We Refuse to be Scapegoats composite image from 3 video stills, Pam Skelton (2020)

“I am not yet born, console me. I fear that the human race may with tall walls wall me, with strong drugs dope me, with wise lies lure me, on black racks rack me, in blood-baths roll me…” From Louis McNeice Prayer before Birth (1944)

‘I very much doubt that Israel would have existed or the way it existed if not for the Holocaust.’ Quote from Amira Hass Israeli journalist for Haaretz (2015).

Scapegoat is a visual art project that reconnects the Jewish Holocaust with the Nakba (the Palestinian disaster) and Polish memory with the Warsaw Ghetto. It is a project that arose from the artist’s decision to make an artwork based on her past experience in Poland and the ongoing situation in Israel Palestine today. Scapegoat has been five years in the making.   The contents of this work are asymmetrical and perhaps controversial yet each of its clusters refer back to events that share a relationship or suggests a third meanings in this context.  

As if unaware of the circular patterns and repetitions of nationalism and colonialisms the never-ending flow of refugees and displaced persons is accepted as the new normal. To live in a permanent state of conflict, was as Walter Benjamin came to recognise in Nazi occupied Europe the new normality. He understood that ‘the state of emergency’ within which he lived was not a temporary affair and that ‘Fascism’ if not successfully eradicated would be accepted as the historical norm.   Wars, genocides, ethnic cleansing, refugee camps and ghettos these are the conditions of the ‘catastrophe’ a reality that not only reinforces discrimination and injustice but have become the tools that define it.  

‘We must think of our histories together, however difficult that may be, in order for there to be a common future. And that future must include Arabs and Jews, free of any exclusionary, denial-based schemes for shutting out one side by the other, either theoretically or politically. This is the real challenge. The rest is much easier’ (Said 2007).

History and memory in Pam Skelton’s artwork often intersect with Holocaust legacies with their focus in East and Central Europe reflecting her family origins as diaspora Jews. Scapegoat is the first project she has made that addresses the multidirectional histories that connect the Jewish Holocaust and the continuing Palestinian Nakba. Pam was Reader in Fine Art at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design from 2009 – 2013 and currently works as a practice-based PhD supervisor there. 

Trailer: We Refuse to be Scapegoats (a series of video interventions) by Pam Skelton from Pam Skelton on Vimeo.