Saturday, May 06, 2017

Washington DC – the houses of knowledge and shame

Washington DC has numerous, fantastic, famous museums. If you planned to visit the city with the sole purpose of engaging in museum-going, you'd be more than justified to. Alas, my work schedule left me precious little time for this, and I really did have to scramble to squeeze blitz-visits to just a very few:

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum 

They had two special exhibitions. The first one, called Some Were Neighbors: Collaboration & Complicity in the Holocaust, deals with that most painful of questions – Jews had neighbours, colleagues, school-mates, friends, dance-partners... how was it possible? How could so many ordinary individuals and government officials simply hand them over to the Nazis? Even when factoring in the dire situations in which many non-Jews found themselves in, the gripping stories of those that did help the Jews one way or another do serve as a reminder that every person had a choice, no matter how tough it was...

And then there was this other exhibition – A Dangerous Lie: The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This false, pernicious, anti-Semitic book made the rounds since it was published in 1903, serving as poisonous literature dis- and mis-informing people not only up to the holocaust, but beyond that and even into our days. Hamas buys into it, numerous anti-Semites do as well, and I even found a – this is just so embarrassing – recent copy of an edition printed in Mexico. Lies can most definitely hurt, and lies are just so difficult to dispel...

National Museum of the American Indian

I also managed a brief tour of the National Museum of the American Indian, famous for its native-inspired architecture, both outside and inside. I will admit, though, that this is a sad museum, in a way. There were so many – SO many – native cultures that were displaced, massacred, incarcerated in reservations... When you walk the halls of this museum, you realize how many names, how many peoples were just beyond your knowledge. Their items, their languages, their development... most of these unknown to most ordinary people – including myself. And this only reveals the degree of devastation they faced. No museum could contain the richness, and no visit could be long enough to fully absorb it. 

At some point I arrived, disheartened, at the museum shop, a glaring example of how tokens of commodified culture were on sale for us ignoramuses...

Hirshhorn Museum

Finally, the Hirshhorn Museum. It had an exhibition by Yayoi Kusama, called Infinity Mirrors. It looked super amazing. And I didn't make it inside, because the line-up was so long I would have never made it to the door without missing my flight. So I had to make do with a photo from the outside, and the firm intention of one day coming back on holidays for a proper museum-fest.

I've only one post left on Washington DC. You know, the things you leave for last. Like fun.

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