Authors Name: 
Conor Brennan
Trinity College, University of Dublin
Award winner

"All Those Who No Longer Are, Are There": Between What Lasts And What Is Lost In The Passing On Of 'The Last Witnesses'

This Essay Analyses The 2013-15 Theatre Project Die Letzten Zeugen (The Last Witnesses), A Multimedia Installation And Performance Centred On The Testimonies Of Seven Holocaust Survivors. The Project Was Co-Ordinated By Israeli-Austrian Writer And Historian Doron Rabinovici, Who Has Repeatedly Described It In Terms Of A Relay Run: The Memory Of The Events Is To Be Passed On Like A Torch, Kept Alive Beyond The Death Of The Bodies That Bear Witness. In Its Very Conception, Then, The Project Raises Profound Questions About The Possibility Of Authentic Access To The Past And About The Ethics Of Commemoration. In Order To Explore These Questions In Detail, The Essay Draws On Walter Benjamins Notion Of Aura, A Quality That Benjamin Locates Not Only In Natural Landscapes And Original Artefacts, But Also In The Early Portrait Photography That Is Brought To Life On The Screens Of The Installation. Benjamins Writings Share With Die Letzten Zeugen A Profound Ambivalence About The Disappearance Of The Original, Characterised By A Tension Between Political Optimism And Private Elegy. Considering The Liveness Of The Survivors Body And Voice As A Version Of The Original, The Essay Probes The Ethics Of The Performance, Concluding With Benjamin That The Decline Of Aura Is Necessary For True Critical Reflection, Unclouded By Magic And Ritual.

Translation: The Original Essay Worked Primarily With German Sources. Quotes And Explanations Given In Italics (Sometimes Marked By An Asterisk) Are My Translations From The German. For Certain Key Texts, I Have Found The Corresponding Passages In Existing English Translations; These Translated Works Are Referenced In A Second, Shorter Bibliography.