Photographs of Jewish children from a Vienna high school in 1931—many of whom were no doubt later killed in the Holocaust--are stacked into altar-like configurations for Boltanski’s Lycee Chases (Chases High School)series of 1986-87. Illuminated by bare bulbs and positioned above empty lead boxes, the images are ghostly and saintly at the same time.
Chapter 12. The Avant-Garde in the Late 20thCentury 68 Boltanski’s The 62 members of the Mickey Mouse Club in 1955 (done in 1972) evokes a nostalgic longing for lost innocence. Curator Douglas Fogle notes that Boltanski attributes “a poetic melancholy of lost memory to the forgotten faces in family portraits and snapshots.”60The “poetic melancholy” of his work creates a haunting evocation of fragile mortality. For Reserve-Detective, 1987, Boltanski took photographs from Detective Magazine, a journal that presents “an indiscriminate blend of assassins and victims, the unintentional heroes of forgotten dramas.”61Boltanski’s collages of anonymous black and white photographs were echoed in the backgrounds of Paul Fedor’s music video for P.O.D.’s popular song “Youth of a Nation.” California-based Kim Yasudauses photography, paint, everyday objects, texts and plant forms, arranging them to encourage the viewer to consider their evocative interrelationships (12.52).62Much of Yasuda’s work is autobiographical. “I continually attempt to formulate a balance between the personal and the universal in such a way that the participants have access to their own meaning of my work,” notes Yasuda. Her search for self is predicated by issues of ethnic and cultural identity. Of mixed Japanese and European descent, Yasuda was adopted as an infant by Japanese parents living in Oakland, California. “I am, in part, third generation Asian-American lacking a clear sense of my origins. Much of my identity has been based in myth and taken from photographs, especially those of my adopted father, who actively documented the Japanese American community before and after World War II.”
Chapter 12. The Avant-Garde in the Late 20thCentury 69 In the mid 1980s, Yasuda began to explore her personal heritage in a series of photographic diptychs. She juxtaposed images taken from her father’s negatives with photographs she took of herself in what she calls acts of “pseudo-rituals.” In one example, a photograph of the traditional Japanese tea ceremony is paired with an image of Yasuda’s robed back facing away from the tea table in ignorance of the traditions of her own ethnic background. The series deals with what she calls a form of collective aphasia (the loss of the ability to articulate ideas), which can result when another culture, such as the Japanese, assimilates into the American mainstream.