Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Today I checked out the book "Treblinka" from the Harold Washington Library here in Chicago. I first read the book when I was twelve and in Hebrew School in order to prepare for my Bar Mitzvah. Back then it was an assignment just like any other; however, lately I've had a renewed interest since I'm travelling to Poland for an exhibition in a week and am planning on visiting the camp (it is actually a memorial, the camp itself no longer is standing). I wanted to re-read Treblinka so that when I stand on the actual site, I will have some kind of a connection with the history of the place. The more I read, the more I think that it will impossible to register the connection between the memorial and the history.
Although my ancestors on my father's side were Eastern European Jews, they had long been living on the Lower East Side of Manhattan by the start of the war. My mom's side of the family was a different story. My grandmother grew up in Czechoslovakia on a farm with her grandparents. She was not Jewish but her grandparents owned a farm that the Nazis wanted and they ended killing them to take their land. My grandmother saw her grandparents die and after escaping, she immigrated alone to NY in 1938 at 18 years of age.
My grandparents had different ways of dealing with the war, my mother's mom never talked about it and never had any desire to return to the continent. My father's mom reacted by boycotting German goods until the end of her life (apparently very upset when my parents bought a Volkswagon Beetle in the late 1960's).
As for me, I didn't meet anyone from Germany until I was 22. I was living in Guatemala at the time and shared a house with my dear friend Ute. For me, the war was something of the distant past. I found that I really connected with the Germans that I met and their uniquely dry sense of humor. That being said, I remember the first time that Ute and I talked about the war and to my surprise, the war was still very much alive for her. She still carried a degree of guilt, This was really eye opening and made me feel even more affection for her.
Two years later I travelled to Germany to visit her and have been back since to exhibit my work in Munich. Although I felt removed from the war (my father wasn't even a twinkle in his mother's eye), I was acutely aware of the history of the place. My gallery is on Ludwigstrasse which is the street where Hitler held his early rallies, it was pretty intense to stand on the same spot where the Third Reich was born and I felt it pretty deeply.
And so next Sunday I depart for Poland and to the site of the Treblinka Death Camp. One of the amazing things about Treblinka is that it was one of the few camps to rise up in revolt. It sounds insane to say that I'm looking forward to the experience but it is something that I've always wanted to do and I'm sure that it will be profound. I've found that my relationship with the Holocaust has greatly changed since I've become a father, it has become even that much more unfathomable.
Below you can find a documentary about the events leading up to Treblinka, it is long but interesting. I'm sure I'll post again on this theme after my return.
Posted by jonathan Gitelson at 8:32 PM
Sunday, April 12, 2009
I'm excited to say that I've started to make real progress on my newest project, "The Sweet Spot." Essentially, I've been mapping the train platform at my local station to find the spots where I have the greatest probability of standing where the train door will open (thus getting a seat). I'm starting to propose exhibitions of the piece so keep your fingers crossed and keep your eyes out for further updates.
Posted by jonathan Gitelson at 7:48 PM
Procrastinating this evening, I came across this video for the song "Face of Jesus in My Soup" by Avi Paul Weinstein. I felt it to be especially relevant considering today is Easter . . . despite the fact that I'm Jewish. Anyhow, the video consists of found footage from the local library of international driving instructions. Enough dicking around Gitelson, get back to work!
Posted by jonathan Gitelson at 7:03 PM
Friday, April 10, 2009
As I am prone to do at least once a year, on Wednesday morning I locked my keys inside of my car. The one silver lining was that I happened to do this directly across the street from an auto garage. While I was waiting for them to unlock my door, I sat down in their waiting area in order to flip through their magazine selection. I must have been in an extremely intellectual part of town because the reading selection ranged from In-Style, Time and Hispanic Magazine to Chaucer and Cellini. Fortunately for me, they were able to open my car door before I had a chance to reach the conclusion of The Canterbury Tales
Posted by jonathan Gitelson at 5:17 PM
Thursday, April 09, 2009
Of course he did! I'm so happy that three of my good friends were all awarded Guggenheim Fellowships yesterday: Brian Ulrich, Anna Shteynshleyger and James Nakagawa. All three are great photographers and great people . . . Midwest Represent!
Posted by jonathan Gitelson at 1:08 PM
Sunday, April 05, 2009
This was posted by Shawnee Barton, an artist who keeps a blog on other people’s blogs. If you have a little nook of cyberspace and are open to welcoming a guest poster, or if you're a video whiz and want to help her with her crashing trucks/fireworks project, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She will be grateful. To see where she is posting next, check out shawneebarton.com.
"Once upon a time, I wanted to make a video where a semi-truck carrying firecrackers crashed head on into another truck and a large scale fireworks display erupted with symphony orchestra music and all.
I never could figure out how to make that video, but while I was looking for footage of trucks crashing, I came across these old drivers training videos that are super gruesome. They have names like "Wheels of Agony" and "Mechanized Death." I liked them so much, I ordered the whole set from the Ohio Department of Safety . Anytime I want to impress someone, I pop these bad boys in the dvd player and show them off like they're like a big-horned hunting trophy or a limited edition Princess Diana plate."
Posted by jonathan Gitelson at 7:37 PM
Saturday, April 04, 2009
CLICK HERE FOR A HIGH RESOLUTION VERSION
I lived in Boston from 1998-2000 and during my first summer there, I shared a house with some amazing artists and musicians (ten of them to be exact). It was a bit of a freak-out house: people camping in the back yard, fridge filled with nothing but Hamms Beer, recording studio in the basement, you get the idea. Anyhow, two of my friends from the house were Colin Langenus and Tom Hohmann. Colin and Tom were in an amazing band named BullRoarer and shared a bunk bed in the room next to mine. After BullRoarer came to an end, Tom and Colin began the band USAISAMONSTER which consists of Colin on guitar and Tom on drums. I've always been amazed and inspired by my friends from those days who still continue to constantly record and to tour all of these years later despite their lack of finances and commercial success.
So the years passed and I moved to Chicago. In 2003/2004, I found out that USAISAMONSTER was coming to town to play a common room at the University of Chicago. I headed down with my friend Nate and caught up with Tom and Colin after a number of lost years. It was so great to see them and to see that after all this time, they were still creating music at a million miles an hour . . . truly inspiring.
Ok, I'll cut to the chase. My friend Jonah emailed me the other day because it seems that USAISAMONSTER has a video up on the Pitchfork website. I could not be happier for these guys, the video is amazing (looks like the work of Tom), the song is amazing and hopefully it brings them some well deserved attention. So . . . check these guys out if you see them coming through your town, it will be well worth your while!
Here is some vintage BullRoarer to take you home, it's incredible what you can dig up on youtube!!!
Posted by jonathan Gitelson at 10:23 AM