The Dead Weight of Complacency

Genocide & Visual Representation
Exhibition at the Mizel Museum, Denver

Curated by Lee Lee

Just after World War II ended, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called the atrocities that occurred “a crime that has no name.” But by the time the Nuremberg trials began, genocide was the very real name given the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group.

10 “Glocal” Artists Interpret Genocide displays fine art that deals with one of the most severe conditions of our world from an individual and human perspective. Participating artists address the issues of disregard for individual lives and the environment, memory, resilience, survival and reconciliation.

All of the artists present firsthand experiences through thoughtful and sensitive reflections without either sensationalizing or trivializing the subject. Indeed, much of the work comments in admiration on the strength and resilience of genocide survivors.

Through these varied mediums, the exhibition illuminates the realities of modern day genocide and seeks to motivate its viewers to begin dialogues with themselves and others, asking questions and demanding answers as to why and how genocide can be condoned today.


Sound artists, Evan Brown & Sasha Gorelik created a site specific sound installation for this exhibit. Music created in the abandoned blast tunnels of an Intercontinental Ballistic missile Silo are layered with sounds from genocide hotspots. Samples: Preparing for Departure – Cambodia – Africa

blast tunnel – photo by atom
Jonathan Moller worked as the staff photographer for the Forensic Anthropology team of the Office of Peace and Reconciliation in Guatemala. Included in this exhibit are his portraits of Mayan people in mourning and remembrance during the process of exhumation and reburial. View more of Jonathan’s works from Guatemala

Exhumation, photograph
Glass artist Dennis Chamberlain contributed an installation of cast glass forms with protrusions of corroded bullet casings. The forms have an ephemeral and organic quality. They are set in 8 open ammunition boxes with Dr. Gregory Stanton’s eight stages of genocide defined on the hanging lids. Genocides from around the world are named on mirrors behind the glass figures.

Who Still Talks Nowadays About the Armenians?, cast glass with corroded bullet casings
From Nigeria, Moyo Okediji explores displacement through organic fragmented terra cotta reliefs and paintings made from various soils. Moyo’s work for this exhibit highlights both sorrow and strength in the interactions between figures.

The New Seed, terrachroma
Michelle Torrez painting of Indigo Woman, SudanMichelle Torrez was in Darfur last year, where she helped free over 300 slaves. In response to her experience there, she painted an expressive series of intimate and poignant portraits of individuals escaping genocide. She draws primarily from the beauty of southern Sudanese refugees, who demonstrate fortitude in the most dire of circumstances.

Indigo Woman, oil on panel
From Croatia, Izabela Lundberg works with the Rocky Mountain Survivors Center assisting survivors of torture and war trauma who seek asylum in our own community. She exhibits portraits that explore their strength and resilience. opening night presentation & additional works

Uganda, photograph
Co-curator of this show and participating artist, Lee Lee examines the environmental impact of genocide through her series of roadkill photographs and paintings of Cambodian temples and the gigantic tree roots that support them, emphasizing growth despite a history stained with blood.

Ta Prohm, oil on canvas
Dr. George Rivera has recently returned from Columbia where he developed a series of photographs of displaced people of Medellin. The work quietly speak about genocide, death, and absence through their focus on material remains: fragments of shoes.

(Dis)placed Memory, photograph
Thomas Carr is a photographer and archeologist with the Colorado Historical Society. He exhibits his most recent photographs of Native American battlegrounds of Colorado, using digital collage to bring in ghosts from the past.

Summit Springs, digital collage
survivor quotes
“They came to take my freedom, my present, my normal life, and my future. How can they do that? Can we stop them? Do you care? Are you with us or with them? Can you just be neutral?” -AB (DR Congo)

“Three generations of my family can speak from our own experience about wars, torture and genocide. I am so afraid that my child might experience the same thing. Can you help us stop it?” -BL (Bosnia Herzegovina)

“They broke and scarred my body, but I did not let them break and scar my soul. Today, I live with physical pain every day, but I am as free as a bird in my heart and soul…I dare to dream” -DB (Bosnia Herzegovina)  

“…thought-provoking…” Bonnie Ganglehoff, SouthwestArt Magazine 04.07

“…an exhibit that emanates hope, resilience, and strength in the face of torture and tragedy” Julie Dugdale, 5280 Magazine 04.07

Sudan’s faces of suffering
by Erika Gonzalez, The Rocky Mountain News

03.07 Art Exhibit a Testament to Triumphs of Survivors
by Cindy Rodriguez, The Denver Post 28.01.07  

January 11th, 2007 – April 27th, 2007,
the Mizel Museum with guest curator Lee Lee and the Colorado Coalition for Genocide Awareness and Action present an evocative and compelling dual exhibition:
– The Dead Weight of Complacency
– 10 Glocal Artists Interpret Genocide
(“Glocal” = local Colorado artists approaching contemporary global issues through various media)
The Mizel Museum, 400 South Kearney Street, Denver.
The Dead Weight of Complacency exhibit consists of educational panels that define the nature of genocide and describe its history in the last century. They are severe and academic, thus complementing the personal, experiential and tangible elements of the accompanying artworks.

The exhibition is thematically arranged in three parts: resilience/survival, mourning/loss and severity.