Christian Boltanski The Reserve of Dead Swiss 1990

Artwork details

The Reserve of Dead Swiss
La Réserve des Suisses morts
Date 1990
Medium 42 photographs on paper, 42 electric lamps, fabric and wood
Dimensions Displayed: 2834 x 4725 x 270 mm
displayed: 2834 x 6240 x 270 mm
Acquisition Presented by the Fondation Cartier 1992
Not on display

Display caption

The photographs of anonymous dead people were selected by Boltanski from obituary notices in Swiss newspapers. The lengths of fabric gathered around the shelves are shroud-like and also evoke the curtain of the crematorium. Aside from this suggestion of 'memento mori' the harsh beams that spotlight each face evoke references to interrogation and torture. These aspects together with the sheer scale of death suggested by the title and by the repetitive presentation employed here have led commentators to find references to the holocaust. However by nominating the victims as Swiss, a neutral people, the association is muted and allows for more intimate, personal and wider, historical reflections.

August 2004

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