Human civilisation has developed a whole institution out of marking places of memorial. How are these places and events chosen and how does this selection process affect the ways our memories are formed, however? These are the questions that lie at the basis of the work of the Belorussian photographer Alexander Mihalkovich.
The artist tackles the history of the Holocaust in Latvia. Using the tools provided by online resources such as Google Earth, Foursquare and Panoramio, the artist launches interventions in cyberspace. Mihalkovich uploads documentary photographs onto these electronic resources, including materials on the 1941 massacre of Jews in the vicinity of Liepaja beach carried out under SS Scharführer Carl-Emil Strott, providing links to the images and their geolocation. The places captured in the photographs do not occupy such a prominent place in the grand historical narrative as, for example, Auschwitz, Treblinka or other symbol-places, and so the users of such hosting services will scarcely associate them with tragic events that took place there 70 years ago. In fully maintaining fidelity to historical justice, this project attempts to counteract the historical amnesia that is fuelled, among other things, by the needs of the entertainment industry.
For a generation of active Internet users, the virtual space has in many ways become an external memory storage facility. This is why Mihalkovich pays so much attention in the project to analysing the mechanisms behind his work, which the viewer discovers through the author's comments on the screenshots. Before images can be published on Internet resources such as Google Earth, they are tested for potential copyright infringements. Although Mihalkovich made minor edits to the images in order to bypass this mechanism, not all his interventions were successful, which raises the question of whether this process is completely automated or whether there is in fact a deliberate kind of censorship at work to either safeguard the carefree leisure of Internet users, or smother the memory of place.
Presented as part of the permanent exposition of the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Centre, this project enters into direct dialogue with the documentary materials it features, and emphasises once more the importance of active knowledge, resisting both the natural fading of memory and the rewriting of history.