Man Steals Remains from Nazi Death Camp, Paints Shitty Rectangle in the Ashes of Holocaust Dead

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In 1989, Swedish 'artist' Carl Michael von Hausswolff visited the Nazi death camp at Majdanek. He was struck by the ashes he found there; to him they seemed to "contain the memories and the souls of people: people tormented and murdered by other people in the most viscous war of the 20th Century".

So what did von Hausswolff do with the souls and memories he found? He took them from their resting place, mixed them with water, and used them to paint a gray rectangle, which is now hanging in a Swedish gallery.

image

Frankly I find this completely indefensible. What gives anyone the right to steal the remains of the dead, of people they never met and have no connection to, and use them in a work without their consent? And to not even paint anything meaningful with it? Not even a scene from the camps? That at least would have shown some small degree of reverence for the victims he used. No, instead, he painted an abstract shape, further dehumanizing those who died for being "less than human". A final indignity so brazen, i'm not sure how anyone could possibly defend this "art".

I'm just so disgusted by this.

EDIT: i was so disgusted i forgot to provide a link: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-two/9723912/Swedish-artist-uses-Jewish-Holocaust-victims-ashes-for-painting.html

Some sort of post-modern new-agey bullshit painting. Hausswolff would probably say it symbolized how they themselves were trapped inside of a metaphoric box or something.

Anyway, while I think the painting itself as worthless, what's the issue with using human remains to do things? I mean, it's not like anyone was using it for anything else. At least nothing worth mentioning.

Besides, people do weirder shit with corpses. Like the 'Body World' guy.

image

Yes, those are actual human corpses. Yes, that is creepy as shit. It's still better than letting them rot in a coffin or something, though. Unless it's a wooden coffin so that the corpse will fertilize the soil, then it's being useful.

I'm normally very open to crap many artists do (yes, I think a lot of it is crap but they can express themselves if they want to; plus, I've recently seen some really awesome modern sculptures, so it's not like good modern art doesn't exist), but this goes too far.

Don't they have rules about what you can and can't do with human remains? I'm pretty sure this would be illegal here, even if he had taken some person's urn without consent and used that ash rather than the remains of unknown victims from a historical site.

Also, that's a shitty rectangle. All uneven and beyond the edges? Did he say what that's supposed to represent? At best, I can interpret that as a) prison bars to symbolize the incarceration and suffering or b) a train container to symbolize the people's deportation and transport to the death camps. Or maybe it is meant to actually portray dehumanization like you said in your OP? Not through the artist but through the Nazis, merely "pictured" by the artist?

See, one thing we have to grant him is that we're talking about his shitty rectangle. But obviously the above interpretation could easily have been made if he was creating a picture for a Holocaust-exhibition and used a) grey, watery paint or b) ash that he received with consent from the victims in question or their families.

In any case, this is highly questionable legally and to me personally quite repugnant. You don't get to take human remains of people who you didn't know nor had any other connection to and use them for some little art project without consent of their relatives at the very least.

Kopikatsu:
Besides, people do weirder shit with corpses. Like the 'Body World' guy.

image

Yes, those are actual human corpses. Yes, that is creepy as shit. It's still better than letting them rot in a coffin or something, though. Unless it's a wooden coffin so that the corpse will fertilize the soil, then it's being useful.

That guy is very questionable as well. If a person donates their corpse for something like that, all power to them. But - and I don't know whether that was ever resolved - there were a lot of rumours about him acquiring corpses for his exhibition from China under questionable circumstances, including possible execution victims. When you can't demonstrate the "participants" willingness to enter their corpse into such an arrangement, that's when things get very iffy.

To me, this isn't about "don't ever use human remains for art". That'd be stupid and way too absolutist. No, it's about the consent they need from the people themselves or, if impossible to get, from their relatives, before doing something like this.

He should go to jail for a long time, you don't just steal the remains of people and use them for own sick art. As someone already said I think the body worlds bodies are all donated. This was theft and desecration of human remains.

The guy should go to jail for this crap.

Title made me laugh.

Hope he gets charged with something, I don't know what.

Xan Krieger:
This was theft and desecration of human remains.

So what?

The dead people aren't complaining. They can't, 'cause they're dead. They're well beyond the point of caring what happens to their remains.

Kopikatsu:

Xan Krieger:
This was theft and desecration of human remains.

So what?

The dead people aren't complaining. They can't, 'cause they're dead. They're well beyond the point of caring what happens to their remains.

You can't be serious.

You do realize that dead people have living relatives, right? That you can't just go into a cemetery and dig up whoever you want for your art project?

Kopikatsu:
So what?

The dead people aren't complaining. They can't, 'cause they're dead. They're well beyond the point of caring what happens to their remains.

Yes, but presumably they're state property or something. I'm guessing he won't ever be allowed back in Poland.

Also, how did he get past security?

cobra_ky:

Kopikatsu:

Xan Krieger:
This was theft and desecration of human remains.

So what?

The dead people aren't complaining. They can't, 'cause they're dead. They're well beyond the point of caring what happens to their remains.

You can't be serious.

You do realize that dead people have living relatives, right? That you can't just go into a cemetery and dig up whoever you want for your art project?

What does it matter to them? It's not their body, either. It's not like the human body is sacred or something. Everything that you are is in your brain. Your body is literally nothing more than a meat puppet that keeps it safe and supplied with nutrients. Once death has occurred, that's it. The remaining corpse is just a sack of rapidly decaying meat, or in this case, a pile of stagnant ashes.

Kopikatsu:

cobra_ky:

Kopikatsu:

So what?

The dead people aren't complaining. They can't, 'cause they're dead. They're well beyond the point of caring what happens to their remains.

You can't be serious.

You do realize that dead people have living relatives, right? That you can't just go into a cemetery and dig up whoever you want for your art project?

What does it matter to them? It's not their body, either. It's not like the human body is sacred or something. Everything that you are is in your brain. Your body is literally nothing more than a meat puppet that keeps it safe and supplied with nutrients. Once death has occurred, that's it. The remaining corpse is just a sack of rapidly decaying meat, or in this case, a pile of stagnant ashes.

That's your belief, to others the human body is sacred and to have this happen is very serious. I know I wouldn't want some random person digging me up and putting me on display (seriously considering having my casket booby-trapped in case someone tries to dig me up).

Xan Krieger:
That's your belief, to others the human body is sacred and to have this happen is very serious. I know I wouldn't want some random person digging me up and putting me on display (seriously considering having my casket booby-trapped in case someone tries to dig me up).

I don't even think it needs to be abour sacredness, either. This is an issue of basic human dignity and consent rules. Those don't simply vanish because the person is dead and gone.

---

If we don't honour our social contracts with each other, our agreements, what is there to stabilize society? You can't take corpses for your own use without consent, just like you can't take somebody's belongings just because they're dead. We call that looting and grave-robbing. We have rules for how to deal with this for good reason: Things, including human remains, aren't just "up for grabs" because their previous owner died.

Kopikatsu, I can't comprehend why you don't seem to understand this basic aspect: You can't just take what isn't yours without consent. That goes for basic property, but even more so for the most intimate property anybody of us has: Our body or now corpse.

Kopikatsu:

cobra_ky:

Kopikatsu:

So what?

The dead people aren't complaining. They can't, 'cause they're dead. They're well beyond the point of caring what happens to their remains.

You can't be serious.

You do realize that dead people have living relatives, right? That you can't just go into a cemetery and dig up whoever you want for your art project?

What does it matter to them? It's not their body, either. It's not like the human body is sacred or something. Everything that you are is in your brain. Your body is literally nothing more than a meat puppet that keeps it safe and supplied with nutrients. Once death has occurred, that's it. The remaining corpse is just a sack of rapidly decaying meat, or in this case, a pile of stagnant ashes.

It's also property. That's why i said "theft", not kidnapping. Human remains do not sit around not free for the taking. In most cases they belong to the deceased's next of kin, though obviously the situation at Majdanek is necessarily different. In any case, those remains were not Mr. von Hausswolff's to take.

captcha: know your rights.

Skeleon:
snip

The OP doesn't say where the camp was that the "artist" visited so I'm guessing its possible that it might be Germany and so I have to ask, do you know if there are any laws in Germany against this sort of thing? I mean does the federal government in Germany manage the concentration camp sites or is it privately run or something?

I disagree with his acquisition of the ashes. He should have stated his intention to the relevant authority and gotten permission.

What he did with them is his own business, even if I typically detest modern art.

Skeleon:

Xan Krieger:
That's your belief, to others the human body is sacred and to have this happen is very serious. I know I wouldn't want some random person digging me up and putting me on display (seriously considering having my casket booby-trapped in case someone tries to dig me up).

I don't even think it needs to be abour sacredness, either. This is an issue of basic human dignity and consent rules. Those don't simply vanish because the person is dead and gone.

---

If we don't honour our social contracts with each other, our agreements, what is there to stabilize society? You can't take corpses for your own use without consent, just like you can't take somebody's belongings just because they're dead. We call that looting and grave-robbing. We have rules for how to deal with this for good reason: Things, including human remains, aren't just "up for grabs" because their previous owner died.

Kopikatsu, I can't comprehend why you don't seem to understand this basic aspect: You can't just take what isn't yours without consent. That goes for basic property, but even more so for the most intimate property anybody of us has: Our body or now corpse.

Under what kind of a "human dignity" concept would the remeans if a dead person be considered property?

Or rather, is someone who died still a person, or do they become property? This just seems so iffy to me, I mean, okay, I likely won't care what they do with me once I kick the bucket, and after the still-useful organs have been put to use...I'll be a little crass here and say I'm really happy I won't have to stomach organizing my own funeral or have to deal with the debates about just what to do with my stuff now that I'm gone.

Oh and as for the OP thing? Well he seemingly thought he was being smart, creative and sending a message. Me, I think he just needlessly pissed off a lot of people in the name of some kind of new age nonsense. Seriously, some people...

cobra_ky:
In 1989, Swedish 'artist' Carl Michael von Hausswolff visited the Nazi death camp at Majdanek. He was struck by the ashes he found there; to him they seemed to "contain the memories and the souls of people: people tormented and murdered by other people in the most viscous war of the 20th Century".

So what did von Hausswolff do with the souls and memories he found? He took them from their resting place, mixed them with water, and used them to paint a gray rectangle, which is now hanging in a Swedish gallery.

image

Frankly I find this completely indefensible. What gives anyone the right to steal the remains of the dead, of people they never met and have no connection to, and use them in a work without their consent? And to not even paint anything meaningful with it? Not even a scene from the camps? That at least would have shown some small degree of reverence for the victims he used. No, instead, he painted an abstract shape, further dehumanizing those who died for being "less than human". A final indignity so brazen, i'm not sure how anyone could possibly defend this "art".

I'm just so disgusted by this.

Have you ever been to a museeum? Do you think the people responsible for all the things being showcased would approve of that? Maybe some of them, definetly not all of them.

He took the ashes from a crematorium 50 years after it was in use, who's to say there's any human remains in them?

Almost 25 years have passed anyway, so any theft charge has long since been obliterated by statute of limitation (...though the concentration camp can probably sue if it wants its ash back). And the artwork should fall well within the boundaries of Artistic Freedom of Expression, as no discernible harm came from its creation.

Nice, I'm bookmarking this thread for the next time somebody says it's silly to complain about Atheists receiving religious funerals, because "their ded lol".

On topic, it's shitty art. It's not aesthetically pleasing, it didn't take a high degree of skill or craftmanship, and the only emotional response comes when the backstory of the "pigment" is revealed (and yeah, it could just be grey paint and he's doing a troll-within-a-troll). In my opinion you shouldn't have to explain how clever and deep your art is in order for people to appreciate it.

@Vegosiux
I don't quite understand the issue/contradiction/problem.
Of course do I consider my body my property. I also think that I as a person deserve human dignity. The two are not mutually exclusive. I certainly think doing questionable things with another's body (which is that other's property) can cause harm to their dignity. Or are you thinking more along the lines of somebody else confiscating/taking that body?
Because that should obviously only be allowed with consent.

Skeleon:
@Vegosiux
I don't quite understand the issue/contradiction/problem.
Of course do I consider my body my property. I also think that I as a person deserve human dignity. The two are not mutually exclusive. I certainly think doing questionable things with another's body (which is that other's property) can cause harm to their dignity. Or are you thinking more along the lines of somebody else confiscating/taking that body?
Because that should obviously only be allowed with consent.

I'm basically saying I care about my dignity while I'm alive, yes, but I'm not sure who else would benefit by my "dignity" once I'm dead. And that while I'm alive, I don't really see my body as my "property", because well, it would imply it's just "stuff", or rather, "a thing" and that would do bad things to my sense of dignity.

Xan Krieger:

Kopikatsu:

cobra_ky:

You can't be serious.

You do realize that dead people have living relatives, right? That you can't just go into a cemetery and dig up whoever you want for your art project?

What does it matter to them? It's not their body, either. It's not like the human body is sacred or something. Everything that you are is in your brain. Your body is literally nothing more than a meat puppet that keeps it safe and supplied with nutrients. Once death has occurred, that's it. The remaining corpse is just a sack of rapidly decaying meat, or in this case, a pile of stagnant ashes.

That's your belief, to others the human body is sacred and to have this happen is very serious. I know I wouldn't want some random person digging me up and putting me on display (seriously considering having my casket booby-trapped in case someone tries to dig me up).

That's impressively paranoid. I approve!

Vegosiux:

Skeleon:
@Vegosiux
I don't quite understand the issue/contradiction/problem.
Of course do I consider my body my property. I also think that I as a person deserve human dignity. The two are not mutually exclusive. I certainly think doing questionable things with another's body (which is that other's property) can cause harm to their dignity. Or are you thinking more along the lines of somebody else confiscating/taking that body?
Because that should obviously only be allowed with consent.

I'm basically saying I care about my dignity while I'm alive, yes, but I'm not sure who else would benefit by my "dignity" once I'm dead. And that while I'm alive, I don't really see my body as my "property", because well, it would imply it's just "stuff", or rather, "a thing" and that would do bad things to my sense of dignity.

What about your family? Don't you think they'd rather not think of your remains being toured around art museums for people to gawk at?

I agree that it's just a sack of meat at the end of the day, but it's a sack of meat that we form very strong emotional bonds to. We may love the person, the essence of which is the mind which after death has obviously vanished, but the body is our only visual representation of the person we love. Seeing it (for lack of a better word) desecrated is akin to seeing the person we love desecrated, even if intellectually we're aware that they don't live there anymore.

Batou667:
Nice, I'm bookmarking this thread for the next time somebody says it's silly to complain about Atheists receiving religious funerals, because "their ded lol".

Well, it is a bit silly to complain. Funerals aren't for the dead, they're for the living, and in times of tragedy we fall back on tradition. Religious funerals are the way it's been done in the past, and for so long that for the non-religious they're pretty much empty of religious meaning (look at how many people get their children christened or are married in a church because "that's what you do" rather than out of any genuine theistic beliefs), so if I was to die tomorrow and be buried in a religious ceremony then despite not believing in God I'd be happy if the familiarity of tradition gives my Catholic parents some comfort.

SonicWaffle:

What about your family? Don't you think they'd rather not think of your remains being toured around art museums for people to gawk at?

I'd hope they respect me enough to do what I want to be done with them, even if that was being toured around art museums for people to gawk at.

Of course that's not what I'm going to tell them to do. Nor will I be in any position to complain if they don't do whatever I want, hmm. So why bother telling them anything at all then...heh, there's a thought.

Vegosiux:

SonicWaffle:

What about your family? Don't you think they'd rather not think of your remains being toured around art museums for people to gawk at?

I'd hope they respect me enough to do what I want to be done with them, even if that was being toured around art museums for people to gawk at.

Perhaps they hope you respect their feelings enough not to have your corpse toured around art museums to be gawked at, knowing that it would be a painful experience for them?

SonicWaffle:

Vegosiux:

SonicWaffle:

What about your family? Don't you think they'd rather not think of your remains being toured around art museums for people to gawk at?

I'd hope they respect me enough to do what I want to be done with them, even if that was being toured around art museums for people to gawk at.

Perhaps they hope you respect their feelings enough not to have your corpse toured around art museums to be gawked at, knowing that it would be a painful experience for them?

They'd have to have some very specific ideas about me if they actually hoped that *ahem*

But point is, if we talk about the "dignity" part, then who actually gets to say what's to be done with my cadaver and my dignity, me or them?

Vegosiux:

SonicWaffle:

Vegosiux:

I'd hope they respect me enough to do what I want to be done with them, even if that was being toured around art museums for people to gawk at.

Perhaps they hope you respect their feelings enough not to have your corpse toured around art museums to be gawked at, knowing that it would be a painful experience for them?

They'd have to have some very specific ideas about me if they actually hoped that *ahem*

Hey, I only know you from chatting to you on an internet forum, but I've already got a sneaking suspicion that you might do something like that for shits and giggles. I imagine your family have already made contingency plans for just such an occurence :-P

Vegosiux:
But point is, if we talk about the "dignity" part, then who actually gets to say what's to be done with my cadaver and my dignity, me or them?

Interesting question. I think it's them, but that they will think it's you, if you take my meaning.

You'll be a rotting bag of flesh, so obviously you won't care what happens. However, your family will probably want your remains treated with dignity for the sake of your memory. In reality, it's for the sake of their own memories, but in acting as if it's all about you they can have a more sound platform; people might disagree if they say it's for them, but if they say they're making decisions based on what their dead loved one would have wanted, nobody is likely to argue with them.

Kopikatsu:
Some sort of post-modern new-agey bullshit painting. Hausswolff would probably say it symbolized how they themselves were trapped inside of a metaphoric box or something.

Anyway, while I think the painting itself as worthless, what's the issue with using human remains to do things? I mean, it's not like anyone was using it for anything else. At least nothing worth mentioning.

Make the piece first, throw some 'meaning' on to it afterwards. I actually used to do that in the past, luckily I stopped with that nonsense. This person seriously needs to be punished. It's grave robbery, and just plain disrespectful to the person who died. It's not as bad as the Mormon Church 'baptising' famous dead individuals, but it's up there. And for the thing about how no one else was 'using' them, well, there's already a thread about that, and I've already posted in it.

Helmholtz Watson:

Skeleon:
snip

The OP doesn't say where the camp was that the "artist" visited so I'm guessing its possible that it might be Germany and so I have to ask, do you know if there are any laws in Germany against this sort of thing? I mean does the federal government in Germany manage the concentration camp sites or is it privately run or something?

It's in eastern Poland. The camp is now a Polish state-run museum. You need state permission to transport human remains outside the borders. There are laws against stealing from graves and disrespecting remains. AFAIK, the guy had no permission to do anything - he just collected the ashes in a jar and took it with him. Technically, the Polish state could accuse him, but good luck with that - Sweden is notorious for refusing extradition.

And even then, a case could probably be made whether the ashes count as human remains, since after all that time, there was presumably a lot of contamination with non-organic material and decomposition of any means by which they could be identified as human remains.

As to motivation? Shock value.

Helmholtz Watson:

Skeleon:
snip

The OP doesn't say where the camp was that the "artist" visited so I'm guessing its possible that it might be Germany and so I have to ask, do you know if there are any laws in Germany against this sort of thing? I mean does the federal government in Germany manage the concentration camp sites or is it privately run or something?

There were no death camps on German soil, and it does say 'Majdanek' it's a death camp just outside of Lublin i've been there.
Back to the OP i don't see any thing wrong with ashes used for art, the "theft" on it's own is a different case and the issue with ashes is that you can't really ask for permission since you can't really trace them to the relatives of the victims.
It's not like the ashes were not used for "art" before, a memorial called the crematorium was built in the camp and ashes found in the site were deposited with in it. So pretty much any one can walk into the "mount" and collect, or touch the ashes, they are also somewhat exposed to the elements..
image
The painting it self is quite daunting, even with out taking into account the fact that it was painted with ashes of people who died in a horrible way, but the painting it self in no case undignified the memory of the victims, just the way those ashes were obtained.

P.S. i know it's wrong but when reading this story the only thing i could think of is "holy shit this guy is going to be charged with grand theft ashtray"...

Shit like this is why no one cares about arts funding cuts. Its a crappy piece of work that is only being talked about because of the pointlessly tasteless way in which it was made.

@Vegosiux

I'd hope they respect me enough to do what I want to be done with them, even if that was being toured around art museums for people to gawk at.
[...]
But point is, if we talk about the "dignity" part, then who actually gets to say what's to be done with my cadaver and my dignity, me or them?

There appears to be a serious misunderstanding here. The issue is that the people's ashes here was taken without their or their family's consent. I think I've made it clear that, if you want to donate your corpse to Body Worlds or to an ash art project, that's certainly your decision in my opinion. But that's not what's happening here.

IamQ:
Have you ever been to a museeum? Do you think the people responsible for all the things being showcased would approve of that? Maybe some of them, definetly not all of them.

Uh what? I'm not condemning every artist in the gallery. My beef is with this particular 'artist' and the gallery owner who felt this was an appropriate piece to display.

Batou667:
Nice, I'm bookmarking this thread for the next time somebody says it's silly to complain about Atheists receiving religious funerals, because "their ded lol".

On topic, it's shitty art. It's not aesthetically pleasing, it didn't take a high degree of skill or craftmanship, and the only emotional response comes when the backstory of the "pigment" is revealed (and yeah, it could just be grey paint and he's doing a troll-within-a-troll). In my opinion you shouldn't have to explain how clever and deep your art is in order for people to appreciate it.

Funerals should be held in accordance with the wishes of the deceased whenever possible. Where those wishes are unknown, it should fall to their next of kin. If you're an atheist and you don't want your family giving you a religious funeral, then write up a will stipulating as such. This situation is rather different, since Mr. von Hausswolff had no connection to any of the victims and no authority to do anything with the remains, as far as i know.

While the quality and subject matter of the art certainly make angrier about this, i'd have taken offense regardless.

TKretts3:
It's not as bad as the Mormon Church 'baptising' famous dead individuals, but it's up there. And for the thing about how no one else was 'using' them, well, there's already a thread about that, and I've already posted in it.

I disagree actually. Physically disturbing remains seems far worse than involuntary posthumous baptism to me.

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