Shoah Film Collection -  Interview Project

Azparren, Marta

Marta Azparren
Spanish video creator

Her video Towards Todtnauberg, 2014, 5:40
can be reviewed online on

10 questions

1. Tell me something about your life and the educational background
Marta Azparren (Tenerife, 1968), Graduate in Fine Arts, shares out her artistic activity between video, visual and performing arts. Her video works had been screened and awarded in numerous international film and video festivals, exhibitions and art fairs. Her work usually focuses on a reflection on the artistic activity, with an attentive look at the ties between creator, spectator and object, and its mediators. Closely linked to performing arts and music, she often collaborates in these areas as a performer and video artist. Her drawings establish a dialogue with the works of poets such as José Luis Gómez-Toré, Eva Chinchilla, Juan Soros or Ana Gorría.

José Luis Gómez Toré (Madrid, 1973) is a Spanish poet, playwright and essayist.
He has written several poetry books like He heredado la noche (I inherited the night) (2003), Fragmentos de un cantar de gesta (Fragments of an epic poem) (2007) and, in collaboration with the artist Marta Azparren, Claroscuro del bosque (Chiaroscuro of the Forest) (2011). He has also published studies about literature like La mirada elegíaca. El espacio y la mirada en la poesía de Francisco Brines (The elegiac look. The space and memory in the poetry of Francisco Brines) (2002) (Gerardo Diego International Prize for Literary Research) and Pedro Salinas (2009).

(I answer the questions along with José Luis Gómez Toré, author of the poem on which is based the film)

2. When, how and why started you filming?
I began recording my own painting and drawing sessions. For me, filming was a way to add time to paintings, a way to extend the process of painting. Gradually, filming grew independent from painting and I started thinking in terms of moving image.

3. How do you develop your films, do you follow certain principles, styles etc.?
In my practice, concept always comes first; then I choose the medium that fits my needs. Sometimes I need to work with static images, sometimes I need to include time, or living performance… There is an “economy of elements” that is key to my work” – as a principle, I try to work with as few elements as possible.

4. What was the reason to start your film included in Shoah Film Collection? Tell me the story behind your film? Why did you choose the given form of representation? Is your film included in Shoah Film Collection the first one dealing with the Holocaust?

We made a book together “Claroscuro del bosque” (Chiaroscuro of the Forest) that was a dialogue between poems and drawings regarding the enigmatic conversations between Paul Celan – the Jewish poet, victim of the Holocaust- and Martin Heidegger – the German philosopher linked to Nazism. This encounter took place in 1967, in the Black Forest, in the cabin where the philosopher wrote most of his works. Our film included in SFC “Towards Todtnauberg” is a new approach to the same subject that adds movement to the images and voices to the texts.


5. What kind of meaning has the Holocaust to you personally? Are your family or friends affected or did the topic come by chance?

Neither he nor I have friends or relatives directly affected by the Nazi crimes. We arrived at this topic thanks to a multi-media research process that included documents, books, films: Shoah by Claude Lauzmann, Paul Celan’s poetry, Primo Levi’s books…

6. Besides the historical relevance related to the persecuted Jews and other people, the Holocaust has a universal relevance. Why is the Holocaust affecting all humans anywhere?

Auschwitz is a symbol of the atrocities we as a society are capable of; it’s the negation of all human rights. As Primo Levi said, the Nazis were not monsters, but humans. Auschwitz reminds us that something like that could be possible again, anywhere; that those monstrosities can happen again. However, it’s important to say that Auschwitz can’t be seen as “the only Crime” committed. It would be a terrible mistake to use the memory of Auschwitz to forget other crimes against Humanity committed in the past and nowadays.

7. Now, nearly 70 years after World War II, unfortunately the last Holocaust survivors will be dying soon, and no authentic witness is left to transfer the memory of the Holocaust. The Holocaust is about to be marginalized and dehumanized to any other historical incident, whereby it is measured by its final result and less as an escalating process, countless human individuals were undergoing. What do you think might be ways to re-humanize, touch people again emotionally and keep vivid the memory this way?
Bruno Bettelheim, who was a prisoner in Dachau and Buchenwald, talks about “the well-informed heart”. Emotions are important, but we must avoid the risk of excessive sentimentality. This is why art has an important duty: art help us to connect reason and emotions. Perhaps it would be better if we were able to read Auschwitz in connection with the violence and the crimes of the present, not only as a fact of the past.

8. As a phenomenon, the Holocaust is blasting human imagination, which makes it nearly impossible for people to identify themselves with. What needs to be done, that people may find ways for self-identifying? What can do art for it?

Jacques Rancière has said that art after Auschwitz is more necessary than ever because art is obliged to explore the limits of the representation and go beyond these limits. For that reason, works of art are ways to show what documents cannot say.

9. After the Holocaust and World War II, the traditional (static) visual art media were failing in transferring the memory of the Holocaust, while literature, theatre, music and film were much more successful. On the other hand, due to the new technologies, the boundaries between the “arts” dissolve nowadays and the doors are open to a new interdisciplinary approach. What are the chances for this new (interdisciplinary) perception based on socializing concepts for keeping vivid the memory of the Holocaust? In which way have they to influence the manifestations of Shoah Film Collection via the interventions like a symposium, artists meetings, workshops, exhibitions, performances, screenings, artists talks, discussions etc.

The Holocaust is the crime against Humanity that more literature, films and all kinds of artworks has inspired and yet, when the call for entries of SFC was done they found that many participants did not know what the word “Shoah” meant. So there is a lot of work to do… New technologies can help in terms of interaction or audience participation (I am thinking for example of interactive art, game video art, net-art, artistic use of social networks…) but perhaps the first concern should be to recover that empathy inspired by the pain of the Other.

10. What are your future artistic plans? Do you plan to work on new projects dealing with the Holocaust or related topics like “collective trauma caused by totalitarianism”?
José Luis has just written another essay dealing with the Holocaust “El roble de Goethe en Buchenwald. Glosas en torno a un texto de Joseph Roth” (Goethe’s Oak in Buchenwald. Glosses about a text of Joseph Roth.) an essay about the limits of art and the relationship between culture and barbarism.

I’m working on a video-installation “The blind artist”, video portraits of Iranian contemporary artist, with their eyes closed depicting the inner moment when they create their images, when every image is possible, without any restriction.


Can works of yours viewed online besides on the Shoah Film Collection?
List some links & resources
Marta Azparren:
José Luis Gómez Toré:
About the book Claroscuro del Bosque: