Zmijewski’s Video of a Game of Tag in a Nazi Gas Chamber Sparks Protests in Poland, Abroad

Artur Zmijewski Courtesy of Foksal Gallery Foundation

Artur Zmijewski.


The work of Polish artist Artur Zmijewski is once again stoking controversy. The Associated Press has reported that a variety of Jewish groups and various officials have called on the Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow, Poland, to remove from view his 1999 video installation Game of Tag, which features naked men and women playing a game of tag in a gas chamber used during the Holocaust.

The video, which is part of a temporary exhibition on the Holocaust, called “”Poland – Israel – Germany: The Experience of Auschwitz,” which includes pieces by 20 artists, has now been placed behind an enclosure with a warning, in response to complaints from the World Jewish Congress and Israel’s Holocaust Museum, among others. Jonathan Ornstein, the executive director of the Jewish Community center in Krakow said that survivor groups have contacted him and are appalled. “They feel that it shows a lack of respect for the victims, that it is not necessary and that it takes the Holocaust lightly,” Ornstein told the New York Times in an article published today.

Zmijewski is notorious for pieces that move beyond provocation into a far more uncomfortable realms. For instance, in his 2004 video 80064, Zmijewski persuades an elderly Auschwitz survivor to have his prison number touched up by a tattoo artist.

Maria Anna Potocka, who directs the museum, said in a statement on Tuesday that the museum only wants to “awaken [the] young generation’s empathy with the tragedy of the Holocaust by stirring their imagination.”

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