With comments and quotes of a rabbi and some art historians.
(the sources of the quotes you will find in the CONTACT section)

In his artworks Maarten van der Heijden uses the photographs the allied forces took at the liberation of the nazi concentrationcamps in 1945. These photo's are so extremely horrific that they virtually disappeared from the public domain . . .

"The images are there, we have to do something with them; the reality is there, we have to do something with it. With the way Maarten did that 'something', he has placed himselfe at the centre of the Jewish tradition. . . . Maarten's work is an expression of his unbroken will to live. Something meaningful is created out of the filthiest horror. From the intolerable to the tolerable. From the Ordnung des Todes to the order of the Jewish artist. Maarten van der Heijden has taken his responsibility by giving the Jewish suffering an artistic shape" (Rabbi Tamarah Benima) (1).

"These works combine eros and thanatos: at first glance they seem to be pleasant and moving; but with a more discerning look they are appalling". (2)

"Much of the work seems at first glance to consist of only abstract and decorative patterns that mirror each other symmetrically in every possible way. But who zooms in on the details is suddenly confronted by the terrifying images of the corpses". (2)

"Van der Heijden's method of giving atrocity another face of beauty and aesthetics is brave. This ambivalence, both perverse and sublime, has produced relevant images which did not exist before". (3)

"The fact that our eyes enjoy the estetics in these works makes it even worse". (4)


"In his series  'Ecce Homo' (2010/2016) Maarten van der Heijden sets in contrast to each other fragments of reproductions of Renaissance paintings of Van Eyk, Grünewald, Cranach and others with photographs of the Shoah. The artist here emphazises small and fine gestures of a hands or faults of garments while at the same time juxtaposing them with similar gestures from terrifying depths - satanic gestures and a displace of beauty to the very extremes of horror". (2)

"It seems that, in the subtext of his works, the artist raises a significantly critical point by juxtaposing beauty with evil and horror. The main point of all his various works seems to emphasize that not only in the past was evil, cruelty and wickedness concealed by beauty, but also today. Even though the images of war and horror are common today, when it comes to the Shoah, and inparticular in the European context where the artist is working, the contemporary eye prefers to look away. In this reality Van der Heijden is fiercely protesting: "You may not look away" (Deuteronomium 22.3)". (2)

On 5 March 2008 Van der Heijden started the conceptual & autobiographical art project 141 BOXES : the unpacking, archiving, documenting, photographing and clearing away of the content of 141 (!) moving boxes filled with family stuff. He was carrying these boxes with him his whole life. In 2008 he had no idea what was inside these boxes.

"To be sure, children of those directly affected by collective trauma inherit a horrific, unknown, and unknowable past that their parents were not meant to survive. Second generation fiction, art, memoir, and testimony are shaped by the attempt to represent the long-term effects of living in close proximity to the pain, depression, and dissociation of persons who have witnessed and survived massive historical trauma". (5)

"The common link among the second generation is the family legacy in which the brutalities of the Holocaust, the loss, the death, the destruction have left a wide emotion-laden gap". (6)

"The idiom of family can become an accessible lingua franca easing identification and projection across distance and difference. This explains the pervasiveness of family pictures and family narratives as artistic media in the aftermath of trauma". (7)

More artworks in the JOMA . . .

And read the article of the Israeli art historian David Sperber: "Postmemory": The Censored Art of Maarten van der Heijden; in: Erev Rav Magazine, 3/10/2017; button below: