Shoah Film Collection -  Interview Project

Jordon, Shelley

Shelley Jordon
US artist & videomaker

Her SFC film
“Anita’s Journey”


10 questions

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

I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and received a BFA from the School of Visual Arts and an MFA from Brooklyn College, both in NYC. I now live in Portland, Oregon and am a Professor of Art at Oregon State University.

2. When, how and why started you filming?

Although primarily a painter, I started making hand-painted animations after a family health crisis in 2006, as a way to express more complex and deeper narratives.

3. How do you develop your films, do you follow certain principles, styles etc?

My work is deeply personal and it is generally generated by an emotional response to a situation or observation. I am interested in how people’s private intersect with the public world. Once I get an idea for a project and have done the necessary research, my animation work itself is hand-drawn or painted and is spontaneous and intuitive.

Tell me something about the technical equipment you use.

My technical approach is basic stop-motion animation with a digital camera and tripod. I use Dragon software for the animation and edit the video in Final Cut Pro.

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?

My film Anita’s Journey is my first film about the holocaust. It is based on my mother-in-law’s experience as a young child in Berlin in Nazi Germany. Against all odds, three generations of this German, Jewish family survived underground in and around Berlin, mostly by in hiding in a small coal cellar in a warehouse in central Berlin for almost 2 ½ years. Although I was aware of their family history and had heard bits and pieces of their story, it wasn’t until I read Anita’s father’s memoir about their family’s experience that I felt inspired to create a project based on the story. I decided to create a work of art from her perspective as a young girl and to include factual events that parallel her childhood and to provide a context for the narrative. An animated film seemed like the best solution. Although Anita was already deceased when I began the film, I imagined that the only way she could cope with the stress of that ordeal would be to live in her mind through dreams and happy memories. I used a variety of media; including gouache, chalk and cut paper, each chosen to reinforce the varied emotional tenors in the video.


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

I grew up in Brooklyn, New York in a Jewish neighbourhood. I had friends whose parents had numbers tattooed on their arms. I also summered in a bungalow colony in upstate New York as a child where many families also had the tattooed numbers and foreign accents. I was aware that they were war refugees, but didn’t comprehend the full meaning until later in my life. Anita’s Journey represents my mother-in-law’s story, the mother of my husband and grandmother of my daughter, and is a very personal story.

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?

The lessons about discrimination and intolerance from the Shoah are relevant to oppressed people everywhere.

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?

Of course having the survivors themselves tell their stories is the most valuable and direct way to express the realities of the holocaust. But as they die off, having the next generation of “post-memory” artists represent their experiences is also vital and relevant. Collections like the Shoah Film Collection are valuable tools.

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?

I think artwork in any media is a powerful vehicle for communicating the horrors of the holocaust and the lessons learned can be applied to many unfortunate situations taking place globally.

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.

Having artists come together to show and share their artwork and to discuss and reflect on ideas is very valuable. It creates a “think tank” where people can respond to each other’s work and ideas and brainstorm together. Exhibitions, screenings, performances, etc. are also relevant. Of course sharing these events with the public would be ideal, but even among the artists/ filmmakers themselves it is a valuable process.

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 am currently considering two other projects related to the holocaust.

Can works of yours viewed online besides on the Shoah Film Collection?
List some links & resources: