Artist to weld copy of Dachau gate in Leeds performance piece | Performance art

A reproduction of the doorway gate to the Dachau Nazi focus camp is to be recreated over three days in Leeds for an art venture asking questions on what memorials are for and who has the correct to make them.

Dachau was constructed a couple of miles from Munich in 1933. Throughout the struggle it turned a demise camp the place greater than 41,000 folks had been murdered earlier than US troops liberated it on 29 April 1945.

Its iron gate bearing the phrases “Arbeit macht frei” (work will set you free) was stolen in 2014, which led to a neighborhood blacksmith making an actual reproduction.

The artist Rachel Mars, who has discovered to weld, can be making a reproduction of that reproduction when she arrives in Leeds in March.


Guests to the venture will enter a giant empty warehouse house and be given a welding helmet to watch Mars assemble the gate as precisely as she will.

Mars’ grandparents arrived in Britain in August 1939 on one of the final Kindertransport trains from Germany. She grew up listening to tales from her grandmother.

Artist Rachel Mars.
Artist Rachel Mars. {Photograph}: Sarah Lee/The Guardian

“I’ve been fascinated with websites the place traumatic historic issues occur for a very long time … maybe ever,” she stated.

As a Jew, she stated, there was all the time the choice on whether or not to go to Holocaust historical past websites. “Are you going to do the Auschwitz tour? I’ve determined not to as a result of I type of really feel it’s at my dinner desk and breakfast desk so I don’t want to go, however it’s an ongoing query.”

A quantity of issues set Mars off on the Dachau gate venture, together with David Cameron’s announcement of a UK Holocaust memorial in 2016, on the identical time his authorities was embroiled in an argument about permitting baby refugees into the nation.

“I do have questions on a nationally commissioned memorial,” stated Mars. “What meaning for a rustic to tackle the narrative and form it themselves?

“I feel there’s a spin that the UK does on its Holocaust previous, that it’s only the great man. In some methods they’re the great man – my grandparents ended up right here. However the causes now we have the Kindertransport is as a result of they weren’t permitting the adults in.

“I’ve questions on how a lot this memorial will take accountability for the UK’s ongoing fuck-up with regards to letting immigrants in.”

Mars stated the theft of the gate, which turned up in Bergen, Norway two years later, raised questions in regards to the market that exists for Holocaust memorabilia. “How a lot reminiscence is trapped in these sort of objects?”

All of these questions can be addressed in Mars’ performance piece, titled Forge, going down in a brand new experimental house in Leeds referred to as Testbed, described as 10,000 sq ft (930 sq metres) of “blank canvas” for artists.

Studying to weld had been a pleasurable expertise, she stated. “Welding is sort of meditative. It’s actually peaceable. The factor it’s most comparable to what I’ve completed earlier than is archery. It takes rather a lot of preparation for tiny moments of work. It’s extremely centered, you possibly can’t take into consideration anything.”

Mars stated it was simple to weld badly, which elevated the strain on her. “I would like to do it in addition to I can however I’m not knowledgeable so I anticipate it will likely be barely wonky and that’s fascinating to me. It may solely be pretty much as good as I can do it.”


Forge has been commissioned as half of the Leeds worldwide performance competition, Transform.

As soon as the gate is made, Mars plans to grind down the weld and make the part components right into a gate at future performances. “For me that claims one thing in regards to the act of repeating reminiscence.” Additional down the road she hopes to soften it down and make the gate into one thing helpful. “That’s the horizon plan,” she stated. “Probably spoons.”

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