (in the moments of preparation and waiting). The temporalities proper to events and photography are thus combined in order to offer the perennial image of an invisible uprising and therefore always in potentiality. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)


Édouard Manet. 'Guerre civile (Civil war)' 1871


Édouard Manet
Guerre civile (Civil war)
Two-tone lithograph on thick paper
Musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris
© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet


André Adolphe Eugène Disdéri. 'Insurgents killed during bloody week of the Commune' 1871


André Adolphe Eugène Disdéri (attribué à)
Insurgés tués pendant la Semaine sanglante de la Commune
Insurgents killed during bloody week of the Commune
Albumen photograph
21 x 27 cm
Musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris, Paris
© André A.E. Disdéri / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet



This photograph was taken at the end of the tragic Bloody Week which concluded the Commune of Paris in May 1871. It shows the corpses of Communards shot by the Versailles troops, presented in their coffins at the public exhibition of their bodies. This image is imprinted with brutality: that of the authors of the massacre of these young men struggling for the independence of Paris, that of the monstration [The act of demonstrating; proof] and, that of photography, in its realization, its frontality and its precision. Why did one of the most famous portraitists of the Second Empire record the image of these inanimate bodies? We know today that photography has played an important role in anti-communard propaganda, the aim of which was to show the “exactions” of the insurgents (barricades, vandalism, assassinations …) and to present this event not as a revolution but as a civil war. It was also used for identification purposes, used for judicial proceedings and repression. The value of this image, however, is due to the fact that the exposure of these bodies is transformed by the photographic act. The latter confers on the rebels a particular aura, passing thus from figures of guilty to those of martyrs. Gathered for the occasion and set up facing us, they form, through photography, the image of an inseparable community. Even if the revolution has failed and power has failed, its power remains and continues to nourish the memory of political uprisings. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)


Allan Hughan. 'Installations de la colonie pénitentiaire (Installations of the penal colony)' May 1874


Allan Hughan
Installations de la colonie pénitentiaire (Installations of the penal colony)
May 1874
Tirage sur papier albuminé
14.7 x 19.6 cm
Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac


The legend of the image, written in the thirties, states: “In the foreground the tribe of rebels of 1878”, while that handwritten on the original negative says “tribe of Atai revolted.” These elements drag the meaning of this image realized by the first photographer present in New Caledonia. The photographs he takes of kanaks, villages, but also of the prison and mining facilities in 1874, take on a new retrospective significance after the great Kanak revolt of 1878.


Félix Vallotton. 'La Charge (The Charge)' 1893


Félix Vallotton
La Charge (The Charge)
Proof, woodcut on paper
Musée national d’Art moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris
Gift of Adèle et Georges Besson en 1963. On loan to Musée des Beaux-Arts et d’Archéologie de Besançon
© Centre Pompidou / MNAM / Cliché Pierre Guenat, Besançon, Musée des Beaux-Arts et d’Archéologie



Felix Vallotton made this engraving on wood in 1893 as part of his critical contributions to social violence for newspapers and magazines of his time. Composed with great economy of means, La Charge represents the brutal repression of a demonstration by the forces of the order. The diving point of view testifies to the influence of photography on his work and reinforces the voyeur character of the viewer as well as his feeling of helplessness. The formal repetition of the uniform of the “guardians of the peace” and the resemblance of their faces, all wedged between their mustache and their kepi, translates well the impression of mechanical unleashing of a blind violence. By contrasting black and white, Vallotton refers to the physical confrontation between civilians and policemen. The centrifugal force which animates the composition gives the impression that the wounded bodies shatter like an explosion. By distorting the characteristic perspective of the Nabi aesthetic, the victims’ bodies seem to be abandoned. Through the eyes of man in the foreground, the artist denounces the abuse of force but also takes the spectator to witness and invites him to rise up against this injustice. The artist, known for his anarchist positions, broke as much with the traditional principles of composition as with the established order. At the charge against the protesters, he responds by his own charge against the authorities. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)


Joseph Marie Ernest Prud'Homme. 'Submission of Rabezavana and Rainibetsimisaraka' 1897


Joseph Marie Ernest Prud’Homme
Submission of Rabezavana and Rainibetsimisaraka
Print on aristotype paper
12 x 17 cm
Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac


On July 29, 1897, Rabezavana and Rainibetsimisaraka, two of the greatest leaders of the Menalamba insurrection, which began after the abdication of Queen Ranavalona III and the establishment of the protectorate in October 1895, publicly knelt before Governor General Joseph Gallieni to signify their submission. This ceremony is the theatrical acme of the policy of “pacification” carried out in Madagascar by Gallieni, since his arrival in September 1896.


Anonymous. 'The Habés send a parliamentarian to make their submission to Major Pognio' 17 March 1910


Les Habés envoient un parlementaire pour faire leur soumission au commandant Pognio
The Habés send a parliamentarian to make their submission to Major Pognio
17 March 1910
Print on baryta paper
10.9 x 16.7 cm
Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac


The French colonial conquest of West Africa, begun in 1854, stops with the unification of its possessions within French West Africa in 1895. It was mainly carried out by the infantry which had to face populations hostile to colonization. The Habés (Dogons) of the Bandiagara region (present-day Mali) resisted the French soldiers from 1894 to 1910.


José Clemente Orozco (1883-1949) 'Les Femmes des soldats (The Women Soldiers)' 1926


José Clemente Orozco (1883-1949)
Les Femmes des soldats (The Women Soldiers)
Huile sur toile
México, INBA, Collection Museo de Arte Moderno
Photo © Francisco Kochen
© Adagp, Paris 2016


Tina Modotti (1896-1942) 'Guitare, cartouchière et faucille (Guitar, cartridge belt and sickle)' 1st June 1929


Tina Modotti (1896-1942)
Guitare, cartouchière et faucille (Guitar, cartridge belt and sickle)
1st June 1929
Illustration de l’annonce pour la chanteuse communiste Concha Lichel, publiée dans el machete, no 168, 1
Illustration of the announcement for the communist singer Concha Lichel, published in El Machete, no 168, 1
Gelatin silver print
México, INBA, Museo Nacional de Arte
Donation de la famille Maples Arce, 2015
© Francisco Kochen



The Mexican Revolution profoundly changed the structure of society: since men had gone to war or to search for work and livelihoods, women took on new tasks, first in armed struggle and then in rebuilding culture and education within society. Thus, the image of the soldiaderas, those women who followed the revolutionary troops, acquired a special significance and was symbolically compared to the “strong women” of the Bible. In the artistic field, women also played a decisive role, sometimes called “proto-feminism”: patrons of valuable artists or artists themselves, they participated in the quest for an aesthetic language capable of expressing their doubts and questioning. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

Concha Michel (1899-1990) was a singer-songwriter, political activist, playwright, and a researcher who published several projects on the culture of indigenous communities. She was one of the few women who performed in the corrido style. She created the Institute of Folklore in Michoacan and was one of the first collectors of folklore and preservers of the traditions of the Mexican people. She was a cultural icon having relationships with two presidents, and a broad range of Mexico’s most prominent artists including Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Guadalupe Marín, Tina Modotti, Elena Poniatowska, Anita Brenner and others. (Text from the Wikipedia website)


Ruth Berlau. 'Grévistes américains (American warriors)' 1941


Ruth Berlau
Grévistes américains (American warriors)
Gelatin silver print
10 x 15 cm
Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Bertolt Brecht Archiv
© by R. Berlau/Hoffmann



Ruth Berlau, actress, director and photographer of Danish origin realizes this photograph shortly after his arrival in the United States. She fled Nazi Germany with the writer and playwright Bertolt Brecht and accompanied him during much of his exile. In line with her commitment to the Spanish war and her communist ideas, she photographed American social movements and showed the actors of the struggle and the victims of oppression. This series on strikes highlights the workforce of the workers, with the desire to get their faces out of anonymity. It is in keeping with the documentary use of photography undertaken by social programs such as the New Deal and in particular the path traced by Walker Evans, initiator of the “documentary style”. It chooses a frontal point of view, apt to reveal with precision and clarity the faces of the strikers. In doing so, it applies itself to restoring their dignity while producing the documents of a social history. The counter-drive gives the strikers a particular scope and strength, just as the framing, which ostensibly divides the group, suggests that they belong to a powerful and determined group. The photographic practice of Ruth Berlau seems to embody a democratic ideal, revealing both the unity and the singularity of each and a common political commitment, which is reflected here through the exchange of views. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)


Manuel Álvarez Bravo. 'Ouvrier en grève, assassiné (Striking worker, assassinated)' 1934


Manuel Álvarez Bravo
Ouvrier en grève, assassiné (Striking worker, assassinated)
Gelatin silver print
Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris
© Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris / Roger Viollet
© Estate Manuel Álvarez Bravo


Inconnu 'Contestation around the construction of Narita airport' 1969

Inconnu 'Contestation around the construction of Narita airport' 1969


Contestation autour de la construction de l’aéroport de Narita
Contestation around the construction of Narita airport

Gelatin silver prints
© Collection Art Institute of Chicago


In parallel with the dazzling rise of a consumer society on the Western model, for ten years (from 1960 to 1970) Japan went through a major identity crisis that unfolded on multiple fronts: American military bases in Okinawa, construction of Narita airport, occupation of universities by students …


Chieh-Jen Chen. 'The Route' 2006

Chieh-Jen Chen. 'The Route' 2006


Chieh-Jen Chen
The Route
35 mm film transferred onto DVD: color and black and white, silent, 16:45 min.
© Chieh-Jen Chen, courtesy galerie Lily Robert



“To rise up is to break a history that everyone believed to have been heard. It is to break the foreseeability of history, to refute the rule that presided, as we thought, over its development or its preservation.”

Georges Didi-Huberman, “By the desires (Fragments of What Makes Us Rise Up)” catalogue of the exhibition Uprisings




The hope of one condemned to death. – Mothers rise up. – They are your own children. – They who go through walls.

But potency outlives power. Freud said that desire was indestructible. Even those who knew they were condemned – in the camps, in the prisons – seek every means to transmit a testimony or call out. As Joan Miró evoked in a series of works titled “The Hope of a Condemned Man,” in homage to the student anarchist Salvador Puig i Antich, executed by Franco’s regime in 1974.

An uprising can end with mothers’ tears over the bodies of their dead children. But these tears are merely a burden: they can still provide the potencies of uprising, like in the “resistance marches” of mothers and grandmothers in Buenos Aires. It is our own children who rise up: “Zero for Conduct!” was Antigone not almost a child herself? Whether in the Chiapas forests or on the Greece – Macedonia border, somewhere in China, in Egypt, in Gaza, or in the jungle of computerized networks considered as a vox populi, there will always be children to jump the wall.

Francisca Benitez, Ruth Berlau, Bruno Boudjelal, Agustí Centelles, Eduardo Gil, Mat Jacob, Ken Hamblin, Maria Kourkouta, Joan Miró, Pedro Motta, Voula Papaioannou, Estefania Peñafiel Loaiza, Enrique Ramirez, Argentinian, Greek, Mexican unknowns.


Denis Foyatier. 'Spartacus' 1830


Denis Foyatier
Commande de Charles X, 1828
Département des Sculptures
© 2011 Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN – Grand Palais / Thierry Ollivier


Victor Hugo. 'Le Pendu (The hanged man)' 1854


Victor Hugo
Le Pendu (The hanged man)
Plume et lavis d’encre brune, encre noire, fusain, pierre noire, gouache sur papier
Paris, Maison de Victor Hugo
© Maisons de Victor Hugo / Roger-Viollet


While in exile in Jersey, Victor Hugo is deeply moved by the death sentence in Guernsey of John Charles Tapner, a condemnation against which he protests and asks for a pardon that he will not get. Hugo then makes four drawings depicting a gaunt hanged man at his gallows. The museum preserves two (Ecce and Ecce Lex). Hugo had hung them in his room in Marine Terrace in Jersey, and in his study under the roof of Hauteville House in Guernsey.


Voula Papaioannou 'Graffiti of prisoners on the walls of the German prison in Merlin Street, Athens' 1944


Voula Papaioannou
Graffitis de prisonniers sur les murs de la prison allemande de la rue Merlin à Athènes
Graffiti of prisoners on the walls of the German prison in Merlin Street, Athens
Gelatin-silver print, modern print
24 x 30 cm
Benaki Museum Photographic Archive, Athènes



Voula Papaioannou is a major figure in Greek documentary photography. Born in 1898, she made numerous photographs of landscapes, monuments and archaeological sites in the 1930s. The Second World War led her to wonder about her practice and she was committed to covering the realities of the conflict. Her apparatus then becomes a tool to testify and publicize the misery and suffering of the Greek population during the German occupation. It reflects the difficulties of everyday life, the departure of the military in combat and the famines that strike civilians. During the liberation, she made a few shots of street fights as well as these images of the walls of the prison of Athens held until then by the Germans. It shows the graffiti (inscriptions and drawings) left by the detainees, most of them awaiting execution. Many say their names and send a message to their families (“I want my relatives to be proud of me”) or claim their political convictions (“Vive le KKE”, Greek Communist Party) for the sake of transmitting until the day before their deaths the reasons for their struggle and the conditions of their disappearance. These photographic recordings are similar to archaeological documents bearing the traces of the imprisonment of the Greek Resistance fighters and their hope that these messages will one day be read in a Greece freed from the Nazi occupation. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)


Anonymous. 'Women pushed towards the gas chamber of crematorium V of Birkenau' 1944


Anonyme (membre du Sonderkommando d’Auschwitz-Birkenau)
Femmes poussées vers la chambre à gaz du crématoire V de Birkenau
Women pushed towards the gas chamber of crematorium V of Birkenau
Contact plate with two images
12 x 6 cm
Archival collection of the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkrenau, Oświęcim
Photo: Archival collection of the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkrenau, Oświęcim



This photograph was taken by a member of the Sonderkommando Auschwitz-Birkenau, a special unit of Jewish inmates commissioned by the SS to carry out the final solution. It belongs to a set of four photographs carried out clandestinely on a piece of film, using a photographic camera infiltrated in the camp and then concealed at the bottom of a bucket. Hidden near crematory furnace V, the author of these photographs was assisted by other members of the Sonderkommando. To do such an act was indeed extremely dangerous. The sloping framing and the blur reflect the perilous conditions in which the photographer was then placed. This picture, however, clearly shows a convoy of naked women pushed by the special unit to the gas chamber, located off-field. The film was then filtered from the camp into a tube of toothpaste to join the Polish Resistance, accompanied by an explanatory letter. These photographs therefore have an informative aim and constitute the only photographic documents on the gas chambers. As Georges Didi-Huberman affirms, “in the depths of this fundamental despair, the “solicitation to resist” has probably detached itself from the beings themselves, who have been promised to disappear, to fix themselves on signals to be emitted beyond the boundaries of the camp.*” Among others, the image, this “eye of history”, is then invested with the only hope still possible: to make the hell of Auschwitz visible and therefore imaginable.

*Georges Didi-Huberman, Images malgré tout, (Images despite everything), Paris, Les Editions de Minuit, 2003, p. 14.


Sonderkommandos were work units made up of German Nazi death camp prisoners. They were composed of prisoners, usually Jews, who were forced, on threat of their own deaths, to aid with the disposal of gas chamber victims during the Holocaust. The death-camp Sonderkommandos, who were always inmates, should not be confused with the SS-Sonderkommandos which were ad hoc units formed from various SS offices between 1938 and 1945. The term itself in German means “special unit”, and was part of the vague and euphemistic language which the Nazis used to refer to aspects of the Final Solution (cf. Einsatzkommando units of the Einsatzgruppen death squads).

About 120 SS personnel were assigned to the gas chambers and lived on site at the crematoria. Several SS personnel oversaw the killings at each gas chamber, while the bulk of the work was done by the mostly Jewish prisoners known as Sonderkommandos (special squads). Sonderkommando responsibilities included guiding victims to the gas chambers and removing, looting, and cremating the corpses.

The Sonderkommado were housed separately from other prisoners, in somewhat better conditions. Their quality of life was further improved by access to the goods taken from murdered prisoners, which Sonderkommandos were sometimes able to steal for themselves and to trade on Auschwitz’s black market. Hungarian doctor Miklós Nyiszli reported that the Sonderkommando numbered around 860 prisoners when the Hungarian Jews were being killed in 1944. Many Sonderkommandos committed suicide due to the horrors of their work; those who did not generally were shot by the SS in a matter of weeks, and new Sonderkommando units were then formed from incoming transports. Almost none of the 2,000 prisoners placed in these units survived to the camp’s liberation.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Ken Hamblin. 'Beaubien Street' 1971


Ken Hamblin
Beaubien Street
Modern gelatin silver print
Fifth Estate photo
Joseph A. Labadie Collection, Special Collections Library, University of Michigan


Joan Miró 'Prisoner's Hope, Preparatory Drawing for The Hope of the Dead Man I, II and III' 1973


Joan Miró
L’Espoir du prisonnier, dessin préparatoire pour L’Espoir du condamné à mort I, II et III
Prisoner’s Hope, Preparatory Drawing for The Hope of the Dead Man I, II and III
Crayons de couleur et stylo sur papier (bloc-notes)
7.7 x 12.5 cm
Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelone
© Successió Miró / ADAGP, Paris, 2016
Photo: Fundació Miró, Barcelone



This sketch is part of a series of preparatory studies for a triptych entitled The Hope of the Condemned to Death, completed in March 1974. It is already possible to guess the overall design (three horizontal compositions of primary colors formed of sinuous lines) and the title seems to be clarified with the addition of these words: “the hope of the prisoner”. Sensitive to the death sentence of the anarchist and anti-fascist militant Salvador Puig i Antich, a member of the Movimiento Ibérico de Liberación, Joan Miró claims that he completed his triptych on the day of his execution on 2 March 1974. Thus the artwork – initially imagined in an abstract and metaphorical way – then encounters history. This triptych executed in very large format so as to address the greatest number, as Miró wished that the painting would be, thus constitutes a real monument to the memory of one of the last victims of Francoism. Judged “prophetic” by the artist, he presents a series of black lines that he interpreted as an image of the tourniquet used for execution. Struggling or playing as much with the void as with the spots of vivid colors, these dark lines on a light background also seem to be distended and open like a permitted hope. From his first studies, Joan Miró managed to preserve intact, by the energy of the gesture and the vivacity of the keys, the “indestructible desire” to hope and resist, which culminated the following year in the fall of the Franco regime.  (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)


Eduardo Gil. 'Niños desaparecidos. Secunda Marcha de la Resistancia (Murdered children. Second Resistance March)' December 9-10 1982


Eduardo Gil
Niños desaparecidos. Secunda Marcha de la Resistancia (Murdered children. Second Resistance March)
December 9-10 1982
Modern gelatin silver print
Eduardo Gil collection
© Eduardo Gil



Eduardo Gil was born in 1948 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. After studying sociology, he became a photographer. Self-taught and sensitive to social struggles, his commitment was linked to the establishment of the military dictatorship following the coup d’état of 24 March 1976. Working for the press and as an independent author, he made a series of reports on the political situation and social life of his country. He photographed in particular the second March for the Resistance in Buenos Aires on 9 and 10 December 1982. Organized at the call of the Mothers of the Place de Mai in tribute to the missing children during the dictatorship, the First march of the Resistance in 1981 ‘Is then reproduced every year until 2006, involving the entire society, including after the end of the dictatorship. Faced with the march, Eduardo Gil records the determined faces of the women, mothers and grandmothers of the children of Argentina, demonstrating to obtain answers on the fate of the disappeared. The use of black and white flattened the composition and accentuated the juxtaposition of the women’s faces with the banners and placards. The photographs of the children brandished by the demonstrators thus seem to merge in the procession. All appear in this sense more united than ever, stretched out towards us, as towards politics. Eduardo Gil seems to prove here that by recording the image of the missing among the living, photography itself is a force of uprising. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)


Francisca Benítez. 'Garde l'Est' 2005


Francisca Benítez
Garde l’Est
Still frame
Francisca Benitez collection
© Francisca Benítez


Gohar Dashti. From the series 'Today's Life and War' 2008


Gohar Dashti
From the series Today’s Life and War
Institut des Cultures d’Islam


The photographs of the Iranian artist Gohar Dashti’s Today’s Life and War show the daily life of a young couple against a background of war. Surrounded by tanks, bunkers and armed soldiers, the spouses live in the middle of the fields of ruins and continue to go about their occupations. Between impassivity and disillusionment, their attitudes show perseverance and unwavering determination to simply continue living. With these surreal scenes, the artist is witnessing a generation caught between the memories of ten years of war against Iraq and the permanent threat of conflict.


Pedro Motta. 'Natureza das coisas #024, (The nature of things #024)' 2013


Pedro Motta
Natureza das coisas #024, (The nature of things #024)
From the “Natureza das coisas” series
Mineral print on cotton paper
Private collection
Courtesy of the artist and gallery Bendana Pinel


Maria Kourkouta. 'Idomeni, 14 mars 2016. Frontière gréco-macédonienne, (Idomeni, March 14, 2016. Greek-Macedonian border)' 2016

Maria Kourkouta. 'Idomeni, 14 mars 2016. Frontière gréco-macédonienne, (Idomeni, March 14, 2016. Greek-Macedonian border)' 2016


Maria Kourkouta
Idomeni, 14 mars 2016. Frontière gréco-macédonienne, (Idomeni, March 14, 2016. Greek-Macedonian border)
HD video loop: color, sound, 36:00 min.
© Maria Kourkouta. Production: Jeu de Paume, Paris



Jeu de Paume
1, Place de la Concorde
75008 Paris
métro Concorde
Tel: 01 47 03 12 50

Opening hours:
Tuesday: 11.00 – 21.00
Wednesday – Sunday: 11.00 – 19.00
Closed Monday

Jeu de Paume website


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Exhibition: ‘Tattoo’ at Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Exhibition dates: 12th February – 20th September 2015


Because it took such a long time to collate and construct this MONSTER posting will have to last you nearly a week – until next Wednesday anyway.


Although I have ten tattoos by different artists – including a full back job by Alex Binnie of London – and scarification done in 1992, you always remember your first tattoo. I was in my early twenties when I decided to get inked. And the person recommended for the job was the legendary Alan Oversby (aka Mr. Sebastian), an S/M tattooist and one of the primary figures in the development of contemporary body piercing.

I remember travelling down to the East End of London and rocking up to this non-descript office block, climbing to the third floor I think it was, and entering a tiny square room, Alan’s studio. What an experience it was to be tattooed by him. Not so much the tattoo itself, which was a tiger on my upper left arm – first part of my earth, air, water, fire, void elemental sequence – but his presence and being surrounded by these fantastic, outrageous photographs on all four walls, floor to ceiling. Here was men’s tackle of all different shapes and sizes, the cocks and pubic area heavily tattooed and some of them heavily pierced, lying on pristine white dinner plates. Welcome to lunch.

For a young man this was an amazing, wondrous display. I totally loved him, the photographs, and his work. Unfortunately I don’t have any photographs of that studio and there are none that I could find online. Suffice it to say that the experience only confirmed me on my path of delicious deviancy that will not stop until the day I die.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Many thankx to Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg for allowing me to publish the photographs and text in the posting. The videos were all sourced from YouTube. Many thankx also to Becky Nunes who I contacted directly and who provided the wonderful photographs of Tã moko facial tattoos of the Maori in New Zealand.



Alan Oversby (Mr Sebastian)


Alan Oversby (Mr. Sebastian)


Alan Oversby (20 February 1933 – 8 May 1996) was one of the primary figures in the development of contemporary body piercing in Europe. He was better known by his professional name Mr. Sebastian.

Originally an art teacher, Alan Oversby left his initial profession to pursue his interests in tattooing and piercing instead. From his studio in London, he promoted both tattooing and body piercing, especially within the gay leather community. He was a correspondent of both Doug Malloy and Jim Ward. Sponsored by Malloy, he visited Los Angeles. Malloy also sponsored trips to London to visit him, bringing along Ward and Sailor Sid Diller. These exchanges were critical to the global spread of the techniques and technology used in contemporary body piercing.

Oversby was also responsible for the adoption of the use of topical and local anesthetics as part piercing procedure in Europe. Although they are used less now, it used to be standard practice to use anesthetics when performing piercings in England, where in North America this practice is almost unknown. He was interviewed in the fourth issue of PFIQ. He performed much of the tattooing and piercing on Psychic TV musicians Genesis P-Orridge and Paula P-Orridge. His vocals were used in the Psychic TV track “Message from The Temple” which appeared on their first album Force the Hand of Chance.

In 1987, Alan Oversby was one of 16 men charged as a part of Operation Spanner, a series of raids that resulted in the arrest of men who were all engaged in consensual homosexual BDSM activities. Alan, like the other men, was charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm for performing a genital piercing on a client. He was also charged with using anaesthetic without a licence and for sending obscene material through the post (photographs of piercings). As the judge was not willing to take the consensuality of the participants into account, Alan pleaded guilty along with the other 15 men. He received a sentence of 15 months, which was suspended for two years.

Text from Wikipedia website


Masahiko Adachi. Film still from 'Flesh Color' 2010


Masahiko Adachi (*1983, Tokyo)
Film still from Flesh Color
Animation / 4 Min.
© Masahiko Adachi


Ruiko Yoshida. 'One Holiday of a Japanese Masseuse, Tokyo, 1978' 1978



Ruiko Yoshida
One Holiday of a Japanese Masseuse, Tokyo, 1978
27 x 27.2 cm
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg


Unknown artist. 'Tattooed Man' 1880-1890


Unknown artist
Tattooed Man
Albumen paper, hand-colored
21 x 27 cm
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg


Unknown artist. 'Tattooed Man' 1880-1890 (detail)


Unknown artist
Tattooed Man (detail)
Albumen paper, hand-colored
21 x 27 cm
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg


Utagawa Kuniyoshi. 'Tengan Isobyôe and Yajin Ran' 1830-1845


Utagawa Kuniyoshi
Tengan Isobyôe and Yajin Ran
Color woodcut, paper
37 x 25 cm
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg


Christian Warlich. 'Tattoo flash sheet by Christian Warlich, Hamburg' c. 1930


Christian Warlich
Tattoo flash sheet by Christian Warlich, Hamburg
c. 1930
© Tattoo Museum Willy Robinson


Ruiko Yoshida. 'I Am a Japanese Taxi Driver, the Front, Tokyo, 1978' 1978


Ruiko Yoshida
I Am a Japanese Taxi Driver, the Front, Tokyo, 1978
Silver gelatin paper
40 x 28.6 cm
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg


Bodysuit tattoo by Luke Atkinson


Bodysuit tattoo by Luke Atkinson
© Luke Atkinson


Tattoos by Gwendal & Karl Marc


Gewendal & Karl Marc
Tattoos by Gwendal & Karl Marc
© Karl Marc


Ashleigh tattooed by Saira Hunjan


Ashleigh tattooed by Saira Hunjan
Foto: Tareq Kubaisi
© Saira Hunjan


Ralf Mitsch. 'René' 2014


Ralf Mitsch
From the series Why I love tattoos
© Ralf Mitsch


Ralf Mitsch. 'Trudy' 2014


Ralf Mitsch
From the series Why I love tattoos
© Ralf Mitsch


Ralf Mitsch. 'Tim' 2014


Ralf Mitsch
From the series Why I love tattoos
© Ralf Mitsch


Marlon Wobst (*1980) 'Skin Ball' 2012


Marlon Wobst (*1980)
Skin Ball
Oil in canvas
55 x 50 cm
© Schwarz Contemporary, Berlin



The Tattoo exhibition is dedicated to old traditions and new stories. It takes a look at the vibrant, innovative and multi­faceted tattoo culture, with a focus on artistic, artisanal and culture-specific issues. International exhibits from diverse perspectives are displayed and current debates considered. This is the first time that an exhibition has brought together such a broad range of references, presenting the phenomenon of the tattoo with a particular focus on art and design, since these enduring pictures, words and symbols inspire artists and designers. The theme of the exhibition is therefore the reciprocal influence of art, traditional and lived tattoo art and visual design. The exhibition Tattoo throws light on the ambivalence of the tattoo between a mark of distinction, a sign allocating its bearer to a social class, a badge of identi­ty and a stigma in various cultures, social classes and epochs. Tattoo shows over 250 pieces of work, including photo­graphs, coloured woodcuts, paintings and sculptures, as well as video clips and audio installations, stencils and historical specimens of tattooed skin. From tattooing instruments made of simple tools available in nature to intricate precision machines, colors and pigments convey an impression of the craft in practice. In this show the MKG also looks back on the long tradition of the Hamburg tattoo scene, which had its cradle in the port milieu of the late 19th century. Historical photos which have never before been on public show document the typical tattoos of the working class in Hamburg around 1890. Legendary tattooists such as Christian Warlich (“The Tattoo King”) and Herbert Hoffmann exemplify a many-facetted and highly expressive art form which generates ever new experimental designs. A glimpse into this is given by work from local tattoo artists who let themselves be inspired by the museum’s collection. A picture loop shows many pieces of work by celebrated tattooists, men and women, from the current international scene, which is marked by a huge diversity of stylistic approaches and new aesthetic movements.

The traditional cultural technique

All over the world, many cultures use the human skin as a surface to carry images. The tradition of tattooing is among the earliest art forms and the most ancient crafts. The exhibition shows selected examples. The facial tattoos of Chin women in Burma are part of a rite of passage marking the transition from childhood to adult­hood. With the help of thorns or needles, female tattooists incise patterns into the skin which vary from one family clan to another. Tā Moko, the facial tattoos of the Maori in New Zealand, indicate a person’s family affiliation and social sta­tus. Each part of the face is reserved for a particular type of information. A tattoo on the center of the forehead, for in­stance, testifies to high status. In Thailand, sacred tattoos – known as Sak Yant – are widespread. They are intended to protect their bearer from bad luck and to help them lead a morally impeccable life. Tattoos have a long tradition in Japan too, dating back to the 3rd century. Their design follows a particular harmony and elegance and is characterized by clear­ly demarcated areas of color. The tattoos often cover wide expanses of the body surface and connect to a cohesive image. The motifs often reference subjects of traditional woodcuts or represent mythological beings which are supposed to ex­emplify particular qualities of their bearer’s character. For instance, the dragon stands for virility, power or heaven. Since tattoos were banned from 1870 to 1948 in Japan, they were for a long time associated with the criminal milieu of the Yakuza, a Japanese mafia organization.

The spread of tattooing in the Western world

In the 18th and 19th centuries, illustrated travel reports were a major influence on the way people viewed other cultures in far-off lands and fired curiosity about the practice of tattooing, which seemed exotic in those days. The word tattow in the Polynesian language is first mentioned in James Cook’s reports of his expeditions to the South Seas in the 18th century. Modern tattooing became widespread in the West through the very popular early ethnographic drawings and prints as well as later through photographs. At the beginning, the art of tattooing often stood for the erotically titillating flair of the exotic and magic-mystical in a world attended by strange cults and rituals. Tattoos flourished in Europe and America during the years leading up to the World War I. For this reason, the members of the American upper class and of almost all European royal families – including the German imperial family – were tattooed. In this period, this form of body decoration was regarded as an expression of good taste. In the 19th century a more ambivalent attitude towards tattooing develops, however, above all among the bourgeoisie. In consequence, very little lies between fascination and rejection in the Western historical view of tattooing: this is what underlies the dual character of tattooing as stigma and mark of distinction.

Codes and their reinterpretation

The functions and meanings attributed to tattooing proliferate due to its diffusion throughout different social classes and groups over the last century. First and foremost, its ambiguity, signaling both stigma and distinction, is symptomatically revealed in the different tattooing practices followed in different milieus. While sailors and soldiers flaunt the record of their travels with exotic images, tattoos develop into veritable badges of recognition in the criminal underworld. In the context of photographic “mugshots”, first used in the hunt for criminals at the beginning of the 20th century, tattoos already take on great significance as a means of identifying suspects. In Russian prison camps of the late 19th century tattoos and branding are systematically employed by the state to mark out people as convicts. In response professional criminals in Russia, however, get around this form of stigmatization by adopting their own informal tattoos. They modify traditional motifs and develop a system of secret signs, which reveals the group they belong to, their convictions or their rank in the criminal hierarchy. The French photographer and filmmaker Christian Poveda has documented the heavily tattooed members of the Latin American gangs of the Mara Salvatrucha and M-18, the lettering and symbols displayed on their skin have an important function in recognition and promotion of group affinity. The work of the Austrian Klaus Pichler traces the current significance of tattoos in prisons and offers a photographic glimpse into what are actually forms of coping with imprisonment within the penal system.

Women and tattoos

Another aspect of the exhibition are objects dealing with the relationship between women and tattoos. Historical photos highlight the vicissitude, ranging from the exhibition of the heavily tattooed female body as a fairground attraction in the 1920s up to the glamour girls in the vaudeville shows of the 1960s and the first female tattooists, who independently and with great determination carved out a place for themselves in a male-dominated profession. Tattoo culture is meanwhile unthinkable without women and they play an important role as artists in the contemporary scene.

Tattoos in contemporary art

The complex spectrum of meanings conveyed also plays a major role in contemporary art. The Japanese woman artist Fumie Sasabuche, for instance, takes as the theme of her sculptural and photographic works the interplay between the traditional Japanese tattoo motifs of the Yakuza and the aesthetic impulses of Western mass culture. Enrique Marty’s sculptures from his series Art is Dangerous, too, fall back on the Yakuza iconography in order to raise ironic questions about the role of art and the meaning conveyed by tattoos in combination with the grotesque effect created by the figures. The Spanish concept artist Santiago Sierra discusses the subject from the perspective of social and capitalistic criticism in his films. He pays members of socially marginalized groups to have a continuous line tattooed on their backs as part of a performance. With the deliberately unsteadily drawn line he is alluding to the precarious existence they lead and the social stigmatization that goes with it. The Polish artist Artur Żmijewski addresses relentlessly and provocatively the practice of tattooing prisoners in the Nazi concentration camps. His video 80064, which sparked fierce and controversial debate among its viewers, shows Josef Tarnawa, a 92-year old survivor of Auschwitz, whom the artists persuaded to have his fading camp number freshly tattooed. On the one side, Tarnawa is being stigmatized all over again by this procedure, on the other side the number on his left forearm takes on the function of a shocking admonition not to forget. Active remembrance, Artur Żmijewski seems to be saying here, is channeled today into much too orderly forms. The burn mark and the involuntary tattoo have faded out of view today in the Western history of tattooing, but what was practiced during the Second World War remains deeply engraved on the artist’s memory.

The tension between the tattoo as a work of art and its existence on the “living canvas” is the subject of an exemplary treatment by the Belgian concept artist Wim Delvoye. The exhibition shows the tattooed pig Donata, which the artist decorated under anesthetic in 2005, with the help of several professional tattooists, on his Chinese “Art Farm”. Delvoye subsequently exhibited the animal as a living work of art, and had it stuffed after it died. The second work by Delvoye shown in the exhibition picks up on this idea and articulates critical questions about moral principles in the art market, power and the right to make use of the human body as an artistic object. The Swiss Tim Steiner had a work by the Belgian artist tattooed on his back between 2006 and 2008; in 2008 it was purchased by a Hamburg art collector, together with the right to pass Tim Steiner on as an item on loan, to sell him, to bequeath him and to have his skin conserved after his death. Since then the work Tim has been the subject of great international controversy. He will be on show in the Hamburg exhibition on 11 and 12 April and on 27 and 28 June 2015.

Pricking the skin with a needle demands the same aesthetic imagination and care, the same controlled craftsmanship and knowledge of materials and color sense as any other design technique. The contemporary tattooing scene is highly innovative, transcending the traditional language of tattooing and renewing the medium. A picture loop in the exhibition shows international work in a great variety of styles and in outstanding quality.

With contributors including: Masahiko Adachi (JP) / Diane Arbus (USA) / Imogen Cunningham (USA) / Wim Delvoye (BEL) / Chris Eckert (USA) / Goran Galić & Gian-Reto Gredig (CH) / Herbert Hoffmann (DE/CH) / Mario Marchisella (CH) / Enrique Marty (ESP) / The Rich Mingins Collection (GB) / Ralf Mitsch (NL) / Becky Nunes (NZ) / Jens Uwe Par¬kitny (DE) / Klaus Pichler (AUT) / Christian Poveda (FR) / Rodolphe Archibald Reiss (DE/CH) / Fumie Sasabuchi (JP) / Santiago Sierra (ESP) / Aroon Thaewchatturat (THA) / Timm Ulrichs (DE) / Christian Warlich (D) / Artur Żmijewski (POL). Work in the picture loop by: Luke Atkinson (DE) / Curly (GB) / Mike DeVries (USA) / Thea Duskin (USA) / Lionel Fahy (FR) / Sabine Gaffron (DE) / Valentin Hirsch (DE) / Saira Hunjan (GB) / Inma (GB) / Bastien Jean (FR) / Jon John (GB) / Guy LeTatooer, (FR) / Filip Leu, (CH) / Karl Marc, (FR) / Volko Merschky & Simone Pfaff, (DE) / Lea Nahon, (FR) / Roxx (USA) / Minka Sicklinger (USA) / Liam Sparkes (GB) / Jacqueline Spoerle (CH) / Kostek Stekkos (BE) / Amanda Wachob (USA) / Seth Wood (USA).

Tattoo is a production of the Gewerbemuseum Winterthur, Schweiz, curator Susanna Kumschick, and is being shown for the first time in Germany.

Press release from the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg website



Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattoo' at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattoo' at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattoo' at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattoo' at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg


Installation views of the exhibition Tattoo at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg



Kept under wraps in winter and proudly displayed in summer: tattoos are now ubiquitous. However, they are much more than just a current mass phenomenon and trendy fashion accessory: many cultures throughout the world are familiar with the tradition of tattooing, and human skin has always been used as a canvas. Tattooing is one of the earliest art forms and oldest handicrafts.

Tattoos last for a lifetime. Pigments are inserted under the skin forever, yet they are as transient as the life of the person who bears them. They tell personal stories, create identity and affiliation, embellish, heal, protect – and they can both fascinate and repulse. For a long while they were most commonly known as a mark of social distinction or as a means of identifying social outcasts, and as a method of self stigmatization used by sailors, criminals, prostitutes and gang members to distinguish themselves from “the other”. It is easy to forget that the craze for inking one’s body spread even to aristocratic circles in the later nineteenth century, in a trend that is now echoed by the current fashion for tattoos.

The Tattoo exhibition is dedicated to old traditions and new stories. It takes a look at the vibrant, innovative and multifaceted tattoo culture, with a focus on artistic, artisanal and culturespecific issues. International exhibits from diverse perspectives are displayed and current debates considered. This is the first time that an exhibition has brought together such a broad range of references, presenting the phenomenon of the tattoo with a particular focus on art and design, since these enduring pictures, words and symbols inspire artists and designers. The theme of the exhibition is therefore the reciprocal influence of art, traditional and lived tattoo art and visual design.


Johann Baptist von Spix. 'Journey to Brazil on command Maximilian Joseph I, King of Bavaria, in the years 1817-1820'


Johann Baptist von Spix
Journey to Brazil on command Maximilian Joseph I, King of Bavaria, in the years 1817-1820
/ made and described by Johann Baptist von Spix and Carl Friedrich von Martius – Munich: [sn], 1823 – 1831
Loan: Museum of Ethnology, Hamburg


Expedition to Brazil

Johann Baptist von Spix, 1817-1820

Between 1817 and 1820, the zoologist Johann Baptist von Spix and the botanist Carl Friedrich Philipp von Martius undertook an expedition to Brazil at the behest of Maximilian Joseph I, King of Bavaria. They were also interested in the culture of the Brazilian indigenous tribes on the Rio Yapurà, and they published their findings in a three-volume travel report. The illustration is a portrait of Juri, “The son of a cacique of the Juri nation”.

Illustrated travel books were very popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. They shaped western ideas about foreign cultures and also indicate the early interest in exotic tattooing practices. James Cook’s reports on his expeditions to the South Seas in the 18th century contain the mention of the word “tattow” derived from the Polynesian. The term quickly spread and tattooing became popular in the Western world soon afterwards.

Early ethnographic drawings and engravings such as those made by Georg Forster and Karl von den Steinen attracted widespread interest, as did photographs at a later date such as the studio portraits taken by Felice Beato in Japan. They helped to make the art of tattooing into a symbol of the eroticized alien, and a magico-mythical world of cults and rites. Tattoos elicited a mixture of fascination and revulsion right from the start, particularly in middle-class circles during the 19th century: tattooing thus developed a dual character as both stigma and mark of distinction.


Enrique Marty. 'Pablo & Ruth' 2010


Enrique Marty (*1969, Spain)
Pablo & Ruth
From the series Art is Dangerous
Oil paint on latex on polyurethane, human hair, textiles, metal
155 x 90 x 53.5 cm/143 x 60 x 35 cm
Loan: Deweer Gallery, Otegem, Belgium


Real portraits are always the starting point for Enrique Marty’s tragicomic sculptures. The tattoos of Pablo & Ruth in the Art is Dangerous series reflect the iconography of the tattoo motifs in Japanese yakuza which the artist has explored in detail and incorporated into his work. His grotesque figures also make reference to early sculptural traditions such as those used in the quaint waxworks exhibitions of the 19th century. He builds on these themes and develops an original sculptural world. Ironic inversions and humour are essential strategies which he uses as an effective weapon. “Art is dangerous”: protest or parody? An allegory of the market system? Can art be dangerous? Or should it be? What role does the art of tattooing play?



Tattoo equipment

Throughout the world tattooing is performed by introducing pigments to the dermis, or second layer of skin. Pieces of wood, thorns, bones, horns, tortoiseshells, metals and shards can be worked into tools. Depending on the shape of the tattooing implement, the patterns produced may be smooth or dotted, narrow or broad. The individual instruments have not changed greatly over the years. However, one notable step forward was the use of electricity which resulted in new techniques and styles at the beginning of the 20th century after Samuel O’Reilly had patented his rotary tattoo machine in 1891. The electric motor moves the needles up and down regularly, enabling the operator to work smoothly and steadily. It is also a less painful process for the client. These electric machines are in widespread use today. Nevertheless, traditional tools, which have hardly changed, are also still employed.

Tattoo inks

It was not until the 20th century that tattoo inks began to be manufactured as industrial products. Previously, they had been mixed in small quantities according to individual recipes using pigments, oils and plant juices. Synthetic pigments not only altered the colour spectrum and production techniques of tattoo inks, but also led to new requirements and constraints as is clear from developments over the last forty years. Today, challenges in the manufacturing process for tattoo inks primarily concern the purity of the ink production process and the quality of the pigments procured. Other requirements tend to be connected with new problems which are no longer to do with the actual pigment that is inserted into the skin. Nowadays the main focus is on the risks posed by laser treatment for tattoo removal.


The Rich Mingins Collection: 1288 Pictures of Early Western Tattooing from the Henk Schiffmacher Collection 2011


The Rich Mingins Collection: 1288 Pictures of Early Western Tattooing from the Henk Schiffmacher Collection



The Rich Mingins Collection

Rich Mingins (1916-1968) ran a tattoo studio with his father and his brother Alf Mingins in Cumbria, which is in the north-west of England, and later in London. Tattooing was his passion and he was a master of his craft. He also collected photographs and newspaper cuttings about tattoos. Today all that remains is his photo album which documents the history of tattooing from 1922 to 1949. Unfortunately, it lacks a chronology or any precise dates, and no accompanying commentary has been found. The digital version with extracts from the photo album shows his clients, other well-known tattoo artists of his era, copies of pictures that were in circulation at the time and the artist himself: Rich Mingins poses for the camera with clenched fists, displaying the picture of Jesus Christ with crown, that was tattooed on his chest by his brother Alf Mingins (no. 424).



Painting The Lily! (1936, 1.12 mins.)

In this documentary, George Burchett (1872-1953) tattoos two women with permanent makeup at his studio in the West End of London. His clientele included members of the English upper classes and European royalty such as King Alfonso XIII of Spain, King Frederick IX of Denmark and King George V of England. George Burchett also tattooed Horace Ridler, the legendary Zebra Man also known as “The Great Omi”.



Tattoo Soldiers (1942, 1.15 mins.)

Three Australian soldiers talk about their tattoos from all over the world.



Woman Tattooist (1952, 1 min.)

The first British female tattooist, Jessie Knight (1904-1994), tattoos young women soldiers in Aldershot, Hampshire. She ran a number of studios from the 1920s up to the 1980s.



Tattoo Club (1954, 1.51 mins.)

The well-known British tattooist Les Skuse (1912-1973) founded the Bristol Tattoo Club in 1953 and in 1955 he organized the world’s first tattoo competition, the precursor of the tattoo conventions of today. In the 1950s the Bristol Tattoo Club was the focal point of the tattoo scene, counting famous people such as Bob Maddison, Al Schiefley, Albert Cornelissen and Tattoo Peter among its members.


Photograph from the Christian Warlich estate, 1961


Photograph from the Christian Warlich estate, 1961
Loan: Hamburg Museum, Sammlung Fotografie



Christian Warlich: the “King of the tattoo artists”

During his lifetime, Christian Warlich (1890-1964) was held to be the greatest tattoo artist in Germany and gained an international reputation as “King of the tattoo artists”. He had taught the craft to the Hamburg tattoo legend Herbert Hoffmann and later made him to be his “Crown Prince”. Warlich himself is believed to have come into this profession by chance. After an apprenticeship as a boilermaker he had gone to sea and become acquainted with tattoo artists in the United States. From there, he brought back one of the first electric tattoo machines. In 1919, Warlich opened an inn in today’s Clemens-Schultz-Straße in St. Pauli, Hamburg, where one of the corners served as a “Modern Tattoo Studio”. Warlich took on tattooing as a serious business: he promoted the store, traded with tattoo machines and tools and in addition to his tattooing, he offered a residue-free and painless removal of tattoos by using a special tincture. Warlich was not only noticed because of his business sense, his work was characterized by craftsmanship and artistic standards, too. Unlike other tattoo artists of his time, he strove for a continuous improvement of the shapes and for the modernisation of the image repertoire. For these purposes, he developed new designs and collected all kinds of templates, for instance from Chinese sample books, movie posters or advertising images. In addition, Warlich kept in contact with tattooists all over Europe, North America and Asia. They exchanged sketches photographs and celluloid stencils with which the outlines of the motifs were transferred to the skin of the customers.

The tattooist Herbert Hoffmann: a legend

The world famous tattooist Herbert Hoffmann (1919-2010) lived through and helped shape various stages of the history of western tattooing. Throughout his life he was very keen to help tattoos gain acceptance and social approval. Having been trained by Christian Warlich, he later became the proprietor of Germany’s oldest tattoo studio in the St. Pauli district of Hamburg, where he worked until 1980. He then moved to Switzerland, where he lived with his partner Jakob Acker in Schwendi bei Heiden in the canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden. Hoffmann was active in the tattoo scene right up to his death in 2010, attending conventions throughout Europe and acting as an important role model for younger tattoo artists. He himself bore tattoos by Christian Warlich, Tattoo Peter, Tatover Ole, Horst Streckenbach and others. Throughout his life he was also a keen photographer and collector. Many of his photographs were published in the photo book Living Picture Books, Portrait of a Tattooing Passion 1878-1952, which is now out of print. The images displayed in the exhibition are from his private archive and have rarely been shown before. These are photographs from his personal albums with portraits of his friends and clients. They depict Herbert Hoffmann himself at different stages of his life, as well as his environment. At the same time, they narrate an important chapter in the history of tattooing from the 1920s to the 1970s. Unfortunately his written comments can no longer be traced.

Women and tattoos from the private collection of Herbert Hoffmann

The picture archive of the tattooist and collector Herbert Hoffmann (1919-2010) also includes photographs of tattooed women from the 1920s up to the 1970s. Some of them are photographs he took himself but others are copies and images that were circulated in various forms by like-minded people. They are not systematically arranged, most of them are undated and there is no commentary. The collection also includes iconic photographs which had a decisive impact on how tattooed women were viewed at that period. This selection of Herbert Hoffmann’s pictures is a chronicle of women with tattoos, from circus attractions of the 1920s and glamour girls of the 1960s to the predecessors of the famous “new burlesque” artists like Dita Von Teese. However, there are also photos of “ordinary women” with tattoos in the prim-and-proper 1950s and – more rarely – of female tattooists. Herbert Hoffmann’s collection ends with the “renaissance” of tattooing in the 1970s. At that time, women in particular were discovering tattoos as a sign of self-empowerment and the number of female creative tattoo artists making their way in this male-dominated profession began to increase. Today there is a huge variety of (self-)expression by tattooed women, and female tattoo artists play an essential and influential role in the rich contemporary tattoo culture.


Maud Stevens Wagner, Tattoo Artist (1877-1961, photo from 1907)


Maud Stevens Wagner, Tattoo Artist, USA (1877-1961, photo from 1907)


Maud Stevens Wagner (1877-1961)

The American tightrope walker and contortionist Maud Wagner was the first well-known female tattooist in the Western world. Like others of the small number of female tattooists in the 1920s, she learned her craft from her husband, Gus Wagner, whom she met at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904.


Lady Viola (1898-1977) Nd


Lady Viola (1898-1977)


Lady Viola (1898-1977)

Ethel Martin Vangi, who became famous as “Lady Viola”, was a circus performer and later tattooist; she had portraits of presidents Woodrow Wilson, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln tattooed on her chest. Her left thigh was tattooed with pictures of popular figures of the day, such as Babe Ruth and Charlie Chaplin.


Artoria Gibbons (1893-1985) Nd


Artoria Gibbons (1893-1985)


Artoria Gibbons (1893-1985)

Like many tattooed circus attractions, Anna Mae Burlington Gibbons was a working-class woman who had herself tattooed when she fell on hard times, and then earned good money as a result (especially as a woman). She and her husband, the tattooist Charles Gibbons, travelled all over America in the 1920s and worked as a team in the circus business. She had one tattoo showing a section of Botticelli’s Annunciation, another depicting a part of Michelangelo’s Holy Family, and her chest featured a portrait of George Washington.


Cindy Ray Nd


Cindy Ray


Cindy Ray

The last great circus lady, Cindy Ray – also known as “Miss Technicolor” or “The Classy Lassie with the Tattooed Chassis” – toured Australia and New Zealand in the 1960s. She learned how to do tattooing and is still working today under her real name, Bev Nicholas, at the Moving Pictures Tattoo Studio near Melbourne.


Imogen Cunningham. 'Irene "Bobbie" Libarry' 1976


Imogen Cunningham (1883-1976, USA)
Irene “Bobbie” Libarry
Silver gelatin estate print
19.3 x 17.8 cm
Loan: The Imogen Cunningham Trust, Lopez Island, USA


Irene “Bobbie” Libarry (1893-1978)

Irene “Bobbie” Libarry (1893-1978) worked as a circus performer, magician and market vendor. She was tattooed by her husband in 1918, ran her own sideshow “The World’s Strangest People” in the 1930s and later worked as a tattoo artist in San Francisco.


Unknown. 'Karl Paul Johann Frank' c. 1880s - 1890s


Unknown artist
Karl Paul Johann Frank
c. 1880s – 1890s
Inv. Nr. 2013 – 4492
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg


Unknown. 'Carl Wilhelm August Otto Sternke' c. 1880s - 1890s


Unknown artist
Carl Wilhelm August Otto Sternke
c. 1880s – 1890s
Inv. Nr. 2013 – 4491
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg



Images of an epoch

Numerous historical portraits of tattooed men have been preserved in the inheritance of the tattoo artist Christian Warlich (1890-1964). The pictures probably originate in the 1880s to 1890s [see both images above]. Especially typical contemporary garments, the beard and hair fashion of the time, relevant tattoo motifs from the German Empire under William I or the symbol of the tenth World Expo in 1889, the Eiffel Tower, give information about this type. All images are carefully rear numbered and labeled with the names of the people portrayed. On display are mainly dock workers and seafarers; members of underprivileged workers who were not used to posing in front of a camera. In the late 19th century, the loading work in the ports was extremely cumbersome and labour intensive, roosts such as the Hamburg Gängeviertel hosted thousands of working families. In this milieu relevant subjects such as anchors, sailboats or professional characters show the belonging to a social group. The tattoos document but beyond the story of people’s lives. There are references to the military service or the crossing of the equator, as well as prison stays or religious motives.

Preserved tattoo specimens

The specimens date from around 1900. At the time they were used to identify unknown corpses. Photography was not yet in routine use at that period and preserved specimens offered almost the only opportunity to document a tattoo in detail and keep it for later identification. The oldest known report of successful identification thanks to a tattoo dates back to the 11th century: King Harold II of England fell in battle and is said to have been identified by the inscription “Edith and England” tattooed above his heart, thanks to which he was buried in a manner befitting his rank.


Emile Lavril, Romeo und Julia Tattoo 14 November 1913, front


Emile Lavril, Romeo und Julia Tattoo
14 November 1913, front


Rudolf Archibald Reiss (1875-1929)

The criminologist, lecturer and photographer founded the “Institut de police scientifique” at the University of Lausanne in 1909. He also helped to set up courses in photography for investigative purposes at the same institution. Forensic photography, which was being carried out according to standard criteria for the first time was an essential component in his teaching. Since tattoos are important identification features, Reiss paid particular attention to them [see photograph above]. However, the technology available at the time made it difficult to obtain a sharp and accurate image. Reiss used photographs purely for forensic purposes. He refused to accept the then common opinion that offenders could be recognized simply because they had tattoos.


Arkady Bronnikov (*1926) 'Photographs of Russian convicts' 1960-1980


Eyes on the stomach denote homosexuality (the penis makes the ‘nose’ of the face). Stars on the shoulders show that an inmate is a criminal ‘authority’. The medals are awards that existed before the revolution and as such are signs of defiance towards the Soviet regime.


Arkady Bronnikov (*1926) 'Photographs of Russian convicts' 1960-1980


The devils on the shoulders of this inmate show a hatred of authority. This type of tattoo is known as an oskal (grin), a baring of teeth towards the system. They are sometimes accompanied by anti-Soviet texts.


Arkady Bronnikov (*1926) 'Photographs of Russian convicts' 1960-1980


The double-headed eagle is a Russian state symbol that dates back to the 15th century. After the fall of Communism, it replaced the hammer and sickle as the Russian Federation’s coat of arms. This Soviet-era photo is a bold symbol of rage against the USSR; the Statue of Liberty implies a longing for freedom.


Arkady Bronnikov (*1926)
Photographs of Russian convicts
Digital print on paper
Loan: Fuel Design and Publishing, London
© Arkady Bronnikov



Photographs of Russian convicts

Up until the end of the 19th century, it was usual for the government to burn the initials “B.O.R.” (Russian for thief) into thieves’ skin as a punishment. Subsequently, tattoos developed as a distinctive feature of professional criminals; serving as demarcation, identification, as well as a secret means of communication: they transmit information such as affiliation, profession, number of convictions or position in criminal hierarchies. This informal practice transliterated the original stigmatisation inflicted through the government, using a pictorial repertoire borrowed from traditional tattoo imagery while assigning a new meaning. Most of the prison tattoos were done with primitive instruments, such as modified electric shavers with attached needles. Oftentimes, a self-made mixture of rubber and urine was used as substitute ink, bearing great health risks. Arkady Bronnikov (*1926) was a leading forensic doctor at the interior ministry of the USSR. From the mid-1960s until the mid-1980s he interviewed and photographed numerous inmates of labour camps in the Urals and Siberia. Today, Bronnikov is a leading expert on tattoo iconography and owns what is considered to be one of the biggest photographic collections of Russian prison tattoos.


Klaus Pichler (*1977, Vienna) 'Untitled' (detail) Nd


Klaus Pichler (*1977, Vienna)
Untitled (detail)
Paper on aluminium
60 x 40 cm
© Klaus Pichler


Prison tattoos

The Austrian photographer Klaus Pichler (*1977) spent eight years looking for ex-prisoners, photographing their tattoos and writing down the stories behind them. The result was an impressive documentary account of the still poorly researched history of prison tattoos. The pictures and interviews were published in the book Inked for Life. The World of Prison Tattoos.


Unknown artist. 'Japanese Tattoo' 1880-1890


Unknown artist
Japanese Tattoo
Albumin paper
27 x 21 cm
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg


Tradition and taboo

The acceptance of tattoos in Japanese society is subject to constant change. In the 19th century, large tattoos were considered decorative and were carried openly by rickshaw drivers, for example. For the scantily clad men an ornate body was helpful for their business because it attracted the attention of customers. The image of bullies and petty criminals adhered to rickshaw drivers, as well as to other professions from the simple population which led to a long-term negative perception of the skin images. As an identifying feature of “outlaws” they also function in the criminal milieu of the yakuza. In the Japanese mafia organization, tattoos still illustrate the milieu name of the bearer (“serpent”, “dragon”, etc.) and document his gang membership. The result was a social aversion to tattoos which continues to this day and also unjustly criminalises innocent citizens. Unlike their historical predecessors, taxi drivers today would only flaunt their tattoos for a photographer; because they are not good for business. Tattoos in Japan were rarely shown openly; in public bath houses they are even forbidden to this day. It was only through the appreciation of the Japanese tattoo tradition by the American tattoo scene of the 1960s and 1970s that the taboo was partially revised.



Masahiko Adachi (*1983, Tokyo)
Flesh Color
Animation / 4 Min.


Utagawa Kuniyoshi. 'Tanmeijirôgenshôgo' 1827-1830


Utagawa Kuniyoshi
Tanmei jirôgenshôgo
Colour woodcut on paper
38.7 x 26 cm
Inv. Nr. S2012.56
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg



Japanese colour woodcuts: The 108 heroes of the “Suikoden”

The Japanese name “Suikoden” stands for a famous Chinese adventure story that became very popular in both countries. In this story, a group of rebels fights against corruption and injustice, campaigning for the poor and the disadvantaged. The story originates in the 14th century and is set in the 12th century. For the first time, Kuniyoshi displays these rebels with naked, tattooed bodies which lead to a great success of the book. Until today, the Suikoden is a well-known theme of Japanese culture such as computer games and TV series.


Fumie Sasabuchi (*1975, Tokio / Berlin) 'Untitled' 2004


Fumie Sasabuchi (*1975, Tokyo / Berlin)
Pencil on paper
29.5 x 20.5 cm
Loan: private collection, Austria
© Fumie Sasabuchi


Fumie Sasabuchi draws irezumi tattoos on the skin of pictures of young girls taken from the children’s fashion magazine Vogue Angels. The motifs of the tattoos are part of the traditional repertoire of the Japanese yakuza mafia, and symbolise mortal danger, superhuman strength and special protection, among other things. Sasabuchi unites two media from Western and Eastern popular culture: photography from modern fashion magazines and the traditional woodcut. She combines Japanese myths with Western picture subjects and plays with the ensuing ambivalent images.


Christian Poveda. 'El Gangster de Iberia (Mara Salvatrucha)' San Salvador, 2008


Christian Poveda (1955-2009, France)
El Gangster de Iberia (Mara Salvatrucha)
San Salvador, 2008
Paper on aluminium
60 x 58 cm
Loan: Agence Vu’, Paris
© Christian Poveda / Agence VU’



The Mara Salvatrucha gang warfare in El Salvador

Twelve years of civil war in El Salvador came to an end in 1992. Today, gang warfare is an everyday reality in San Salvador, mainly because of two gangs: the Mara Salvatrucha (MS) and the Mara 18 (18). Every year 2,000 people die as a result. Some 14,000 abandoned youths dedicate their lives to the gangs which replace their families. They are the successors of the US gangs that were founded in the 1980s by refugees from the Salvadoran civil war. The Mara gangs today, which originated in the ghettos of Los Angeles, have over 70,000 members in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Members generally have a tattoo containing the letters M or MS, as well as the number 13 which refers to the position of M in the alphabet. Tattoos in the shape of teardrops represent the number of murders committed, or commemorate the death of a fellow Mara member and friend. The words “La vida loca” stand for “the crazy life” in the Mara, and a downward-pointing M formed with the fingers is used as a sign of recognition.

The Spanish-French photographer and documentary filmmaker Christian Poveda spent over a year with members of the Mara. He followed the lives of these “lost youths”, documenting them through interviews, impressive photographs and the film La vida loca (El Salvador / France / 2008 / 90 mins.). Poveda was killed by several shots to the head in San Salvador in 2009 while working on another film.


Jens Uwe Parkitny. 'Ma Hla Oo, Laytu-Chin, Northern Rakhine' 2005


Jens Uwe Parkitny (*1965, Singapore)
Ma Hla Oo, Laytu-Chin, Northern Rakhine
Paper on aluminium
30 x 30 cm
© Jens Uwe Parkitny


Face tattoos, Burma

The face tattoos of the Chin women in Burma form part of a ritual to mark the transition from childhood to the adult world. Female tattoo artists use thorns 17 or needles to prick patterns into the skin. The symbolic meaning of the lines and dots cannot be ascertained, since no records exist. All that is known is that the patterns differentiate one clan from another. Although the tradition of facial tattooing has died out in many parts of Burma, it is now experiencing a partial revival.


Becky Nunes. 'Shane Te Ruki' 2005


Becky Nunes
Shane Te Ruki
From the series Mau Moko, The World Of Maori Tattoo
Digital print
© Becky Nunes


Becky Nunes. 'Taurewa Vic Biddle' 2005


Becky Nunes
Taurewa Vic Biddle
From the series Mau Moko, The World Of Maori Tattoo
Digital print
© Becky Nunes


Becky Nunes. 'June Tangohau' 2005


Becky Nunes
June Tangohau
From the series Mau Moko, The World Of Maori Tattoo
Digital print
© Becky Nunes



Tã Moko, New Zealand

The Tã moko facial tattoos of the Maori in New Zealand give information about family membership, ancestors and social position, as well as the specific abilities of the tattooed person. Each part of the face is dedicated to a particular type of information. Few people have a tattoo in the centre of the forehead, for example, since this indicates high status. Men can usually wear tattoos over the entire face, whereas women have them only on the chin area. This tattoo tradition has been suppressed for a long period, as also happened in other cultures, but the Tã moko have recently been experiencing a renaissance.

Mau Moko:
photographic images of the world of Maori tattoo by Becky Nunes

“These are impressive and moving images, which deserve exhibition simply in their own right.
More than that, they place moko in a contemporary context, expressing the art as a living, relevant force in our culture and not some struggling remnant of a distant past. They strongly counter the negative connotations of moko.” (Hamish Keith, Art Historian 2009)
Mau Moko: the World of Maori Tattoo
 began as a research project at the University of Waikato, and evolved into a major publication, a scholarly yet entertaining journey from the art’s Pacific chisel origins to the marae workshops and sophisticated urban studios of Aotearoa today. It has been essentially a visual experience – the exacting portraiture of Parkinson and Jenner-Merrett, the iconic canvasses of Goldie and Lindauer, the pretty, ubiquitous postcard albums, and most recently, the brooding, elemental image-making of Westra and Friedlander, have all marked their own place, in their own time. With Mau Moko, and the consummate artistry of this collection, we reach the twenty first century. Becky Nunes’ eloquent lens engages the viewer, and the viewed, and one wonders who is saying
“Tirohia, he moko!”
It is about us. And yes, it is forever.

Ngahuia Te Awekotuku. May 2008

In December 2007 Penguin Books published Mau Moko, The World Of Maori Tattoo. The result of several years’ research, the book explores the cultural and spiritual issues around ta moko, and relates the stories of its wearers and practitioners. Mau Moko was authored by Ngahuia Te Awekotuku and Linda Waimarie Nikora with contemporary portraits photographed by Becky Nunes. Becky Nunes is a photographic artist and educator, making images for a range of commercial and editorial clients, as well as her own personal work. She heads the Photo Media department at Whitecliffe College of Arts & Design. For the Mau Moko project Nunes travelled through both the North and South Islands of Aotearoa/New Zealand meeting and photographing wearers and practitioners of ta moko. For more information please email Becky Nunes.


Aroon Thaewchatturat. 'Num, blessed photograph' Bangkok, 2010


Aroon Thaewchatturat (*1975, Bangkok)
Num, blessed photograph
Bangkok, 2010
Paper on plastic
60 x 40 cm
© Aroon Thaewchatturat



Sak Yant, Thailand

Sacred tattoos known as Sak Yant are commonly found in Thailand. They protect the bearers from accidents, misfortune and crime. At the same time they help them to lead a morally upright life. However, the rules set by the tattooist must be obeyed or the tattoos lose their power. Sak Yants are not intended for public view and therefore often kept hidden. The motifs used are derived from ancient Khmer script writings and animal symbols such as tigers, dragons, birds, snakes and lizards. The tiger, or Yant Sua, is a popular subject and is associated with strength, fearlessness and power.

Tattoo Master

There are several hundred tattooists in Thailand. Monks tattoo in their temples, and tattoo masters in studios. They are authority figures and their followers also seek advice from them. The sacred tattoos link tattooist and tattooed for a lifetime. 38-year-old Achan Neng Onnut is a tattoo master in On Nut, a district of Bangkok. The pricked motif is called Pho Kae. It depicts a recluse, or hermit, and bestows wisdom, goodness and a peaceful mind to the bearer. The tattoo master recites a mantra in order to activate the tattoo.



Santiago Sierra (*1966, Madrid / Mexico D.F.)
250 cm line tattooed on six paid people
Espacio Aglutinador, Havanna / Cuba / doc. / 28.17 mins. / no sound
Loan: Galerie Kow, Berlin


In 1999 Santiago Sierra recruited six young unemployed men in Havana to stand in a row and have a horizontal line tattooed on them, running continuously from one man’s back to the next, in exchange for 30 dollars each. Further versions of this performance were carried out and documented as simply as possible. It alludes to the unequal values of capitalist society and to the relative and haphazard nature of remuneration. The imprecise line drawn of the tattoos suggests scarring, so the participants in the performance – members of socially marginalized groups – were subjected to further stigmatisation.


Artur Żmijewski. '80064' 2004


Artur Żmijewski (*1966, Warsaw)
11 mins.
Polish with English subtitles
Loaned by the artist and Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zürich


The Polish artist Artur Żmijewski takes an unsparing and provocative look at the tattooing that took place in the Nazi concentration camps. His video shows 92-year-old Auschwitz survivor Josef Tarnawa whom the artist persuaded to have his fading camp number re-inked. While the tattooist is renewing the numbers, Josef Tarnawa recalls the most traumatic time of his life. Artur Żmijewski’s video work polarises opinions. On the one hand, Josef Tarnawa is stigmatized for a second time, but on the other, the number on his left forearm acts as a shocking memorial. According to Artur Żmijewski, nowadays active remembrance is often far too conventional.

In the history of western tattooing, brands and involuntary tattoos have receded into the background, although the practices used during the Second World War remain deep in people’s memories. Whereas the prisoners in Auschwitz were numbered, members of the SS had their blood group tattooed on their upper arms. This meant that after the war, what had started out as a useful medical information turned out to be an irreversible identification mark. The social connotations of a tattoo change over time, with proud insider symbols becoming the stigmata of an outsider group.



Wim Delvoye (*1965, Belgium)
Tattoo, loan: Sammlung Reinking, Hamburg


Tim Steiner, a Swiss citizen, has had a work by the Belgian conceptual artist Wim Delvoye tattooed on his back. In 2008 the tattoo was sold to a Hamburg-based art collector who acquired the right to lend, sell and bequeath Tim Steiner as a loan object and to preserve his skin after his death. Since then, the work, called Tim, has given rise to international controversy. It raises important questions about ethics in the art market, and about power and the right to dispose of the human body (and its organs, such as the skin).


Chris Eckert. 'Auto Ink' 2010


Chris Eckert (*1968, USA)
Auto Ink
Metal, paint, microelectronics
137 x 56 x 50 cm
Loaned by the artist



The kinetic sculpture of American artist Chris Eckert draws a random religious symbol on the arm of a volunteer subject. Membership of a religion integrates, connects and offers an ethical and moral framework for living with others. Yet many faiths compete with each other and regard the others with resentment and politically motivated enmity. Chris Eckert’s tattooing machine explores how having a particular faith can affect peaceful coexistence in a globalized world.

In European history, the now defunct tradition of religious pilgrim tattoos is an example of the practice of tattooing as a mark of identity and segregation. Examples include the crusader tattoos and tattooed guild symbols in the Middle Ages.


Thea Duskin. 'Untitled' 2011


Thea Duskin
Foto: Kimberly Frost
© Thea Duskin


Contemporary tattoo art

Inking the skin requires the same aesthetic imagination and care, the same manual dexterity, and the same knowledge of materials and colour as other artistic processes. The innovative contemporary tattoo scene is transcend¬ing the language of classical tattooing and regenerating the medium. The image loop shows a diverse range of top quality works by international tattoo artists in a huge variety of styles.


Frank Taki. 'Über(leben)' 2014


Frank Taki


Tradition and modernity

The rich and cross-cultural collection of the MKG has served as an inspiration for creative work to artists and craftspeople for over 130 years. The classic ornaments of historism, the floral patterns of art nouveau or the spirited characters of Japanese wood cuts: the continuous examination with this kind of historic artwork and its adaption into one’s own visual language are just as much a part of the art of tattooing as the creation of new images. In the autumn of 2014, the MKG has invited a selection of Hamburg tattoo artists to use the museum’s collection as a starting point for new tattoo designs.


Timm Ulrichs. 'The End Eyelid tattoo' 1970/1981/1997


Timm Ulrichs (*1940, Berlin)
The End
Eyelid tattoo, 1970/1981/1997
Inkjet print on canvas on stretcher bars, 150 x 150 cm
Loaned by the artist


In 1981, Timm Ulrichs had THE END tattooed on his right eyelid by “Tattoo Samy” (Horst Heinrich Streckenbach). The tattoo, which can only be read when the eye is closed, recalls the final credits of a film, the last performance and the final moment. This tattoo event was also documented on film, created in the context of the video of the same name which juxtaposes 60 final images.



Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Steintorplatz, 20099 Hamburg

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday 10 am – 6 pm
Thursday 10 am – 9 pm
Closed Mondays

Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg website


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Exhibition: ‘Forced Labour. The Germans, the Forced Labourers and the War’ at the Jewish Museum, Berlin

Exhibition dates: 28th September 2010 – 30th January 2011


G. Gronfeld. 'Arrival at the transit camp' 1942


G. Gronfeld
Arrival at the transit camp


Female forced labourers from the Soviet Union on their arrival at the Berlin-Wilhelmshagen Transit Camp, December 1942.
Source: Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin



This is an emotional and sobering posting. The photograph of the Liberated forced laborer with tuberculosis by an unknown photographer (1945, below) is as heartbreaking as the photograph of a mother and child, Tomoko Uemura in Her Bath, Minamata (1972) by Eugene Smith. The look on the man’s face when I first saw it made me burst into tears… it is difficult to talk about it now without being overcome. An unknown man photographed by an unknown photographer.

There is something paradoxical about the solidity of the doctor’s steel helmet, his uniform and the fact he is a doctor contrasted with the strength, size and gentleness of his hand as it rests near the elbow of this emaciated man, this human … yet the intimacy and tenderness of this gesture, as the man stares straight into the camera lens – is so touching that to look at this picture, is almost unbearable. Man’s (in)humanity to man.


Some pertinent facts

The Germans abducted about 12 million people from almost twenty European countries; about two thirds of whom came from Eastern Europe. Many workers died as a result of their living conditions, mistreatment or were civilian casualties of the war. They received little or no compensation during or after the war … At the peak of the war, one of every five workers in the economy of the Third Reich was a forced labourer. According to Fried, in January 1944 the Third Reich was relying on 10 million forced labourers. Of these, 6.5 million were civilians within German borders, 2.2 million were prisoners of war, and 1.3 million were located at forced labor camps outside Germany’s borders. Homze reported that civilian forced labourers from other countries working within the German borders rose steeply from 300,000 in 1939 to more than 5 million in 1944.


Russian Foreign Civilian Forced Labourers in Nazi Germany (total number approximately): 2,000,000

Russian Number of Known and Estimated Survivors Reported by Reconciliation Foundations: 334,500

(Source: Beyer, John C. and Schneider, Stephen A. “Forced Labour under Third Reich – Part 1” (pdf). Nathan Associates Inc.. 1999.)


Russian “volunteer” POW workers

“Between 22 June 1941 and the end of the war, roughly 5.7 million members of the Red Army fell into German hands. In January 1945, 930,000 were still in German camps. A million at most had been released, most of whom were so-called “volunteer” (Hilfswillige) for (often compulsory) auxiliary service in the Wehrmacht. Another 500,000, as estimated by the Army High Command, had either fled or been liberated. The remaining 3,300,000 (57.5 percent of the total) had perished.”

(Source: Streit, Christian. Keine Kameraden: Die Wehrmacht und die Sowjetischen Kriegsgefangenen, 1941-1945, Bonn: Dietz (3. Aufl., 1. Aufl. 1978))

The remaining 3,300,000 had perished. A sobering figure indeed (if you can even imagine such a number of human beings).

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Many thankx to the Jewish Museum in Berlin for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photograph for a larger version of the image.



Unknown. 'Liberated forced laborer with tuberculosis' 1945


Liberated forced laborer with tuberculosis


A doctor of the U.S. Army examines a former forced labourer from Russia who was ill with tuberculosis. The Americans had discovered the sick forced labourers in a barrack yard in Dortmund. Dortmund, 30 April 1945.
Source: National Archives, Washington


G. Gronfeld. 'Registration at the transit camp' 1942


G. Gronfeld
Registration at the transit camp


Berlin-Wilhelmshagen Transit Camp, December 1942. Labour office staff registered the forced labourers and handed out employment certificates.
Source: Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin


Unknown. 'Humiliation of Bernhard Kuhnt in Chemnitz' Nd


Humiliation of Bernhard Kuhnt in Chemnitz


The inscription, “Always dignified! The naval fleet’s mutineer Bernh. Kuhnt arrives at his new workplace (washing off the dirt),” refers to the myth that mutinous social democratic and communist sailors were responsible for the defeat of the German empire in the First World War.
Source: Bundesarchiv, Koblenz


Unknown. 'Selection in a Prisoner of War Camp: Recruitment for Mining' 1942


Selection in a Prisoner of War Camp: Recruitment for Mining


In the summer of 1942, Soviet prisoners of war were selected from the prisoner of war camp Zeithain to perform forced labor in Belgian mines.
Source: Gedenkstätte Ehrenhain Zeithain


Selection in a Prisoner of War Camp

In the summer of 1942, Karl Schmitt – head of the Wehrmacht mining division in Liège, Belgium – went to Berlin on vacation with his wife. On the way, he visited the Zeithain prisoner of war camp in Saxony. The Soviet POWs were ordered to present themselves for inspection with the aim of deploying them to Belgian mines under German control. They were accordingly checked for physical fitness. Karl Schmitt decided who was to be transported to Belgium and who was not.

Soviet prisoners of war were frequently put to work in mines. The Reich Security Main Office had ruled that they could be employed only in work gangs kept separate from German workers. The authorities considered the mines particularly suitable in that respect.
Source: Gedenkstätte Ehrenhain Zeithain.



Over 20 million men, women, and children were taken to Germany and the occupied territories from all over Europe as “foreign workers,” prisoners of war, and concentration camp inmates to perform forced labor. By 1942, forced laborers were part of daily life in Nazi Germany. The deported workers from all over Europe and Eastern Europe in particular were exploited in armament factories, on building sites and farms, as craftsmen, in public institutions and private households. Be it as a soldier of the occupying army in Poland or as a farmer in Thuringia, all Germans encountered forced laborers and many profited from them. Forced labor was no secret but a largely public crime.

The exhibition Forced Labor. The Germans, the Forced Laborers, and the War on view at the Jewish Museum in Berlin provides the first comprehensive presentation of the history of forced labor and its ramifications after 1945. The exhibition was curated by the Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation and initiated and sponsored by the “Remembrance, Responsibility and Future” Foundation. Federal President Christian Wulff has assumed patronage for the exhibition. The exhibition’s first venue on its international tour is the Jewish Museum Berlin, other venues are planned in European capitals and in North America.

Forced labor was without precedent in European history. No other Nazi crime involved so many people – as victims, perpetrators, or onlookers. The exhibition provides the first comprehensive presentation of the history of this ubiquitous Nazi crime and its ramifications after 1945. It shows how forced labor was part of the Nazi regime’s racist social order from the outset: The propagated “Volksgemeinschaft” (people’s community) and forced labor for the excluded belonged together. The German “Herrenmenschen” (superior race) ruthlessly exploited those they considered “Untermenschen” (subhumans). The ordinariness and the broad societal participation of forced labor reflect the racist core of Nazism.

The exhibition pays special attention to the relationships between Germans and forced laborers. Every German had to decide whether to treat forced laborers with a residual trace of humanity or with the supposedly required racist frostiness and implacability of a member of an allegedly superior race. How Germans made use of the scope this framework reveals something not only about the individuals but also about the allure and shaping power of Nazi ideology and practice. Through this perspective, the exhibition goes beyond a presentation of forced labor in the narrow sense to illustrate the extent to which Nazi values had infiltrated German society. Forced labor cannot be passed off as a mere crime of the regime but should rather be considered a crime of society.

Over 60 representative case histories form the core of the exhibition. As is true of the majority of documents on show, they resulted from meticulous investigations in Europe, the USA, and Israel. Moreover the exhibition team viewed hundreds of interviews with former forced laborers that have been carried out in recent years. In terms of content, these case histories range from the degrading work of the politically persecuted in Chemnitz through the murderous slave labor performed by Jews in occupied Poland to daily life as a forced laborer on a farm in Lower Austria.

Among the surprises of the extensive international archival research was discovering unexpectedly broad photographic coverage of significant events. The photos relating to the case histories represent the second pillar of the exhibition. Whole series of photos were traced back to their creator and the scene and people depicted. This presentation, based on well-founded sources, allows quasi dramatic insight into aspects of forced labor. Cinematically arranged photo or photo-detail enlargements form the introduction to the continued inquiry into the history of forced labor.

The exhibition is divided into four sections. The first covers the years from 1933 to 1939 and unveils in particular how the racist ideology of Nazi forced labor struck roots. What was propagated up to the beginning of WWII, partly laid down in laws and widely implemented by society in practice, formed the basis for the subsequent radicalisation of forced labor in occupied Europe culminating in extermination through labor. This escalation and radicalisation is the focus of the second section of the exhibition. The third part covers forced labor as a mass phenomenon in the Third Reich from 1941/42, ending with the massacre of forced laborers at the end of the war. The fourth section explores the period from the time of liberation in 1945 to society’s analysis and recognition of forced labor as a crime today. Former forced laborers have the last word.

Press release from The Jewish Museum website.
Forced Labor exhibition website


Unknown. 'Daimler facility in Minsk' 1942


Daimler facility in Minsk


Female forced laborers of the Daimler facility in Minsk, September 1942.
Source: Mercedes-Benz Classic, Archive, Stuttgart


Minsk: German firms in occupied Eastern Europe

In Minsk, a town which had suffered major destruction, Daimler-Benz ran a large repair facility for motorised Wehrmacht vehicles. Together, Daimler and Organisation Todt set up more than thirty repair sheds on the grounds of a ruined military base. With a workforce of five thousand, the facility was soon one of the largest enterprises in occupied Eastern Europe. The management exploited prisoners of war and members of the local population, among them Jews. Laborers were also deported from White Russian villages to the Minsk works as part of the effort to crush the partisan movement.

In the occupied areas of Eastern Europe, many German companies took advantage of the opportunity to take over local firms or establish branch operations. The unlimited availability of laborers was an important factor in their business strategies.


Unknown. 'Foreign workers at BMW in Allach' 1943


Foreign workers at BMW in Allach
c. 1943


All the foreigners in aircraft engine production had to be visibly identifiable as such. The Soviet prisoners of war had the “SU” symbol on their jackets. Concentration camp inmates could be recognised by their striped uniforms. These photographs were most likely propaganda photos. Munich-Allach, c. 1943.
Source: BMW Group Archiv.


Munich-Allach: Working for BMW

Toward the end of the war ninety percent of the workforce at the largest aircraft engine factory in the German Reich – BMW’s plant in Munich-Allach – consisted of foreign civilian workers, POWs and concentration camp inmates. The number of workers had risen from 1,000 in 1939 to more than 17,000 in 1944.

Forced laborers worked not only in the assembly halls, but also on the factory’s expansion. Due to BMW’s importance to the armament industry, the authorities gave it priority over other companies in the assignment of workers. Nevertheless, its personnel demand was never completely met.

Some of the Western European workers lived in private quarters. For all others, barrack camps were set up all around the factory grounds until 1944, ultimately accommodating 14,000 people. That figure included several thousand concentration camp inmates which the company management had applied for already in 1942.


Unknown. 'KZ-prisoners on the industrial union color building site, Auschwitz' c. 1943


KZ-prisoners on the industrial union color building site, Auschwitz
c. 1943
Source: © Bundesarchiv, Koblenz


Unknown. 'Liberated Jewish women' 1945


Liberated Jewish women


These young Jewish women were released from a forced labor camp at Kauritz (Saxony) by U.S. Army troops in early April, 1945. They are part of a large group removed from homes in France, Holland, Belgium and other occupied areas in Europe.
Source: National Archives, Washington


Unknown. 'Wladyslaw Kolopoleski' Nd


Wladyslaw Kolopoleski


“In addition to the hard work, which exceeded my strength, I was beaten on the slightest provocation, sometimes to the point of unconsciousness. Once, for example, I suffered a severe head injury after I was beaten by Max Ewert, an SA officer. I not only lost consciousness, but I had to have head surgery,” wrote Władysław Kołopoleski, a young Pole born in Łódź in 1932. He was deployed in April 1940 on the estate of mayor Max Ewert in Gervin, now Górawino, in Pomerania.
Source: Foundation “Polish-German Reconciliation,” Warsaw



Jewish Museum Berlin
Lindenstraße 9-14, 10969 Berlin
Phone: +49 (0)30 259 93 300

Opening hours:
10 am – 8 pm

The Jewish Museum website

Forced Labor exhibition website


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Jeff Gusky photographs from the exhibition ‘Of Life and Loss: The Polish Photographs of Roman Vishniac and Jeffrey Gusky’ at the Detroit Institute of Arts

Exhibition dates: 15th April – 12th July, 2009


Jeff Gusky. 'Corridor in Kazimierz (Former Jewish District)' Cracow, Poland 1996


Jeff Gusky
Corridor in Kazimierz (Former Jewish District)
Cracow, Poland 1996



As promised photographs by Jeff Gusky from the exhibition Of Life and Loss: The Polish Photographs of Roman Vishniac and Jeffrey Gusky. Many thanks to Jeff for making them available to me. I have tried to form a small narrative from some of the photographs that Jeff sent me, like a piece of music. The flow through passageways and doorways forming rivers of light and dark ends in the ascending stairs that hold the possibility of deliverance and redemption. The image is reminiscent of photographs by Eugene Atget.

The most beautiful video and music (see below) is entirely appropriate for this post: Gorecki Symphony No. 3 “Sorrowful Songs” – Lento e Largo.

Dr Marcus Bunyan


Jeff Gusky. 'Former Jewish Home in Use as a Public Toilet' Dzialoszyce, Poland 1996


Jeff Gusky
Former Jewish Home in Use as a Public Toilet
Dzialoszyce, Poland 1996


Jeff Gusky. 'Desecrated Synagogue and Jewish School' Dzialoszyce, Poland 1999


Jeff Gusky
Desecrated Synagogue and Jewish School
Dzialoszyce, Poland 1999


Jeff Gusky. 'Lublin Corridor #1' Lublin, Poland 1999


Jeff Gusky
Lublin Corridor #1
Lublin, Poland 1999


Jeff Gusky. 'Birkenau Silhouette' Auschwitz, Poland 1996


Jeff Gusky
Birkenau Silhouette
Auschwitz, Poland 1996


Jeff Gusky. 'Where They Lived #4' Cracow, Poland 2001


Jeff Gusky
Where They Lived #4
Cracow, Poland 2001



Gorecki Symphony No. 3 “Sorrowful Songs” – Lento e Largo



Detroit Institute of Arts
5200 Woodward Avenue
Detroit, Michigan 48202
Phone: 313.833.7900

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Thursday 9 am – 4 pm
Friday 9 am – 10 pm
Saturday – Sunday 10 am – 5 pm
Monday Closed

Detroit Institute of the Arts website


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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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