ARTIST STATEMENT

DOUBLECROSS

dou·ble–cross (dŭb′əl-krôs′, -krŏs′)  1. verb.  To deceive or betray (a person with whom one is supposedly cooperating).  2.  noun.  A crucifix made for two.

 

 

This exhibition is a response of sorts to a long academic journey -- examining the image of the crucified Christ in post-Holocaust art.  There are diverse reasons for this appropriation.  For many Jewish artists the image of the suffering Christ was a powerfully potent one.  By transmuting their hurt, isolation and frustrations onto the image, they seized it as a symbol of both general suffering and particular Jewish suffering.  While some resourced the Christian tradition to find a paradigm of human suffering in art, others used the cross provocatively -- to remind viewers that this symbol has a long history of being used as a sword of oppression.  There is no single interpretation that can explain the use of the cross in post-Holocaust art other than to argue that such art has an allusive capacity to reveal the polysemous potential of this symbol beyond the proprietary claims of Christian faith and worship.  Indeed it is the “play” of such art that allows it to offer a contribution to understanding the theological complexities raised by both the Holocaust and the kind of violence that required a new term in its wake: genocide.  

In a similar manner, the relationship between the passion of Christ and genocide is not clear in this exhibition.  The title of this show, DOUBLECROSS, has two meanings.  A double-cross is a betrayal of an allegiance.  For many, the Holocaust specifically, and genocide in general, raises important questions about the relationship between God and suffering – or in theological terms, he problem of theodicy.  It is a question that has been discussed for millennia, namely, if there is an all-powerful, all-knowing and benevolent God then why do bad things happen in the world?   It is a difficult question when you have to bury a child, but the ante is upped when you consider God’s presence in genocide.  Where was God at Auschwitz? Where was God when six million Jews, his chosen people, were nearly eradicated off the planet?  There is no easy answer to this.  The tightest theology begins to unwind when we take the “Auschwitz test” seriously – that is the statement famously made by Rabbi Irving Greenberg.  He suggests that we need to approach the question with deep theological humility: "No statement, theological or otherwise, should be made that would not be credible in the presence of burning children."

But there is another meaning to DOUBLECROSS.   In his book The Crucified God, Jürgen Moltmann attempts to construct what he calls a “theology after Auschwitz” by suggesting that God suffers in solidarity with his people. The cross, Moltmann argues, reveals a great deal about God’s self-commitment to involve himself in the sufferings of the world.  Even the horror of Auschwitz, he suggested, is “taken up into the grief of the Father.”  God did not contemplate those events from a distance, he notes, because the Holocaust was incorporated into God through Christ.   The apostle Paul talks about human suffering filling up and completing, in some mystical manner, the sufferings of Christ.  “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of his body in filling up that which is lacking in Christ's afflictions.”  There is a surfeit of human suffering in this verse that is usually not expressed in more conventional Christian renderings of the Passion.  

For the Christian, walking the Via Crucis is an opportunity to stand before the Christ, walk in his footsteps, and behold the face of suffering.  They are a positive apparatus for the Christian to practice their devotion by strengthening the intimacy of their relationship with Jesus. To behold the face of the suffering Christ is to behold the glory of God.  My Stations interrupt this possibility.  They do not allow us to look upon this face.  In my flattened collage landscapes I have attempted to invoke the thinker Emmanuel Levinas who considers the problem of, “a God who veils his countenance” in the presence of such suffering. From a Christian point of view, it is easy to convey the image of a suffering God at Golgotha, but it is harder to paint his presence in the hard-to-see shadow of the Rape of Nanking, or the Siberian Gulags or the terrors of ISIS.  By presenting genocide as stations of the cross I am suggesting a relationship between the Christian passion narrative and human suffering that neither abandons God to an unmoved mover nor lets God off the metaphoric hook.   Rather, I want to maintain a tension between the two meanings of DOUBLECROSS that requires the viewer to see Auschwitz and Golgotha from a single perspective with all the cognitive dissonance this invites.