Heavens is a book & installation project, in which I personally try to make sense of the Holocaust during the second World War. I attempt to understand and show my feelings about and vision on the massive suffering that has happened... and hopefully, in a tiny way, help to never forget.
I am visiting every known Nazi camp and sub camp (following the Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos published by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum) and I make an image of the blue sky exactly above each location. A blue sky, as in 'that heaven above', and nothing else. A clear view on 1.075 heavens, sober and blue, yet burdened with holding the memory of the ones who suffered below.
Standing on the very same places as the victims, and looking up at the very same sky that they must have seen, it is my belief that their souls went to that heaven in that place. And for that reason, I feel those pieces of heaven should belong to them.
With this work, I wish to touch the concept of heaven and how it can exist, knowing that something clamant as the Holocaust has happened.
At the same time, as a viewer, you can never really know if I actually went to these locations, because there's nothing physical in the images to prove that they were made in those places. Only via a reference number connected to each image, and a separate list, you can find the location of that image. This in reference to the difficulty - still now - of historians reconstructing the lists of people who died, and where.
The truth of these images lies in part in the faith the viewer must have in who I am, that he/she knows I actually have done this. Just, and only because I say I did. That truth is my word that this happened. Because what am I, if I don't have my word?
The list contains 1.075 camps, located all over Europe (look here for an example of a map to sense the magnitude), the overwhelming majority of which have been destroyed and don't exist anymore. I will attempt to document each heaven and publish a book with 1.075 pages and 1.075 blue images. An edition of 1.075 numbered copies. 1.075 heavens.
This book, containing only blue skies and a reference list, will be too senseless, too abstract and too large and too heavy and too much to hold and comprehend... But that is exactly my point:
It is too much.
I want to make this book because I've always wished there existed already such a book, because I've always wanted to buy such a book and give it a place between all the other books in my room, as a reminder, to carry it along with me in my life, as a weight that we maybe, maybe, all should be carrying on our shoulders.
Every time I set out on a trip to document another set of Heavens, I'll document it on the blog too. You can follow the online account of the progress of me continually creating HEAVENS here: antonkusters.com/blog/?category=heavens
The creation of the installation and the book is still a long way away. In the meantime I talk about the installation concept evolving, the idea for the book taking shape, and I'll also try to show images and make them available in little batches or stories, like this one: Meet Gaston, my late grandfather. Watch this space to stay informed about the work: antonkusters.com/things/?category=heavens
A first preview exhibit of the project installation (only containing the heavens above Auschwitz) is presented in Liège (Belgium) in Monos Art Gallery.