In the course of a visit to the Jewish museum in Berlin, in mid July 2014, I came across this truly creative and provocative piece. It is called Fallen Leaves. Some 10,000 faces punched out of steel are scattered on the ground. The work is dedicated not only to Jews killed in the holocaust, but to all victims of violence and war.
You are invited to walk over the faces
and listen to the sounds they make
as they shift beneath your feet.
It is hard to convey the emotional impact of this place. The noises made by the shifting faces remind you both of screams, varying in pitch and volume depending on the sizes and shapes of the faces making them, and of something like a clanking tank running over fleeing victims. It is quite unnerving.
Then, in the middle distance, a shaft of light which turns the faces to gold. What does it mean? Hope amid despair? Gold from the teeth of the dead? Just plain Shekels? Even more unnerving
A nearby exhibit is the olive tree. Presented here as a symbol of fertility and peace. Visitors can write a wish or prayer for placing on the tree.
Unfortunately, the olive tree for me has become a symbol of the wanton destruction of the livelihood of Palestinians on the West Bank by illegal settlers. So this item brought me up a bit short.
And then a mental exercise suggested itself to me and I would like you to go back to the beginning of the Fallen Leaves and slowly go through the sequence again. Only this time, still being true to the artist's wider conception, imagine they are the faces of the Palestinians of Gaza.
Even more unnerving.
[My web page on the Jewish Museum]