Shoah Film Collection -  Interview Project

Shapiro-Obermair, Ekaterina

Ekteriana Shapiro-Obermair
Russian video creator living in Austria

Her video Display Case, 2014, 10:14
can be reviewed on


Interview: 10 questions

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

I was born and brought up in Moscow and emigrated with my family to Germany in 1998. I studied painting and sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Nuremberg and Vienna, where I obtained my diploma in 2009.

2. When, how and why started you filming?

I got in touch with video 2003 in the Summer Academy in Salzburg through the great American artist Ellen Cantor.

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

Films are mostly on the periphery of my activities in the field of art. Probably because they are rare they are of a special importance for my practice. All of them have the character of a documentary and imply to present a found situation like a found object within a sculpture. In fact quite often I integrate them in my 3-dimensional works, so the video becomes an essential part of it.

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?

The film suits into the complex of questions I am dealing with since a certain period of time like the constitution of history through politics and the role of material objects in it. I filmed it in Moscow in April 2014. I were there for a research trip for an exhibition project, which was a collaboration between the Jewish Museum Vienna and the Memorial International Society in Moscow. My work in this exhibition was not dedicated to the Holocaust, but probably the context of my investigations gave me a certain sense of sensibility towards this. At the same time this moment, spring 2014, was a very special one for Russia in general and for Moscow especially. With annexation of the Crimea for me this time marks a point of no return in contemporary Russian politics. So my research trip for a practical project became to a broader field research. I spent these two weeks mostly on the streets and in public spaces, trying to catch so many impressions and visual documents as possible. I was looking on purpose for the neuralgic points of the city. That´s why I went to the Central Armed Forces Museum, where I shoot the footage for my film.

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 think for each European the Holocaust has a personal dimension.

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?

This year, 2016, on 27th of January I went to Heldenplatz in Vienna to commemorate the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. One of the last speakers was the SPÖ polotician and the city council of culture Andreas Mailath-Pokorny. Unfortunately I can not quote him really precisely, but he has articulateted a very important thought, which was very obvious 70 years ago, but which is almost forgotten now. He said, that the experiences of World War II were so horrifying that not let them happen again the humanity agreed to accept Human Rights as untouchable and inherent to all human beings. I think it is very important to be aware about it. So those, who nowadays doubt, if our society can achieve Human Rights for everyone, should be always remind on that.

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?

For me this question sounds to be formulated from the Western European perspective and describes a Western European phenomena. Unfortunately in Eastern Europe we have mostly a very different situation. I can not offer here a one sentence solution. There is a lot of work to be done, first of all in the fields of politics and education.

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 may find ways for self-identifying? What can do art for it?

Working on the topics dealing with the Holocaust, of course one has permanent the question in his or her mind, how was it possible. If we want to understand the Holocaust though the power of imagination, being always conscious about our responsibility, I think we should be aware not to identify ourselves only with victims, which could be a very convenient strategy for individuals as well as for states.
I am sure that there are things that can be communicated much more clearly and directly and perhaps even exclusively through the language of art. When artists devote themselves to historical themes, they have not only another perspective or focuses, but also a different vocabulary with which to formulate specific statements. In addition, artists have much more freedom compared with classic historians, because they are hardly bound by academic or disciplinary constraints. There work is ethical rather than scientific. It is here that I see great potential for an artistic approach to historical themes.

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.

All of the solutions you are suggesting could function or not.

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”?

At the moment I am working in collaboration with the historian Alexandra Wachter on an interdisciplinary project Lviv. Museum of War. It investigates visual representation of events of WWII in monuments, museums and social practices in Lviv, Western Ukraine. Of course the contemporary reflections of the Holocaust are some of the most important issues in this context.

Can works of yours viewed online besides on the Shoah Film Collection?

List some links & resources