In Primo Levi’s If This is a Man, the narrator is accosted by a guard in a concentration camp when he is trying to break an icicle off, which is hanging from a gutter, just to get some clean drinkable water. The guard snatches the icicle and the narrator asks “Warum” or “Why”, to which the guard responds “Hier isn keen warum” or “There is no why here”. Note the lack of the question mark in the response of the guard, why is there no punctuation here. Because none is called for. For the guard and the inmate this situation obviously just is, both are bound by the complex systems which governed these work and death camps. This is true even for us all now more than seven decades after the events. Why is simply not the answer, especially when was is routinely confronted by a hierarchy of oppression and a warped presentation of the facts by the ruling powers.
Most importantly this quote is directly pertinent to some of my work in the WHY project which is involved in exploring and exposing the plight of homosexuals under the Nazi regime in Germany from 1933 to the late 1960s. However, my other work set mostly during World War One. The main emphasis is on presenting alternative truths to this epic, historical event, rather than asking why they happened. In my work I seek always to avoid the question ‘why’? My pragmatic and fatalist personality seeks to simply present truths and perspectives, not ask why, because why for me is not the issue. The work also has a socio-political viewpoint, but, also gets to the heart of the human stories played out during major conflicts or world events.
Simon O’ Corra trained as a theatre designer at the Mountview Academy, London in 1986 and 1987. This specialization, coupled with years within social and health care plus ongoing work as a gay activist and queer theorist has led to his current art practice. This work focuses on a socio-political slant, especially in relation to war and its horrific realities and the ways in which humans are able to transcend these realities of their everyday lives. There are paradoxes in O’ Corra’s work which juxtapose heinous events with joyful self-expression and rampant commercialism. He seeks to encourage the viewer to see past events with new eyes and to equate those incidents with the happenings in our 21st century world. Additionally, O’ Corra has published books including France in Ruins- Buildings in Decay, a photographic novel, two children’s books, and a book using cartes postales and magazine adverts about the realities of daily life for people during La Grande Guerre.
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