Libera's concentration camp work consists of seven Lego kits. Each kit includes the pieces necessary to build one section of the camp. Libera assembled each kit from existing Lego sets, taking, for example, the prison guards from sets including policemen and the skeleton figures depicting camp victims from a pirate set. The resulting tableaux shown on the boxes' cover photos include martial uniformed Lego men dragging white skeletons from homes, beating them, administering electroshock, and committing other violent acts.
The disjunct between the brutality of the camp and the banality of Lego is disturbing. The work has incited controversy about whether the depiction of an aspect of the Holocaust with toys is trivializing. The prestigious Venice Biennale contemporary art exhibit invited Libera in 1997 but told him to keep this work at home. Libera refused to go. Others say that such depictions, rendered in the modern idiom of Lego, sustain awareness and discussion of the Holocaust. The work raises questions about the commercialization of violence, the role of memorials, and the sanitization of history. The Jewish Museum in New York showed the camp set in its 2002 exhibition Mirroring Evil: Nazi Imagery / Recent Art.
Libera's works are on display at the Slusser and Work galleries January 13 through February 17.
[Review published January 2006]