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Maker(s):Balka, Miroslaw
Culture:Polish (1958- )
Date Made:2006
Materials:Lithograph printed on 250 g Velin d´Arches paper
Measurements:Mat: 26 3/4 in x 31 7/8 in; 67.9 cm x 81 cm; Sheet: 22 1/4 in x 30 3/16 in; 56.5 cm x 76.7 cm; Image: 15 5/16 in x 20 7/8 in; 38.9 cm x 53 cm
Narrative Inscription:  SIGNATURE: front, lwr. r. (graphite): M Balka; EDITION: front, lwr. l. (graphite): 73/100
Accession Number:  UM 2014.22
Credit Line:Gift of Miroslaw Balka
Museum Collection:  University Museum of Contemporary Art at UMASS Amherst

Photograph of the letter B from a wrought iron sign bearing the German phrase Arbeit Macht Frei, (Work makes you free) from over the entrance to a Nazi concentration camp, probably Auschwitz. The B is backwards as a prisoner would see it from inside the camp.


Label Text:
Exhibition Label, 40 Years / 40 Artists, January 22–March 8, 2015:
Second World War and Poland’s part in it is a recurrent theme in Balka’s art, which is subtle and full of emotion. This lithograph is a still image from his video “B”, installed here in 2009. Despite the horrific historic location of Auschwitz, Balka succeeds in questioning how the Holocaust should be remembered or even represented.
The slogan “Arbeit macht frei” was placed at the entrances to a number of Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz where it was made by prisoners with metalwork skills and erected by order of the Nazis in June 1940. “Arbeit macht frei” (literally “work makes free”) is a German phrase that can be translated as “work liberates” or “work sets you free”.
The upper bowl in the “B” in “ARBEIT” is wider than the lower bowl, appearing to some as upside-down. Allegedly it was made on purpose by political prisoners
to make a signal what is really going on in Auschwitz. - Loretta Yarlow

architecture; civil rights; crime; deaths; labor; memory; military; politics; social commentary; wars; Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)

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