Becoming Universal Part 5: A Conclusion

This study has shown that the visual responses to the Holocaust that have been discussed are by no means purely mimetic or testimonial, aspects which have been at the heart of the debate in the existing literature on the subject. The focus on two separate case studies from the oeuvre of Zoran Mušič and Marc Chagall have allowed for a diverse exploration of Holocaust representation, and for a balanced analysis of both Jewish and Gentile experience, as well as concentration camp survivor and non-survivor responses.

What can be concluded from this study is that the emergence of the metanarrative of the Holocaust in Western European and North American society is equally problematic as it is significant, and that is reflected in art. This codification of the events of the Holocaust into an evolving socio-cultural over-arching account has excluded Jewish experience from its deserved importance in the aftermath of the Shoah, whilst the later vicarious participation of all humankind in the trauma of the tragic mass murder that had previously been overlooked has led to its universalization. With this universalization comes a monolithic vision that combines the experience of millions of victims and survivors into that of a handful of people, virtually silencing a multiverse of stories that will most likely never be heard by the wider public. This creates a monopoly of Holocaust remembrance that is highly problematic because of what it excludes. Furthermore, the idolization of the survivor testimony engenders other issues, such as the eroticisation of the nude body. Conversely, this metanarrative has, at the same time, changed the course of history by creating historically pioneering opportunities for justice on religious, ethnic and racial terms. This makes it a ‘world historical event’ in Hegel’s terms, possibly bringing humanity one step closer to reaching the full stage of history and human freedom.

Art and culture have played crucial roles in the Western reconstruction of World War II and post-war history, from sketches done by inmates being used as evidence in the Dachau and Nuremberg trials, to the importance of testimonial literature in bridging the gap that Holocaust has created in collective memory. By considering Apocalypse en Lilas, Capriccio and the Nous ne sommes pas les derniers series through the lens of socio- cultural theory, this study has aimed to reach an understanding of these works in their original socio-historical context. This was done with the aim of filling in the gap in scholarship that has considered them mostly in relation to the life of the artists or simply as responses to the Holocaust as a historical event. Furthermore, it also represents an attempt to see Zoran Mušič and Marc Chagall’s work with a critical eye, rather than succumbing to the pitfalls that other studies have by romanticising Mušič and Chagall’s oeuvre and life.

Non-Marxist social art history and semiotics have been employed extensively throughout this series of articles, complemented by Feminism, iconographical and iconological analysis, as well as formalism to a small extent. This range of different art historical methodologies has been employed with the vision of creating a balanced analysis that allows for a multiplicity of viewpoints.

At the same time, there have been certain limitations posed by the length of this study and resources available. A further study of this subject would include a deeper exploration of art’s role as a device of commemoration, whilst considering a broader range of artists.

Moreover, the exploration of different artistic approaches to Holocaust representation, such as post-memorial artist Kitty Klaidman’s employment of architectural language or British painter Sally Heywood’s abstract forms would be suitable fields of exploration.

Lastly, it must be said that the postmodern condition’s scepticism towards metanarratives is somewhat founded, especially considering the chaos and disorder that the

Holocaust enacted in society. Perhaps a more contextualized, historically specific and manifold perspective would be a more suitable approach for consideration in art and society when it comes to the Holocaust.

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