Shadows and ashes, artwork of Ria Volk

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The „artists in residence“ program of the ArToll art society in Bedburg-Hau, Germany allows artists to work in a historical building originally part of a large complex for healing and care for the ill and disabled. Nowadays forensic psychiatry occupies a number of buildings and the high fences contrast with the trees and lawn between the buildings. The sound of helicopters over the municipality of Bedburg-Hau reminds the older residents of times when escapes were more frequent. More grim than the present aspect of high fences is the dark history of the institution during Nazi rule of Germany. Over 2000 patients and disabled people were deported to euthanasia centres during that time. Some visiting artists thematise this aspect of the history of the institution and use the still available small isolation rooms to show their vision of this despicable time.
An example of such an art work is shown here. In 2018 Ria Volk from Gouda, the Netherlands, used charcoal to draw shadowy figures on the wall of such an historical isolation room. Two branches were scorched to make the drawing tools and the fine black powder that fell on the floor during the sketching remained there as part of the art work, as did the two sticks. Visitors only saw the completed art, as it was not a performance, but the ashes on the floor spoke for itself during the exhibition. Once living persons made into mere shadows and mere ashes. The bright October sun shining low during the afternoon would almost make the shadows invisible at times, but they returned when the sun was overcast, which gave a hint of motion in an otherwise still life.
Ria Volk is member of the art group Firma Van Drie, Gouda.

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