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April 10th, 2002 Kim Colton | Visual Arts
 

NO MORE HIDING

The life of Anne Frank inspires a communitywide examination of human rights.

     
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Ten years ago the First United Methodist Church and the Oregon Historical Society hosted a monthlong exhibit of photographs depicting the circumstances and horrors of the Holocaust called Anne Frank in the World. The exhibit depicted the power of silence and indifference that surrounded the murder of millions due to their religion, their sexual orientation, their disability--a silence that audibly reflects the physical absence of those who perished at the hands of Hitler and the thousands who followed him. A similar silence engulfs the state-sponsored censorship of many of our hard-won liberties by a contemporary culture whose broad definitions of "terrorism" threaten free expression.

The immense popularity of The Diary of Anne Frank, published in over 50 languages, demonstrates that it is a work both intensely personal and universal.

Portland will again have the opportunity to experience the history of the Anne Frank story with a new international exhibit held at the Lloyd Center called Anne Frank: A History for Today. Housed in the shell of a former department store, the 20,000-square-foot space on the first floor of the Lloyd Center has been transformed into a temporary, living museum of history. The exhibit, inspired in large part by the efforts of the previous memorial, fills a void of silence by asking the community not merely to observe but to respond. Where silence once served as a symbol of the tragedy, this exhibit uses language in all its forms as a means of actively engaging the community, prompting them to react to the prejudice and hatred of the past and to recognize their forms in the present.

Although the Lloyd Center seems an unusual venue for a Holocaust memorial, organizers of the event recognized months ago that in order to encompass all of what the exhibit was planning, the space would have to be large. Once visitors are inside, however, the location of the space becomes irrelevant. In addition to the 56 panels of information provided by the Anne Frank Center USA, the space houses a 130-seat theater, which will host an original, site-specific production by the Sojourn Theatre group called Hidden (see Performance listings, page 61). The Tuesday night film series at the exhibit shows films ranging from Nazi propaganda to a documentary about an unlikely love story that emerged from the war. Visitors can hear from Holocaust survivors living in Oregon, experience the claustrophobia of a life spent in hiding through a replica of the attic of the annex, and see Nazi war posters touting a twisted patriotism. They will have an opportunity through language to participate in a memorial to the Holocaust.

Other aspects of the exhibit, such as educational computer programs designed by the Anne Frank House, are aimed at a younger audience. Project director Helen Gundlach says the most important reason for the exhibit is to "introduce a new generation of young people" to the history of World War II and the horrors of the Holocaust. Throughout the month, 12,000 schoolchildren--many the same age as Anne when she went into hiding--will visit. Since the center will be packed with youngsters during school hours, the best time for the general public to visit the space will be after 3 pm and on weekends.

Anne Frank: A History for Today serves as a centerpiece to a series of community events called Expres-sions of Human Dignity Month. Highlights include the Northwest Children's Theater production of The Diary of Anne Frank and "The Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terez’n," a re-creation of an opera performed at the Terez’n Concentration Camp in Czechoslovakia, now performed by the Oregon Symphony and Portland Opera Chorus on April 20 and 21 (see Stage listings, page 63, for a lecture on the concert leading up to the performance). An Artist Book Exhibition at the Collins Gallery titled "Tolerance and Human Rights" profiles the work of 28 artists from across the country. The artist books become miniature representations of the diversity within our culture and the range of issues and emotions inspired by Anne Frank's story. The communitywide collaboration and cooperation on this event testifies to the strength of the diary as a triumph of language and, ultimately, a vehicle for change.


Anne Frank: A History for Today
Lloyd Center 10 am-7 pm Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, 10 am-9 pm Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11 am-6 pm Sundays. Closes May 5.



For more information on the Anne Frank Exhibit and Expressions of Human Dignity Month see the website www.annefrankinportland.org .



"Tolerance and Human Rights: An Artist Book Exhibition" is on display at the Collins Gallery in the Central Library until May 14. Anne, Edith and Margot Frank when they were still free to walk the streets.
 
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