Working Out and Playing Through: Boaz Arad’s Hitler Videos

  • Gene Ray
Part of the Studies in European Culture and History book series (SECH)


The playfully serious and seriously playful work of Israeli video artist Boaz Arad poses crucial ethico-political questions about the limits to artistic confrontations with genocidal history and its legacies. What are our duties and responsibilities—as artists, critics, and spectators—with respect to representing the problems of trauma and mourning, of collective memory and identity, and of reconciliation and forgiveness? These problems are more urgent than ever today, as a dubious doctrine of perpetual preemptive “war on terror” throws international law into global crisis. Adorno had set down the theoretical baseline here, but the contemporary situation is very different from that of the post-1945 period in which he developed his “after-Auschwitz” ethic of representation. Understanding the historicity of Adorno’s claims and imperatives is an unavoidable task for critical theory and aesthetics today. If Adorno’s endorsement of severely “negative” artistic forms and practices attained a kind of belated dominance in the memorial art of the mid-1980s, it is no longer enough to simply apply his formulations as the source of conventionalized rules for production and criticism. It will be necessary to test those formulas against unfolding history and to scrutinize them through the interrogative force of contemporary practices. Arad’s series of four short but potent videos constructed around images of Hitler gives us an opening to do just that.


Collective Memory Film Clip Aesthetic Pleasure Acoustic Unit Israeli Context 
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  1. 1.
    Moshe Zimmerman, “The Collective Memory of the Victimhood: Comments on the Israeli Reception of the Shoa and Its Role in Current Policy,” in Tsafrir Cohen, Avi Pitchon, and Mirjam Wenzel, eds., Wonderyears (Berlin: Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst, 2003), p. 35. See also, Idith Zertal’s hardhitting essay “Auschwitz Is Here,” pp. 44–58 in the same catalog.Google Scholar

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© Gene Ray 2005

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  • Gene Ray

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