2005 Mirroring Evil: Timing, Trauma and Temporary Exhibitions. To be published in Strategies of Engagment: Museums After Modernism, Griselda Pollock and Joyce Zemans, eds. Oxford, Blackwell's Books.

Mirroring Evil: Evil Mirrored: Timing, Trauma and Temporary Exhibitions [1]

to be published in Strategies of Engagement: Museums After Modernism, Griselda Pollock and Joyce Zemans, eds. Oxford, Blackwell's Books.



Setting the stage

On March 17, 2002, Mirroring Evil: Nazi Imagery/Recent Art opened at the Jewish Museum in New York. The exhibition was unlike any exhibition in a Jewish Museum to date about art and the Holocaust. Before, imagery focused on victims of the Holocaust and the overall feeling tone was one of mourning. In Mirroring Evil, viewers were surrounded by Nazi imagery and left without any sense of certainty about how to respond to hitherto taboo images of Hitler, games about the Holocaust, and the sexual tugs of Fascism. As they struggled between states of voyeurism, repugnance, humour, engagement and fear as well as their assumptions of what to expect in a Jewish Museum, many viewers reacted negatively to the exhibition.

The museum understood that the premises of the exhibition were controversial but believed that it had a responsibility to present the ways younger artists with links to either victims or perpetrators of the Holocaust were grappling with their respective legacies. In doing so, the Jewish Museum sought to expand debates and dialogues about how museums represent the Holocaust. Even if the art was difficult, the Jewish Museum believed that it was important to exhibit artworks that portrayed a different range of responses, both as a source of information and as a catalyst for reconsidering Jewish museum Holocaust exhibition practice.

Mirroring Evil consisted of nineteen works by thirteen artists, some of whom are Jewish. All were under the age of forty. They came from eight countries including Israel, the USA, Austria, Germany and Poland. Most of the work had been exhibited in museums elsewhere but this was the first time the art was exhibited in a group exhibition.  Norman Kleeblatt, curator of the exhibition, had identified a generation of artists using the ideas and cool language of conceptual art to create art about the roles of commercialization and the mass media, play, and sexual fantasy in relation to Nazi imagery and the ways the Holocaust functions in Western societies today. The very density of so many provocative works displayed together augmented the sense that artists were grappling with a variety of distinctive ways of coming to terms with their current relationships to an horrific history. The museum's installation with its dramatic presentation and crisp choreography played a major role in constructing an exhibition environment which simultaneously mimicked and deconstructed the aesthetic language of Nazi displays.

Norman Kleeblatt, the curator of the exhibition, based Mirroring Evil on a number of premises about representation and reality. To paraphrase:

(The Holocaust continues to play a major role in our lives. For example, Jewish identity today is linked inextricably to the Holocaust and German refugee law is a response to that country's role in the Holocaust.

(Younger generations have no direct experience of the Holocaust and know it only through images. Usually, these are filmic. In March 2003, Roman Polanski's docu-drama, The Pianist, based on an autobiographical account of Wladyslaw Szpilman's survival in Nazi Poland and Menno Meyjes' fictional Max which portrays Hitler as a young man seeking his destiny in art or politics played simultaneously and prominently in North American  cities.

(Images of Nazis are pervasive and glamorized in our society. Gorgeous, well-dressed Nazi officers are cultural icons.

(When faced with evil, our responses may not be adequate. Put another way, not everyone is a hero, or not a hero all of the time. Szpilman in the The Pianist risks his life when asking for his brother's release and when carrying guns into the Warsaw ghetto but does not remain to fight in the uprising.

(Everyone has a moral responsibility when confronted with evil but translating that responsibility into effective action does not always occur.

(Sometimes the line between moral certainty and moral ambiguity is not clear. 


My roles

            I was involved with the exhibition at various stages and in four different ways - as an advisor, a consultant, an author, and moderator of a public program. Because of my previous writings on trauma and the representation of the Holocaust in Jewish Historical Museums, I was invited to be a member of the Scholars Advisory Committee established by the museum for the exhibition. The Committee was asked to comment on the advisability and viability of the exhibition concept during the initial planning stages. Its members included Ernst Van Alphen, author of Caught by History: Holocaust Effects in Contemporary Art, Literature and Theory; Sidra Esrahi, author of By Words Alone: The Holocaust in Literature; Lisa Saltzman, author of Anselm Kiefer and Art After Auschwit;, Ellen Handler Spitz author of Museums of the Mind: Magritte's Labyrinth and Other Essays in the Arts; and James Young, author of The Texture of Memory:Holocaust Memorials and Meaning and At Memory's Edge: After Images of the Holocaust in Contemporary Art. Later, I was hired as a consultant to advise on strategies the museum could utilize to minimize the inevitable discomfort and controversies the exhibition would provoke in Holocaust survivor communities. My official involvement with planning the exhibition ended in July 2000.

 I also wrote an essay for the catalogue. Playing it Safe: The Display of Transgressive Art in the Museum charts recent art world controversies, suggests a psychoanalytic interpretation of visitor anger when notions of Eros and Thanatos are destabilized in the safe space of the museum and links feelings of abandonment in this regard to the museum as D.W. Winnicott's ''not good enough mother.'' Lastly, with art critic Eleanor Heartney, I moderated a public debate about the exhibition on April 11, 2002. My long-term, long distance association with the museum and the exhibition allows me an insider/outsider perspective.

Reception of the exhibition

Mirroring Evil was the first group exhibition in North America of contemporary artists using ''imagery from the Nazi era to explore the nature of evil [2] .'' Even before the exhibition opened at the Jewish Museum in New York on March 17, 2002, art critics and Holocaust survivors decided that the exhibition was ''wrong'' and, for the most part, maintained that opinion after seeing the exhibition itself. In what follows, I want to look closely at the criticism by each group, to re-stage the content and tone of their arguments. Then, I would like to offer some interpretations for understanding the vehemence of those who spoke so stridently against Mirroring Evil. I will link the negative reception of Mirroring Evil to concepts of timing and trauma and, then, to the innovative typology used to install the exhibition.          

Every aspect of Mirroring Evil was criticized, both before and during the exhibition. Its title was picked apart. The thesis - an exhibition portraying perpetrators, not victims - was castigated. The museum was chastised for even having contemplated mounting the exhibition. The selection of artists was maligned. The art was denigrated as juvenile or pornographic. The style of the art was declared unworthy because it was perceived as late, late, out-of date conceptualism. Individual pieces - and they vary from reviewer to reviewer <ETH> were vilified. The extent of the didactic material was disparaged and the exhibition was accused of being overly framed. The curator and writers for the catalogue were taken to task for, in the words of Ron Rosenbaum, author of Explaining Hitler, smothering the art, shackling it to a straitjacket of jargon and substituting ''a simplistic moral relativism for engagement with the issues. [3] ''

The museum expected criticism from Holocaust Survivors. Some protested to the press and the museum before the exhibition opened. Others picketed for one hour on the opening day. Elie Weisel, Auschwitz and Buchenwald survivor and Nobel Laureate, called the exhibition ''a betrayal''. Menachem  Z. Rosensaft, head of the International Network of Children of Holocaust Survivors, labelled it ''trivializing''  and  ''a desecration'' [4] . Darren Marks, Chairman of Young Americans for Freedom, declared the exhibition ''disgusting'' and ''a mockery'' [5] .

Daring to suggest not all people image or imagine the Holocaust as a narrative of victimhood or a forum for mourning was deemed unacceptable. One explanation for their dissension is that Mirroring Evil offered a different set of images than those already familiar from Holocaust museums and memorials, Jewish museums, and previous art exhibitions in North America about the Holocaust. For many Holocaust Survivors, the questions and concerns raised in a number of studies and in Mirroring Evil  about ''Shoah business'', the commodification of the Holocaust, the eroticism of fascism, and the construction of Jewish identity as inextricable from the Holocaust simply were not relevant .


One of the main arguments brought by Holocaust Survivors was the question of timing. The museum was accused of not respecting survivors and their children, of unnecessarily re-opening the wounds of trauma, of inflicting additional pain, all the more reprehensibly because it was a Jewish museum, one of their own, causing such grief. Timing is always a concern when confronting and working through trauma. For some, the sooner trauma is addressed the better. For most, trauma is encountered layer by layer, unfolding over time, never completely healed, more or less worked through. Working through trauma, by necessity, is painful.  To mask trauma, to paper it over, to avoid elements or layers of traumatic events also produces pain, perhaps of a different kind, but the possibility that those who have been traumatized will become less fixated or free from acting out diminishes.

There are those who believe it essential to tell and retell the narrative of their trauma. Many build Holocaust museums and mount Holocaust exhibitions in an effort to bear witness and to memorialize the murdered as well as construct a pedagogic instrument in an effort to deter future genocides. They are tenacious in their belief that the Holocaust and its evils are represented from a perspective of victimhood. Perhaps too tenacious for they disallow any alternatives. The museum's question, ''Who can speak for the Holocaust?'', placed on one of the wall text panels and in advertisements for the exhibition, is frightening to those who believe that no one but Survivors can say anything meaningful about what happened.

Somewhat unexpectedly, the attacks were extraordinarily widespread from within the sophisticated New York art community. Peter Schjeldahl in his New Yorker review, ''The Hitler Show'' (April 1, 2002) called the exhibition ''trivial shock,'' ''diletantish sado-masochism,'' ''solemn smut,'' and ''toxic narcissism.'' Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times, both before and after Mirroring Evil opened, declared the exhibition disrespectful and condescending and called it ''cheap and obvious''. He ended his March 15th review commenting on It's the Real Thing - Self Portrait at Buchenwald, 1993, where Alan Schechner, the artist, inserts an image of himself holding a coke can into the famous Margaret Bourke-White photograph of concentration camp survivors. Kimmelman states: ''Really it's just another twist on Duchamp's painted moustache on the Mona Lisa, a work of mischievous irreverence, nothing original, with the psychological ante upped by connection to Hitler [6] .'' Kimmelman dismissed Schechner's explanation of the work functioning in relation to issues of identity and identification, refused to acknowledge any commentary on concentration camp tourism, and ignored how viewers' manipulation of the digital work in time echoes the subtle changes over time we bring to history when looking back from a different, place or context.

Art Spiegelman, creator of the 1992 Pulitzer prize winning Maus also cited Duchamp as a negative source for work in the exhibition. In the first five frames of his  backpage cartoon published in the March 25th New Yorker entitled ''Duchamp is our Misfortune'', Spiegelman portrayed a skinhead [a male thug wearing a sleeveless, black undershirt with a skull at the sternum] in the act of painting a red swastika on a pale blue stone wall [7] .The final frame shows the swastika wall exhibited as art on the white walls of Mirroring Evil with the artist and admirers, drinks in hand, in front of it.

Spiegelman's swipe referred to a number of works in the exhibition using Duchamp as a source. One is Rudolf Herz's 1995 Zugzwang, another work dismissed in Kimmelman's review. Herz's title refers to the chess term that means wherever a player moves becomes compromised or dangerous. In Zugzwang, Herz papers a room chessboard style with alternating, seemingly neutral, photographic portraits of Adolf Hitler, murderer of millions of Jews, and Marcel Duchamp, murderer of the traditional art often found in Jewish museums. The very presence of images of Hitler and Duchamp in a Jewish museum provokes questions about what forms of representation are allowed when and where.

Both Hitler and Duchamp were photographed twenty years apart by Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler's official photographer. Herz conceived Zugzwang for the Kunstverein Ruhr in Essen after his well received 1994 Munich Stadtmuseum exhibition, Hitler and Hoffmann, investigating of the role of photography in glamorizing Hitler, was cancelled in Berlin and Saarbrücken. To quote Norman Kleeblatt: ''even the rather aesthetically conservative director of Essen's Jewish Historical Museum, a space housed directly above Essen's Kunstverein, approved of the artistic and moral ambiguities central to Zugzwang [8] . '' Exhibiting Zugzwang under or in a Jewish Museum questions the recuperative and commemorative double project of post-Holocaust Jewish Museums. Exhibiting Zugzwang at Berlin's National Gallery in 1999 challenged the post-Holocaust transparency of the post-war German State embodied in Mies van der Rohe's 1963   glass-wall building as well as German laws prohibiting the public display of material  associated with the Nazis. 

            Spiegelman's cartoon refers specifically to Tom Sachs' 1998 Giftgas set, in which battered tins of ''gas'' decorated/wrapped with Tiffany, Hermes and Chanel packaging are placed on a glass display shelf, framed in white and mounted on the wall. Spiegelman's caption suggests that artists in the exhibition are louts who give no thought to what they do and take no time doing it. Granted, Tom Sachs' comments in a March 10th New York Times magazine interview referring to fashion, like fascism, being about loss of identity and his remarks on the ''amazing German engineering and design'' of the death camps are provocative. Spiegelman's response, however, is reductive. Sach's irreverence may well be a caustic comment on Holocaust displays such as the one at the Imperial War Museum, London which incorporate aged cans of Zyklon B gas and display them as relics. The artists in Mirroring Evil, with the possible exception of Sachs who relishes his ''bad boy'' image, are not Spiegelman's louts or thugs. Spiegelman's rabid responses to the exhibition are, in my opinion, too rapid and are linked to another aspect of timing and trauma.


Mirroring Evil is an exhibition about trauma that opened for viewing in a recently traumatized New York. The timing of the exhibition, March 2002, may well have been too soon after the September 11, 2001 mass murders at the Twin Towers and the futile, prolonged attempts to recover survivors.  Mirroring Evil is an exhibition about evil men who dehumanize and mass murder. Even if nothing overtly links the exhibition to recent events, these events may well be behind the hysteria with which the exhibition was received [9] . Trauma specialists believe that the second wave of post-traumaumatic responses occurs about six months after the initial trauma. Mirroring Evil opened precisely at that time. In addition, the exhibition took place in the midst of other, related, ongoing traumas - during Operation Enduring Freedom, suicide bombings in Israel, Operation Protective Wall and escalating, institutionalized and individual acts of anti-Semitism throughout the world.  All these events seem to have precluded a more balanced reception of art that examines our response to evil and mass murder in a not so distant past and its relation to evil now.

Often, when anger is so strong there is also fear, denial and displacement. The more vehement responses do not even attempt to offer alternative theories for why so much current art about the Holocaust is so ironic and distanced. Nor are there insights offered into how artists or curators might meaningfully portray the Holocaust now - aside from suggesting humour, a modality that proved contentious for Roberto Begnini in his 1998 film, Life is Beautiful. Little was said by the critics about how the exhibition keeps debates about the ethics of Holocaust representations alive and expands its participants in a time when many would prefer to forget or believe the Holocaust and its repercussions are behind them.

Mirroring Evil fueled the argument for those who call for the end of ironic and pedagogic art and a return to beauty [1] . In wartime, the call for art to elevate and distract is common: the conjuncture of Mirroring Evil and the events following September 11th  may make it the tombstone exhibition for group shows that challenge orthodox imagery in relation to genocide and ask viewers to contemplate a personal position in relation to the issues raised by the works on display. There are more balanced reviews of Mirroring Evil but these are not the ones heard. For example, Leslie Cahmi's article, ''Peering Under the Skin of Monsters'', in the New York Times compared Mirroring Evil, the Gerhard Richter retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art and Same Difference at the Ydessa Hendeles Foundation in Toronto [10] . Interestingly, the reviews of the exhibition by women are far more tempered, and, at times, as in Eunice Lipton's essay for The Guardian where she calls the exhibition brave and brilliant, more enthusiastic, suggesting that there may be gendered differences in responses to recent trauma [11].

There is another aspect of timing related to the traumatic responses to the exhibition. Originally scheduled to open in March 2001, the exhibition was delayed a full year, in part because the museum received a grant from the Animating Democracy Lab [12]. The catalogue/book, already in press, was released in December 2001, three months before the exhibition opened. Mirroring Evil was judged initially and primarily on the catalogue presentation of the works, an intellectual enterprise when compared to the more visceral experience of the exhibition where the installation was carefully choreographed so that works worked together in three dimensional space. Unfortunately for Mirroring Evil, its innovations in installation and their significance for constructing new meanings about art and the Holocaust got lost in debates about timing and trauma and appropriateness of style and subject. I suspect that the perceived sacrilege caused by the slippage between two genres, the contemporary, group, art exhibition and exhibitions about the Holocaust, is another key element contributing to the anger the exhibition evoked. In Mirroring Evil, this slippage of display modes was destabilizing, working against notions of art as redemptive or art and beauty.


Mirroring Evil was a hybrid exhibition. It combined the white walls, bright lighting and uncluttered installation of a museal, contemporary art exhibition with installation devices found in Holocaust museums. Norman Kleeblatt, the curator, and Dan Kershaw, the designer, borrowed, knowingly or not, a number of tropes from the Holocaust museum installation genre. These include a liminal introductory space; changes in lighting and floor coverings to shift mood and sensory perceptions; protective devices; extensive text; a tight narrative structure with a carefully plotted route; and a decompressing room before the exit.

 In Mirroring Evil, each of these devices was incorporated into the exhibition. As viewers entered the exhibition space, they left the brightly lit, smallish, often noisy lobby of the Jewish Museum for a dark, relatively empty room that acted as a transition from the world outside and an introduction to what would follow. In Mirroring Evil, the introductory space was divided into two zones, one for text; one for images. The first and larger area contained descriptive panels about the exhibition. Directly across from the entrance door, there was a large, white, rectangular panel with the curator's statement and close beside it, to the right, a smaller, black, square panel with white lettering warning visitors about the art they will see. The Director's message hung on a floor to ceiling, free-standing, oval drape suspended mid-room to visitors' left. The screen on the backside of the drape was used for a seven minute loop comprised of excerpts from humorous or cautionary films and television programs in which the Holocaust figured, notably The Producers or The Twilight Zone. These were curated by art historian Maurice Berger, author of White Lies: Race and the Myths of Whiteness and creator of context areas for exhibitions like the American Century Part 11: Art and Culture at the Whitney Museum of American Art, 1999-2000.

Unlike other art exhibitions, the context room in Mirroring Evil was not an aside, nor was it located mid-way through the exhibition space. Instead it resembled the darkened rooms in Holocaust Museums with minimal displays used to prepare visitors for what they will see. This device is used at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York. In Mirroring Evil, the first room was a screening room, in more than one sense, empty enough to hold groups of visitors, preparing them for what is to come, warning them, establishing an inquisitive state of mind and providing examples of earlier media work with similar themes.

 The art works in the exhibition were reached through a second set of heavy glass doors. Beyond this point, the walls were white and Mirroring Evil appeared to resemble a contemporary art exhibition. The darkened spaces towards the beginning of the exhibition for Mischa Kuball, Maciej Toporowicz and Boaz Arad's video projections relating to Hitler's use of mass media seemed to be determined by the medium's needs for optimal visibility. Soon it became apparent that the exhibition route had been deliberately structured for maximum expressive effect and lighting was instrumental in producing a sense of shifting sensations. Using a lighting schema for drama, narrative and to minimize viewer fixation and fatigue is closely related to devices found in Holocaust Museums.

In the first two thirds of the exhibition, viewers walked through alternating brightly lit and murky areas. Their trajectory moved from the dark introductory space to Piotr Uklanski's white lit 1998 The Nazis C-prints to Kuball's shadowy Hitler's Cabinet, 1990, then to the almost black, side room with Toporowicz's Eternity #14, 1991, to the vibrant white and brilliant orange space of Alan Séchas' Enfants Gâtés, 1997, to a low light room with Sach's and Schechner's works, Arad's Hebrew Lesson, 2000, and Zhigniew Libera's Lego Concentration Camp Set,1996. Herz's black and white Zugzwang followed on the same axis and opened into a white room with Christine Borland's L'Homme Double where the brightness at the end of the sequence was amplified by a frosted window on the back wall of the enfilade. The carefully orchestrated, contrapuntal lighting from area to area disrupted any sense of corporeal stability a viewer might have felt.   At the same time, the constantly shifting lighting embodied the absence of a stabile intellectual or emotional frame of reference with which these works could be viewed. From this point on, the lighting was more uniform, cooler, as if to indicate that the sexual content in Roee Rosen's 1995 To Live and Die as Eva Braun, Mat Collishaw's coloured transparencies of dead, semi-dressed Nazi couples and Elke Krystufek's 1998 juxtapositions of her nude body with photographs of Nazis should be looked at directly.

The lighting in the last room of the exhibition containing catalogues, comment books and computers and a video was also neutral. Here, the clear light acted as a transition to the outside world, the lobby of the museum, seen through the glass doors.  In many art exhibitions, there is space at the end of an exhibition where viewers can record their responses to what they have seen. The inclusion of a video with responses to the exhibition itself in Mirroring Evil was atypical and more closely related to Survivor videos found in the last rooms of Holocaust Museums. The reference to the living present is intended to provide some relief to what is called secondary witnessing for viewers who have walked through the harrowing history of the Holocaust [13].

Holocaust Museums are particularly attentive to viewer sensibilities, especially those of Survivors. In Holocaust Museums, exhibition designers place warnings about potentially upsetting images and build walls to shield viewers from unwittingly encountering disturbing images. Sometimes, exits are provided to allow viewers the possibility of leaving the exhibition without looking at the potentially provocative material. Recently, these devices have been used by art museums when displaying disturbing images such as the Art Gallery of Ontario for the 1999 Cindy Sherman exhibition. In Mirroring Evil, strong warnings were placed in the introductory room and before the gallery containing works by Libera, Sachs, Allan Shechner and Arad. The Jewish Museum's use of a black background and white lettering rather than the usual black on white format made their warnings stand out. Putting these emphatic warnings on a large, free-standing panel in the middle of the entrance to the gallery with the artworks suggested a sentry blocking the route. Viewers could turn back rather than enter the darkness. Once in the gallery, viewers could leave if they wished through an ''escape route,'' a specially constructed exit that led into the response room [14] and to the lobby.

The designers of Mirroring Evil also protected viewers by shielding the images in Schechner's two computer works behind walls. The Jewish Museum prepared viewers even before they entered the exhibition by reversing the usual entrance and exit pattern for the temporary exhibition galleries thereby upending any pre-conceived ideas habitual visitors to the museum might have had about the art being the same as what they previously encountered in these galleries. Once inside the exhibition, viewers found explanatory text panels throughout. Their large size called attention to the importance of reading and made the act of reading while standing, sometimes in a group, easier [15].

            One reason for safety devices was to provide relief from a sense of claustrophobia created by the oblique, sequential and peripheral views of the carefully constructed sight-lines in the dense display. Mirroring Evil's presentation strategy was a theatrical mis-en-scene structured in three parts: a context room, the art galleries and the viewer response video room. At times, because of the tight spaces in the galleries and the controlled choreography, viewers were confronted with images they would rather not see. Viewers felt surrounded by the images, as if there was no escape from the tight narrative path through the exhibition they were made to follow. Usually, every bit of exhibition space in Holocaust Museums is filled with displays, text or film. In Mirroring Evil , the small exhibition space was filled to a degree not usually encountered in group art exhibitions.  As in Holocaust Museums, the density of displays diminished towards the end of the exhibition.

 Within Modernism, artists and curators have used the language of display to challenge conventional readings of art, sometimes in ways we approve and sometimes not. The Nazi organized Degenerate Art exhibition of 1937 with its chaotic arrangement of tilted, tightly spaced paintings and disrespectful captions is the standard example of an installation practice that denigrates the objects on display and constructs a narrative of devaluation. By contrast, Duchamp's intervention in the First Papers of Surrealism exhibition held in New York in 1942 where he strung string from wall to wall, making the space practically impenetrable and reorienting viewers' relationships with art, is seen as a positive example of transgressive display aesthetics. Duchamp's use of innovative display techniques to create meaning through a frustration of habitual desires is a different inflection of the Duchampian geneology usually invoked for Mirroring Evil. Recently, especially in New York, artists such as Group Material and Joseph Kosuth created exhibitions using the art of others for installations that departed from current norms in order to further a political agenda and viewers literally were positioned differently so they could experience alternatives in their bodies [16].

The syntax of Mirroring Evil, like the Duchamp installation, signaled that Mirroring Evil is not a ''disinterested'' exhibition. By mirroring the theatricality, the narrative impulses, the extensive use of text and pedagogic videos used in Holocaust Museums, Mirroring Evil called these devices into question, suggesting that the genre has failed as a deterrent to evil, prejudice and mass murder. By mirroring the pristine, orderly arrangements of exhibitions of contemporary art, Mirroring Evil undermined their latent, utopic vision of societal transformation. In a time of terror, imploding the exhibition rhetorics of two genres that once promised transcendance reopened a series of questions many would prefer to believe closed: how can a museum offer hope? How can a museum be a moral force? How can a museum contribute effectively to societal change? The lack of definitive answers may be another reason for the anger that Mirroring Evil attracted.













[1] Versions of this essay were presented at Museums After Modernism: Strategies of Engagement, Toronto, April, 2002; The Association of Jewish Studies, Los Angeles, December 15, 2002 and the Institute for Jewish Studies, Concordia University, Montreal, February 5, 2003.

[2] Joan Rosenbaum, Director's preface, Mirroring Evil: Nazi Imagery/Recent Art, Norman L. Kleeblatt (ed.), N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2001, vii.

[3] Ron Rosenblum, ''Mirroring Evil? No, Mirroring Art Theory," The New York Observer, April 16, 2002.

[4]   Wiesel and Rosensaft quoted in  Richard Goldstein, "Managing the Unmanageable," The Village Voice, March 6-12, 2002 and Stefan Kanfer, How to Trivilize the Holocaust, City Journal, 3 April, 2002

[5]   Quoted in a press release YAF Calls for Jewish Museum to Cancel "Mirroring Evil" issued by the New York branch of Young Americans for Freedom. See

[6] "Evil, The Nazis and Shock Value," The New York Times, March 15, 2002, 35.

[7] The cartoon was republished in Die Zeit, Nr. 17, 18. April 2002, p. 34. For Jörg Lau's earlier response to the exhibition in Die Zeit, see

[8] Norman Kleeblatt, "Impossible Bedfellows: Adolf Hitler and Marcel Duchamp" in Mirroring Evil :Nazi Imagery Recent Art, p.115. Based on a conversation with Peter Friese and Friederieke Wappler, October 20,1999 referred to in Kleeblatt's text.


[10] "Peering Under the Skin of Monsters," The New York Times, 03,17,02, AR 36.

[11] "Whose Afraid of the big, bad Adolf?," The Guardian, 21 March 2002.


[12] The Animating Democracy Lab is a component of the Animating Democracy Initiative, a programme of the Americans for the Arts, funded by the Ford Foundation. Without Sanctuary,  2000, an exhibition of photographs of lynchings of blacks in the United States was also funded by Animating Democracy. With Too Jewish: Challenging Jewish Identities, 1996, another controversial exhibition curated by Kleeblatt, both the book and catalogue appeared at the same time.

[13] I have borrowed the term from Dora Appel, Memory Effects: The Holocaust and the Art of Secondary Witnessing, N.J.: Rutgers UP, 2002. See her book for a discussion of art made from the position of secondary witnessing.

[14] The emergency exit was added just days before the opening in response to Survivor critique about the exhibition.

[15] The Director of the Jewish Museum, Joan Rosenbaum, insisted on increasing the size of the text panels found throughout the exhibition so that viewers, especially older ones, would not have to strain to read. Norman Kleeblatt in conversation with the author.

[16] Group Material created the timeline structure for displaying art and Kosuth in The Play of the Unmentionable, 1990, expected his viewers to stand back and survey an entire wall, salon style.