Entanglements of History: Narratives, Memories and Visual Communication

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper, not in proceeding


Krakus Mound, a pre-historic man-made hill in Krakow, provides a magnificent panorama of the city. The opposite direction opens up to a gravel pit named Kamieniołom Libana. Here, a Jewish entrepreneur, Bernard Liban, founded a company for the production of limestone and fertilizers in 1873. Later on, the plant was used as a Nazi labor camp. At the place where this camp was situated, the American film director Steven Spielberg built a copy of the camp for staging scenes in his famous film Schindler’s List. After the filming, the replica was not taken down. Today, paraphernalia from the camp(s) are still there. Even if a quarter century of decay is evident, the place is said to be a target for different types of “dark tourism” (cf. Cole, 2013). The relation between the two sites, separated by time and purpose, has captured the interest of the Israeli artist Omer Fast. In his video work Spielberg’s List from 2003 Fast combines cuts of films taken at the two run down camps, at one of the Schindler’s List tours that regularly take place there, and of locals that had been extras in Schindler’s List, creating a multi-layered work where memory and fiction is intertwined.
The spatial relations between the Krakus Mound, the Kamieniołom Libana, the Nazi labour camp, Steven Spielberg’s staging of the movie Schindler’s List, and Omer Fast’s critical interpretation of Spielberg’s movie, reveal multiple narratives, mythologies and cultural frameworks (cf. Barthes, 1964/1991; Jakobson, 1963/1971). These visual and spatial grounds do not only take part in the production of current stories and remembrances, they also continue to serve and support memories in the future by acting as physical frameworks for collective memory.
An actual site that has witnessed a catastrophic event is however not a direct embodiment of history. Its physical features and artefacts have a placement in an ever changing cultural and communicative context (Assman, 2008). The action to visit sites of tragedy and horror means that we somehow feel (or want to feel) involved in what has happened, but we also take a stand towards how we are expected to react, or believe we are to react. Visitors to a fatal site are hence not only witnesses to the location and its violent past, but also become witnesses of their own place in time. Spectators can even be the ones who fill in the blank spaces in history when the narration fails (Crownshaw, 2000). In our screening of visual material collected on-site in Krakow, we present and highlight complexities such as these by revealing entanglements of history, narrative and communicative memory.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Philosophy

Artistic work

  • Digital or Visual Product


  • Visual Culture, Witnessing, Dark Tourism, Memory, History
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch
Event12th Conference of the IAVS-AISV: Visual semiotics goes cognitive - Centre for Languages and Literature, Lund University, Lund, Sweden
Duration: 2019 Aug 222019 Aug 24
Conference number: 12


Conference12th Conference of the IAVS-AISV
Abbreviated titleIAVS-AISV
Internet address