Toowoomba ceramics artist Dan Elborne, latest exhibition Deathgate is coming to a close on Friday 7 June. The multi-layer project is an artistic expression and academic innovation. The ceramic installation, currently exhibited at The Goods Shed venue, is made up of 1.3 million handmade pieces, each representing a person detained in the Auschwitz camps.

Each ceramic ‘stone’ features a fingerprint and resemble the stones surrounding the railway line into Auschwitz II (Birkenau). The whole work was created over 1,242 days: the same length of time the mass killings were carried out. The artwork is the focus of Elborne’s Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) with the University of Southern Queensland (USQ), where he is also an alumni and lecturer of ceramics.

Elborne said it was prompted by his experience visiting the concentration camps in 2016. “I am interested in using history to enable wider discussions about the horror that humans are capable of socially, culturally and politically. I also offer personal insight to the after-the-fact responsibility of such history, and consider broad ideas around the fragile and fleeting nature of life through extreme human experience and capability. I made the work as a contribution to ‘never forgetting’ an event like the Holocaust while staying vigilant against prejudice and injustice, which continues to manifest today in so many ways,” he said.

Producing the work involved more than 18 tonnes of raw clay material, several hundred kiln firings and many thousand hours of labour by the artist. “The ultimate simplicity of the project itself does not attempt to wholly represent what was experienced by those victimised, but instead, references that history from an overarching and distanced perspective.”

Deathgate was the opening exhibition at The Goods Shed venue in Toowoomba.

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