Autel de Lycée Chases (“Altar to the Chases High School”) Favorite 



Jan 1 1986

Text taken from website:

By appropriating mementos of other people’s lives and placing them in an art context, Boltanski explores the power of photography to transcend individual identity and to function instead as a witness to collective rituals and shared cultural memories.

In Boltanski’s 1986–87 work Autel de Lycée Chases (which means “Altar to the Chases High School”) enlarged photographs of children are hung over a platform constructed from stacked tin biscuit boxes, which are rusted as if they have been ravaged by time. The black-and-white photographs look like artifacts from another era. An electric light illuminates each face while at the same time obscuring it. The arrangement gives no way to identify or connect the unnamed individuals.

The photos used in Autel de Lycée Chases were taken from a real-world source, the school photograph of the graduating class of 1931 from a Viennese high school for Jewish students. These students were coming of age in a world dominated by war and persecution, and it is likely that many perished over the next decade.

At once personal and universal in reference, Boltanski’s work serves as a monument to the dead, hinting at the Holocaust without naming it. Within this haunting environment, Boltanski intermingles emotion and history, sentimentality and profundity.

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