Legacy / A life in vain

Until December 16, 2012

Entrance hall exhibition

The work of photographer Juliette Erkelens centres around two recurring themes, the meaning of family ties and the consequences of the choices we make. The Dutch Resistance Museum is displaying two of Erkelens’ works about choices and feelings of guilt within families, both related to the Second World War: Legacy and A life in vain.

Juliette Erkelens (1964) graduated cum laude from the Amsterdam Photography Academy in 2007. In April of that year, she received the 2006 Best of Members Award from the Dutch Photographers Association for the Legacy series shown here.

In Legacy (2006-2007), Erkelens uses five images to reconstruct the wartime parting of her husband’s Jewish relatives. His grandparents, father and uncle went into hiding separately, not knowing whether they would ever see each other again. They survived the war, while other relatives were murdered in German extermination camps.

Once the war was over, the family never discussed their life in hiding. That is, until many year later, when her husband’s grandmother suddenly started talking about the decision to go into hiding. Going into hiding was dangerous, but the family was also faced with the very ominous uncertainty of what would happen if they were to report for deportation to Germany. Seeing each other again was all that mattered.

Erkelens staged the moment the parents and their two children had to say goodbye. Her husband, sons and sister-in-law played the parts of their relatives from two generations ago.

A life in vain
Erkelens saw A life in vain (2008-2010) as a logical sequel to Legacy. She used this video installation to reconstruct the tale of a child from a family of Dutch Nazi party NSB members. She has the child of those days, now an old man, take on the role of his grandfather, who was a member of the NSB. She has reconstructed the story using fragments of interviews and texts, old family photographs and staged images in which the child becomes his grandfather. And she has him tell the story. Erkelens transformed all of these components into a video installation, combining image, sound and text to tell the whole story.