A Swedish visual artist is being accused of disturbing the peace of the dead and desecrating human remains for using a solution made up of equal parts water and Holocaust victim ashes to paint his latest work of art.
Carl Michael von Hausswolff says he visited the infamous Majdanek concentration camp in 1989 and swiped some ashes from the camp's crematorium.
I took out a few sheets of watercolour paper and decided to cover just a rectangular space with ashes mixed with water. When I stepped back and looked at the pictures, they 'spoke' to me: figures appeared... as if the ashes contained energy or memories or 'souls' from people... people tortured, tormented and murdered by other people in one of the most ruthless wars of the 20th century.
The resulting art exhibit — Memory Works — is presently on display at the Martin Bryder Gallery in Lund. Asked about the controversy surrounding the piece, Bryder told the Daily Telegraph, "please come to the gallery, see the painting and judge for yourselves whether it's controversial."
Salomon Schulman, a prominent member of the Jewish community in Sweden, wrote an op-en for a local paper in which he called the painting "revolting." "I'm never going to step foot inside this gallery to view this desecration of Jewish bodies," Schulman wrote. "Who knows — maybe some of the ashes come from some of my relatives."
A criminal investigation has been launched by Swedish police, but it remains unclear if theft of ashes in Poland constitutes a crime in Sweden.