Book made of paper and plaster, with the pages of the book die-cut around the papier-mâché cast of a forearm and hand, with the fingers splayed out

Tatana Kellner (b. 1950)
71125, Fifty years of silence: Eva Kellner’s Story
Paper and plaster, 1992
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, Print Collection


71125, Fifty years of silence: Eva Kellner’s Story

Transcript below

Tatana Kellner: This is one of two volumes of my parents’ remembrance of their experience of surviving during World War II in the concentration camps.

Anna Deavere Smith: That’s Czech-born American artist Tatana Kellner. Her handmade book combines her parent’s recollections, written in Czech, with her own English translation, as well as family photos and historic images from the camps. At the center, a life-size cast of a forearm.

Tatana Kellner: What was important to me in trying to tell their story was that there is a human presence while the book is being read.

Growing up I remember being horrified by my parents’ tattoos on their arms. I just couldn't imagine having this kind of scarring on your flesh. And also having that tattoo identified them as Jews. And being a Jew in a communist country meant being discriminated against.

So that's why the arm became the central aspect of the book. I wanted the reader to be confronted by this tattooed arm as they are reading the account of those years in the camps.

Anna Deavere Smith: Kellner cast each parent’s forearm 50 times—for all 50 copies of each book—and reproduced their tattooed identification numbers from Auschwitz. It took her two years to complete the project.

Tatana Kellner: In those two years, when I finished the books, you know, they both died within nine months of each other. And it became sort of their legacy.

I just didn't want their story to be lost. Because so much is lost in terms of what we remember and what becomes part of history. And I just wanted to be part of the educational process for the future generations.

End of Transcript

Tatana Kellner is an award-winning visual artist whose work encompasses printmaking, photography, installation, and artists’ books.

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