HE Ambassador Dr Elisabeth Kehrer
BEAUTY OF MEMORY : Inna Rogatchi’s SHINING SOULS series
Inna Rogatchi is internationally renowned as a scholar, writer and lecturer, focussing her research on history and international political relations with a particular emphasis on anti-Semitism in its many forms. In addition to this outstanding career, she is equally acclaimed as a film director and photographic artist.
In her beautiful installation “Shining Souls. Champions of Humanity. Brussels Edition 2017” she presents a selection of 30 works from her Champions of Humanity collection. In it, she combines her historic research with her art, dedicating this beautiful series of art photographs to some of the most extraordinary persons of the 20th and 21st century, many of whom she knew personally or held a lifelong friendship with.
Inna Rogatchi pays homage to men and women who lived through the darkest horror that humans unleashed against other human beings, and yet were able to give us works of art of immeasurable beauty and depth – Paul Celan, Elie Wiesel, Felix Nussbaum, Chaim Soutine and the Rose family – to name but a few of those commemorated in this remarkable exhibition. Inna Rogatchi also honours men and women who rose above fear and at great risk to themselves helped others to survive, Chiune Sugihara, Carl Lutz, Tadeusz Pankiewicz, Irena Sendler. Some, like Raoul Wallenberg and Janusz Korczak, paid the ultimate price for their courage. And the collection pays tribute to those who, after the Shoah, worked for justice, humanism and reconciliation, like Simon Wiesenthal, Thomas Buergenthal or Odd Nansen.
The artist uses deceptively simple motives, captured in her homes in Finland and Italy or on her numerous trips – a tree, a leaf, a flower, the sky, the moon, a shadow, a candle… By pairing those simple motives with the extraordinary persons commemorated, Inna Rogatchi conveys their individual spirit and personality in a unique way. Take as an example “Simon’s Rose”: Inna Rogatchi visited her friend Simon Wiesenthal in Vienna for many years and recorded some of her conversations with him. This resulted in her remarkable documentary film “The Lessons of Survival. Conversations with Simon Wiesenthal” describing his survival from the Holocaust and consequent lifelong quest for bringing the perpetrators to justice. During all the years of Inna’s meetings with him, Simon Wiesenthal always had a golden rose on his office desk. Hence her tribute to him, a rose, bathed in golden light, contrasted to an anonymous wall in the background. As we are reading from Inna’s mini-essay to the work, the wall is the of the war-period walls of Warsaw where Simon’s wife Cyla was hiding during the Holocaust. Simon and Cyla were just two persons to survive from the family of 89.
Like this emblematic work, the entire series provides the viewer with an opportunity to remember and reflect while enjoying the remarkable beauty of Inna Rogatchi’s art. Poignancy embedded in beauty is characteristic of all her work, always dedicated to the principle of “Never Forget”. On behalf of all viewers, I can only thank her for sharing it with us.
Dr Elisabeth Kehrer
Austrian Ambassador to Finland
Inna Rogatchi(C). Simon’s Rose. Homage to Simon Wiesenthal. Shining Souls series.