A 1997 project (also known as ‘Your Coloring Book’) by the Israeli artist Ram Katzir
. Participants were offered a coloring book
with drawings they could color any way they liked. The coloring pictures would then be hung in various museum
s in Utrecht
(the Netherlands), Vilnius
) and Amsterdam
(the Netherlands). Visitors to these exhibitions would also get the chance to color.
The coloring pictures used weren’t regular ones though: they were pictures of nazi rituals, humiliation of Jews and the worship of Hitler. The project provoked strong emotions and many people complained about the exhibitions, to no avail. Katzir claimed he wanted to break the taboos about World War II, to make adults look at the war by the means of a simple coloring book, as through the eyes of a child.
Some people didn’t know what they were coloring, either cause they were too young or because they lived on the other side of the world. For example, and quoting from an article in the ‘Yediot Achronot’, 1997:
A group of Japanese tourists arrives at the table. One of them chooses to color in the drawing of ‘The Soap Factory’. They are convinced that this is a kitchen, and consult with each other at length about how to decorate it. The suspicions of the person coloring are aroused when he encounters a strange box. He does not recognize that its contents are human limbs, and he asks his companions what these strange things are. They shrug their shoulders. Later the content of the drawings is explained to them. It turns out that this is the first time they heard about the Holocaust. ’Six million in five days?’ they ask in astonishment. Five years, someone corrects them, and they are still astounded. ‘Why did the Germans make soap out of the Jews, was it because they killed Jesus?’ After this exchange the young man corrects his picture of the lovely kitchen, paints the box of body parts a dripping red, and draws a skull and cross-bones above it, ‘Danger of Death’. For a long time the tourists stand beside the table, stunned.
The project was a great success – at the last exhibition in the ‘Stedelijk Museum’ in Amsterdam over 50,000 people had colored one of the coloring pictures. Some people though, who were not inclined to go along with Katzir’s way of reliving a painful past, were confronted with it involuntarily, either in the museums or through the press. Katzir shrugged this risk off, something he probably shouldn’t have done so easily – IMO.