The design pair Studio Job is known for pushing the envelope with their provocative and dark genre-bending visions. But the duo recently realized that there is still a divide between edgy and offensive, and in this case that divide was a fence. Recent plans to make a Holocaust-inspired fence were met with outrage... shocker.
The fence was to evoke the image of the entry gate and crematoria of Buchenwald, the largest concentration camp on German soil, where over 50,000 were killed during World War II. The fence was being designed for the estate of a private collector in the Netherlands. The piece consists of two chimneys connected by an arch of smoke. 'To Each His Own' is written in Latin on a bell that hangs from the center. These words in German were written on Buchenwald's entrance.
The original gate at Buchenwald.
Studio Job also recently made a tablecloth with a concentration camp printed on it. The cloth was refused by the Groninger Museum.
The designer Job Smeets was confused about the negative reaction to his work, explaining: "It is ridiculous that in the museum you can show dicks and vaginas with no trouble, but just fifty meters away in a private lounge they say no to my cloth."
The design choice has been criticized as a grab for attention, yet Smeets insists he had a mission in his choice, a mission to break taboos and not let a horror fade into obscurity. An image as horrifying as the Holocaust presented on something so banal as a tablecloth is a significant choice for Smeets. He said: "We were using an iconography that is part of our history.... these pieces express the opposite of what you think they do .... please open your angry eyes!"
Even still, many insist their eyes are open, and are disgusted by what they see as a cheap attempt at shock value and controversy. After being accused of "trivializing the Holocaust" by the president of the European Jewish Congress, Studio Job cancelled plans for the fence. They explained to Fast Code Design:
"We have decided to alter the original plans for the gate/ artwork due to the commotion and unrest in society. In our work we always aim to use iconographic images. In this particular case we have insufficiently realised what the impact would be. We thoroughly regret it if this has caused upset and grief with parties affected by this, that has in no way been our intention. Art is in our view an invitation to dialogue, an invitation that is often paired with controversy. We will continue to engage in this but with a more sensitive view towards the sentiments as mentioned above/before."
Was Studio Job's plan a cry for attention or a legitimate attempt at breaking taboos? What do you think?