Thursday, March 25, 2010

Libera's LEGO Concentration Camp

Zbigniew Libera's LEGO Concentration Camp, 1996

Next week my new students will learn a little bit about Zbigniew Libera's project LEGO Concentration Camp (1996). Libera worked with the LEGO corporation to create a seven box set of different buildings within a concentration camp. Although much of the set contained LEGO materials, some of the faces of the guards and prisoners were manipulated with paint (to suggest expressions of sadness or glee). The last box of the set was full of personal objects and possessions, inspired by the loots that were taken from prisoners during the period.

Unsurprisingly, there was a lot of controversy around this project. You can read a little bit more about the controversy and background of the project in this article (start about 1/3 of the way down the page). Even LEGO launched legal complaints against the artist.

In some ways, it seems like "anything goes" in relation to contemporary art, especially when it comes to readymade/found objects. Today artists seem to scramble for any kind of readymade/found object that hasn't been used (or hasn't been used in a certain way). Libera's work is an example of how nothing can be considered taboo in the contemporary art scene, not only in its readymade medium but also in subject matter.

What do you think of Libera's work and idea? To be honest, I haven't completely made up my own mind. I fluctuate between being offended and feeling that Libera is bringing attention to the Holocaust in a creative way. The thing I don't like to envision, though, is the possibility of little children playing with a LEGO set like this one. And I think that reminder of childhood innocence is part of Libera's point.

(e, I know that Libera's sets were only available in a limited edition. Does the Holocaust Museum own any of the sets?)