July 23 – September 5, 2010
In November 2007, considerable attention was given to the Anne Frank tree, as it is now called, which sits outside the attic window of the former hiding place of the Frank family, and which provided the 13-year-old with her only connection to the outside world. It had been reported that the tree had developed a fungal disease that was threatening its demise and which ran the risk of falling down on one of the surrounding buildings. In 2008 the 168-year-old tree was given a supporting structure that will enable it to remain standing for at least 15 years. Jason Lazarus
(b. 1975, Kansas City), a young artist based in Chicago, was inspired by the plight of this tree, which had silently stood witness during World War II and upon which the young Anne Frank projected so many of her feelings, emotions, and hopes for the future.
The top of the tree gazed upon by Anne Frank while in hiding, Amsterdam (2008), is a 15-minute video portrait of this source of reflection, as well as a conceptual portrait of our collective will to survive. Shot in real time, the video frames the top of the tree giving one a highly specific vantage point and thus encouraging the viewer to construct, through his or her own imagination, its relationship to the social and cultural fabric of Amsterdam. The video captures the ambient noises of the city and sounds of traffic. The optimistic yet melancholic sounds of the nearby church bells play softly in the background, which surely must have stirred the young Anne into moments of deep reflection on God and the nature of good and evil. Jason Lazarus’s video doesn’t dwell on the grim details of the young woman’s demise, but instead encourages the viewer to consider the role of Anne Frank’s tree as a source of contemplation and reflection. Historically, trees have always served as symbolic manifestations of divine knowledge as one is reminded of Buddha’s enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. Anne Frank’s diary, which was discovered and preserved by Miep Gies, one of the friends that hid the family in the Achterhuis, is evidence of her own enlightenment path as inscribed by the profound observations she made while gazing upon that chestnut tree.
About Single-channel at the Des Moines Art Center.
Jason Lazarus (American, born 1975)
The top of the tree gazed upon by Anne Frank while in hiding, Amsterdam, 2008
Courtesy of the artist and Andrew Rafacz Gallery, Chicago