Shoah Film Collection -  Interview Project

Burn, Sean

Sean Burn
UK artist

His SFC film
Turn The Book Around


10 Questions

1. Tell me something about your life and the educational background

i am an outsider artist – i have no training at all in the arts, i didnt even do art at school. after one particular mental breakdown in my early twenties i started teaching myself to make artworks and i have kept at it since

2. When, how and why started you filming?

fourteen years ago i made my first film – it just seemed to follow on from my growing interest in visual arts in general and being given the opportunity to play with a video camera.

3. How do you develop your films, do you follow certain principles, styles etc?
Tell me something about the technical equipment you use.

my films are made by experimenting, playing, trying things out, sometimes failing, but always coming back for more, there isnt any real principal although often i do have an idea of a spoken word track first which i then ‘illustrate’ with the film. i now use a hi-definition handycam, editing film in either pinnacle studio 12 or premiere, editing sound in audition. sometimes films are however just an animation made from multiple jpegs processed in photoshop elements

4. What was the reason to start your film included in Shoah Film Collection. Tell me the story behind your film? Why did you choose the given form of representation? Is your film included in Shoah Film Collection the first one dealing with the Holocaust?

this film started from very striking images that i had been preparing that were intended as a disability arts narrative. i then realised that they were going deeper / further than this and were about living with long-term mental illness (as i do) and also how if i had lived in hitlers germany then i would have been another of his victims under the nazis t4 aktion campaign to kill those with mental illness among other groupings. what i have written about the film (below) still stands:
too many victims, and not just historically – go silent no longer, the book of your lives unread, instead turn the book around. this film, like the rest of my work is about giving voice, allowing the silent/silenced to speak and giving voice to these these creative alternatives, these strategies for survival. this work is no abstraction about the holocaust, disabled through long-term mental illness i am another of those hitler tried exterminating – something we must remember as many hatreds are again on the rise. (in memory of disabled victims of the nazis t4 aktion campaign)

5. What kind of meaning has the Holocaust to you personally? Are your family or friends affected or did the topic come by chance?

it is something that must never be forgotten – thats my belief – and when i heard years ago about the t4 aktion i realised that i too could have been a victim, thats why my film is personal – but no i dont have family / friends affected by the holocaust

6. Besides the historical relevance related to the persecuted Jews and other people, the Holocaust has a universal relevance. Why is the Holocaust affecting all humans anywhere?

because the suffering was so total, so complete, that we have to learn the lessons and keep the memories alive

7. Now, nearly 70 years after World War II, unfortunately the last Holocaust survivors will be dying soon, and no authentic witness is left to transfer the memory of the Holocaust. The Holocaust is about to be marginalized and dehumanized to any other historical incident, whereby it is measured by its final result and less as an escalating process, countless human individuals were undergoing. What do you think might be ways to re-humanize, touch people again emotionally and keep vivid the memory this way?

by keeping on talking about it and representing it in every artform – literature, visual art, film, theatre, performance etc – the dialogue continues thru these actions

8. As a phenomenon, the Holocaust is blasting human imagination, which makes it nearly impossible for people to identify themselves with. What needs to be done, that people many find ways for self-identifying? What can do art for it?

art takes yu to the emotional core of truth and this is what makes it powerful – art around the holocaust is no exception – the books, films, artworks, music etc that we have around us keep those narratives alive and within our understanding

9. After the Holocaust and World War II, the traditional (static) visual art media were failing in transferring the memory of the Holocaust, while literature, theatre, music and film were much more successful. On the other hand, due to the new technologies, the boundaries between the “arts” dissolve nowadays and the doors are open to a new interdisciplinary approach. What are the chances for this new (interdisciplinary) perception based on socializing concepts for keeping vivid the memory of the Holocaust? In which way have they to influence the manifestations of Shoah Film Collection via the interventions like a symposium, artists meetings, workshops, exhibitions, performances, screenings, artists talks, discussions etc.

art is such an umbrella concept – i think that it contains (as yu set out above) so many elements – and i believe that the work yu are doing (for example) is successful in keeping the flame of remembrance alive

10. What are your future artistic plans? Do you plan to work on new projects dealing with the Holocaust or related topics like “collective trauma caused by totalitarianism”?

i will continue to make work across film / spoken and printed word / performance / soundscaping / installation / photography and visual art and i will continue to push the narratives that i dont hear coming from other people – i might return to making work around collective trauma yes – it is likely to be disability artworks focusing around issues of mental health / illness – including those suffering under totalitarianism whether now or historically