‘Historic Photographs: Hitler-Youth, Eingeschweisst’

Gustav Metzger
‘Historic Photographs: Hitler-Youth, Eingeschweisst’, 1997-2020
black & white photograph mounted between two welded steel sheets
121 x 177.5 x 0.4 cm, unique

This work is part of sculptural installations that Gustav Metzger began in 90’s. The artist perversely renders the photograph inaccessible – or shrouded so severely that its content cannot be visually determined. ‘Historic Photographs: Hitler-Youth, Eigenschweisst (“welded”)’ presents two large sheets of steel that have been welded together like an envelope, and lean as one unit against the wall. We can’t be sure that anything is between them, but the impulse is to imagine a photograph in there. Despite the absence of visual testimony, the work’s descriptive title evokes a chilling scene – Hitler mesmerizing his young followers, who stand like robots, hands raised in salute – that is seared into our collective memory. Metzger treats images with unbearable heft – emotional, intellectual, personal – in this way, prohibiting denial of the historic realities they depict even while precluding visual access to them, and forcing viewers to confront histories they might not ordinarily conceive as their own. ‘Historic Photographs’ series begs the question, whose history? – and asserts, with quiet urgency: ours.