Shoah Film Collection -  Interview Project

Goldman, Ela


Ela Goldman
Israeli artist

Her contribution to Shoah Film Collection

Interview: 10 questions

1. Tell me something about your life and the educational background

I grew up in a house with two traditions, a descendent of Jewish-Polish parents. Throughout my life I have found myself torn between my Polish and Jewish identity, in regard to the local history and the tragic fate of the majority of the Jewish community in Poland, that was thriving, just a few decades before I was born. About fifteen years ago I made “Aliya” and moved to Israel, and am still coping with the tension between my previous life in Europe and my current life. It is a long-life journey that I often discuss in my artistic work. I have studied art, cinema and theatre in various institutions and have recently finished my PHD in art from The Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk, Poland.

2. When, how and why started you filming?

I started creating video works when I was 12 and got my first video camera for my Bat Mitvah. I have always found moving images to be a fascinating means of communicating artistic concepts and visions. My first real adventure with video art was when working on the final project for my PHD. This project is documented in “What Has Been Will Be Again, What Has Been Done Will Be Done Again”, the video that has been selected to participate in the Shoah Film Collection.

3. How do you develop your films, do you follow certain principles, styles etc?
Tell me something about the technical equipment you use.

The main tool I use is my heart, which I try to always follow, through all stages of artistic creation. I believe it is no coincidence that in English the last three letters of the word “heart”, spell “art”. The technical equipment I use is standard and varies according to the people I work with on a certain project and their recommendations.

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?

My contact with two different worlds and two different times has become the inspiration for my PHD research and artistic work. One of these worlds presented an image of very dusty tales I heard as a child. They smelled like a desert, from the dust of the pages being turned, telling stories of biblical heroes, raisins, Shabbat candles and a sense of sadness or mourning for something that is gone. The second world was everything that was happening around me. Both worlds were marked by the cyclical passing of seasons and holidays, as I was told that “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again.”

This tension between the past and the present does not leave me, in both my personal life and my artistic work. I decided to use a dreidel (a traditional Jewish toy top one plays with during Hanukkah) as the main element in my works as an attempt to find the border between past and present, between here and there. My inspirations and thoughts to date have led me to explore the explanatory power of the dreidel in contemporary art and culture. Surprisingly, I have come to the conclusion that this symbol is not regularly in use, and through my work I try to give it a contemporary interpretation, as a kind of memory machine. Spinning the dreidel, I repeat what was done in the past and predict what the following generations would do.

It was important for me to be part of the Shoah Film Collection because of my heritage and the fact that many of my works so far have dealt, usually indirectly, with the memory of the Holocaust.

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

Like I said before being of Jewish-Polish descent, most of my relatives was affected personally, and it has left a deep wound and great pain in our family history.

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?

I believe that the Holocaust holds a universal message of tolerance and the dangers of allowing any one group to have ultimate power. It is a warning sign to where things may lead and it is relevant for many contemporary dilemmas countries are facing today, in regards, for example, to the uprise in immigration to Western countries due to financial needs or even war that creates refugees.

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?

I am a great believer in the power of art and think that it is vital to continue to create works that relate to the subject in new ways and show various approaches to this disaster, while emphasizing the elements of the personal effect on people and their families.

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?

Again, I believe it is important to emphasize the most personal and human aspects of it. For myself, I have found the dreidel to be a very effective tool. It is a constant element in my life, it was there before I was born and it lives on in my children and their children after that. The duplication of the same act by kids of different times and places around the world, all sharing a certain tradition, is uplifting and allows for memory to become both sad and beautiful and mesmerizing at the same time. This is what I attempt to do in my art.

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.

In our “new” world that relies almost entirely on visual elements that can be shared or “liked” on the internet, the role of visual arts is to become communicable and approach the audiences on their own screens instead of just waiting for them to arrive at the museum. This casual visit to virtual museum allows young people today to expose themselves better to the processes that contemporary art is undergoing. I also believe that the interdisciplinary tools are able to provide new ways of expression that benefit art in general and Shoah related art in particular.

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”?

I wish to continue exploring this subject as it is very important to me personally, because of my family history.

Can works of yours viewed online besides on the Shoah Film Collection?
List some links & resources

Not at this time, but hopefully in the future they will be.