Je m’appelle Dreyfus, je suis juive – Paris 2013

March 31, 2015 by Roz Tarszisz
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Australian artist Ella Dreyfus installed these phrases on buildings and streets in Paris in 2013.

Ella Dreyfus   Photo: Peter Nolan

Ella Dreyfus Photo: Peter Nolan

She was not to know these words would explode into world consciousness in January 2015.

Her intention was to evoke the sensations of Jewish children hidden in the city during the Holocaust in real and imagined sites of trauma. Her family name of Dreyfus is associated with rampant antisemitism in France and Europe.

Dreyfus intuitively created a body of work that now resonates with the current world political climate following the tragic events in Paris and other areas of France, and in particular, with the je suis Charlie campaign, followed by je suis juive, je suis arabe and other similar slogans.

Je m’appelle Dreyfus, je suis juive (My name is Dreyfus, I am a Jew) is a photographic exhibition that activates national and cultural memories by commemorating the experiences of Jewish children in times of war, whose family lives were shattered, whose homes were no longer safe.

Ella Dreyfus at a children's playground

Ella Dreyfus at a children’s playground

Dreyfus was an artist-in-residence for three months in 2013 at the Cite International des Arte in the Marais, the old Jewish district of Paris where she felt a growing awareness of the legacy of bearing the family name of Dreyfus.

She made the brightly coloured felt letters herself and describes her temporary installations – left up for about two hours at a time in different locations – as “ephemeral art”.

Her aim was to make artworks about the complex topic of European Jewish history, from both personal and non-personal perspectives, as a declaration of Jewish identity. The aim was to link the legacy of her German Jewish heritage and family name Dreyfus, the memory of Captain Alfred Dreyfus and the traumas experienced by children in the Holocaust.

Dreyfus told J-Wire she would not “be so brazen and do the same thing today”.

“I didn’t feel threatened but was nervous as I was sometimes on private property.

As a visual artist, the installations were my intuitive response to environment.”

“I would like to go to Germany and do the same thing in German” she added.

A pupil of Masada College in its early years, Dreyfus’ work has been widely exhibited, published and collected throughout Australia with award nominations, exhibitions and portrait commissions.  She has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions including Art Gallery of NSW, Australian Museum, Queensland Art Gallery, Australian Photographer’s Gallery, Stills Gallery, Casula Powerhouse and Musee du quai Branly in Paris.

Ella Dreyfus is currently a Senior Lecturer and Head of Public Programs at the National Art School, Sydney. She was an Australian Postgraduate Award Scholar and her doctoral thesis was titled Shame and the Aesthetics of Intimacy.

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