Esther Shalev-Gerz — Finalist Proposal for the National Holocaust Monument in Ottawa, Canada


Installation, sculpture

Esther Shalev-Gerz
Finalist Proposal for the National Holocaust Monument in Ottawa, Canada

Past: September 9, 2013 → September 9, 2014


In 2013 Shalev-Gerz’s team was selected as one of the six finalists in the competition for the design of the National Holocaust Monument of Canada organized the Canadian government.

Inspired by a fragment of the Talmud stating that destroying a life is destroying a world and saving a life is saving a world, and acknowledging the fact that the Holocaust has left all and everyone in a partial state, not only those who lived through it, but those who have come to know about it and even those who still are to learn, Shalev-Gerz and her team designed a 20-metre-wide and 14-metre-high half-sphere of white marble representing a world torn in half.

Here, monumentality signals the enormity of loss in a fragmented world. The sculpture’s form is abstract and representational at once: one world, one people, one person, torn apart. As in all Shalev-Gerz’s works, visitors are invited to experience the past, the present and the future at a personal and individual level.

This half-world seems to float over a meandering wall whose gentle curves define a large gathering space for mourning and remembering, for commemorative ceremonies and individual experiences, and provide a 20-meter-long seating area for a contemplative pause. Inscribed on the wall are quotes sharing personal testimonies, thoughts and reflections of the Holocaust. Now that those who have survived the Holocaust are passing away, these words by survivors, writers, filmmakers, historians and public servants are an invitation to the visitor to read, to remember and to share.

The curve culminates at the Canada Wall, a transparent wall of stacked white marble shelves. The gaps between the marble slabs are spaces to be filled over time with stones that visitors carry from their home provinces. As in the Jewish burial custom, the placing of stones bears witness to future generations, while creating a personal memory of passage, participation and commitment.

At the foot of the monument rounded pebbles are embedded in the pavement in the shape of a half ellipse. Each year, during the April remembrance of the Holocaust, the shadow of the monument would have come into alignment with the pebbled ellipse.

The team that realized Shalev-Gerz’s idea comprised Hossein Amanat, architect and urban designer, Robert Kleyn, architect and project manager, Daniel Roehr, landscape architect, David Lieberman, architect, Carol Zemel and Georges Didi-Huberman, Holocaust scholars. Thanks to Ayelet Shalev, architect, Yannig Willman, 3D designer and Julia Bastard, assistant.

National Holocaust Monument in Ottawa, Canada Independant
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The artist