Dana Arieli (b. 1963), Israeli artist and professor of history, in her projects examines the relationship between art and politics, whether in totalitarian or democratic systems. In her project Phantoms: Journeys after Relics of Dictatorships, which she has been involved in since 2009, she documents the remnants of the regimes that have crumbled. In MOCAK Library, we present a selection of her photographs from the series The Polish Phantom. The exhibition comprises five parts (Warsaw, Nowa Huta, Krakow, Auschwitz, Kielce). Contemporary photographs document objects, spaces and places related to World War II and Polish People’s Republic. The artist has also documented sites in 14 other countries, including Germany, Russia, Italy and countries of east Asia.
Dana Arieli employs the term ‘phantom’ in the medical sense: pain experienced after amputation in the missing limb. In her works she sets out to register the relics of the spent political systems that continue to be the source of discomfort. At the same time, she registers human helplessness in the face of the most extreme ethical challenges related to perils that personal freedom faced in totalitarian systems. In this juxtaposition, the phantom is associated with the persistent disquiet and reminder of human moral failure.
In her art, Arieli questions the awareness that relics of the fallen dictatorships continue to exist in the sphere of visual culture. She reflects on how the infrastructure created in the course of a regime functions after a political transformation, under democratic conditions.
The viewers are able to participate in the project via online comments on the website and express their views on the processing of the problematic past and its phantom manifestations in public space. They can take home the comments that accompany the photographs on display, or write their own on one of the computers at their disposal in the reading room.