Jewish HistoryContemporary Art
Jan 11, 2010–Jun 15, 2010
Our Struggle: Responding to Mein Kampf, the extraordinary exhibition in its first North American showing, is based on the collective artwork and book, Notre Combat (Our Struggle). The book and exhibition are the result of French painter and photographer, Linda Ellia’s, encounter with a copy of Mein Kampf in 2005. The book’s weight in her hands embodied the heaviness of the Holocaust; she felt compelled to respond. After personally altering a number of the pages to express her anger, she invited hundreds of people from all over the world to paint, draw, sculpt, and collage directly on the pages of the book, and gathered the results into a collective artwork and book titled Notre Combat (Our Struggle, in English) published in 2007 by Seuil Editions, a leading publisher of art books in France.
On view in the exhibition are 600 altered pages from a multitude of participants from artists, writers, poets, musicians, film makers, journalists, victims, students, and Jews from as many as 17 different countries. The hundreds of pages in the exhibition offer a remarkable display of different artistic styles and present a multiplicity of voices and perspectives ranging from angry to mournful to hopeful. Creativity emerges from tragedy in this riveting exhibition of the altered pages, reminding us that the hatred, bigotry, intolerance, and discrimination inscribed in Hitler’s book must never be repeated. In addition to the work on view, The Museum will screen a documentary about Ellia, L’Art et la Maniere (English subtitles, narrated by Linda Ellia), and resource room about Mein Kampf developed in collaboration with the Holocaust Center of Northern California that provides visitors with more information about the publication history of Mein Kampf and the rise of Nazism in Germany,
Ellia’s concept for the public exhibition of the work is to create a dynamic place of memory, haven, and testimony. To that end, Our Struggle features an opportunity for visitors to leave their own responses on a collective chalkboard "canvas." A large blackboard area invites visitors to draw or write in response to the contents of the exhibition and the feelings the pages and book evokes.
Linda Ellia is a Paris-based artist working in photography and painting. Born in Tunisia to a Sephardic Jewish family, Linda Ellia moved to Paris with her family at age eight to escape the increasingly violent antisemitism of 1960s Tunisia. In Paris, Ellia studied at the Beaux-Arts de Glaciere, as well as the Ateliers d'Arts Decoratifs. Always a painter, Ellia strayed from her usual medium to pursue her Notre Combat project in 2005. Two years later, the project culminated with the publication of the book by the same name and an exhibition of the original pages at Theatre Forum Meyrin in Switzerland. In 2008, she created a sculpture for the Place St. Germain and participated in the Paris-wide, all-night event Nuits Blanches with a public artwork for the Paris Metro. Currently, Ellia is working on a second book with Seuil Editions on her art entitled Hors Classe, forthcoming January 2010.
Our Struggle: Responding to Mein Kampf has been organized by The Contemporary Jewish Museum with the generous support of the Jewish Community Federation Holocaust Memorial Education Fund, the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.