September 1 - October 24, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009, 4:30 - 8 p.m.
Dr. M.T. Geoffrey Yeh Art Gallery
Sun Yat Sen Hall
St. John’s University
8000 Utopia Parkway
Queens, NY 11349
Tue. - Thurs.: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Fri.: 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Sat.: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Mon. and Sunday closed
Curated by Prof. Alex Morel
St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
This exhibition is free of charge and accessible to the
For more information on this exhibit, or for directions please
call (718) 990-7476.
When someone kills another human being, they destroy an
individual’s future, present and past. Killing another
human being is the single worst act one can do to another. A
murderous act creates a domino effect which drags countless other
individuals into this void. Now imagine if thousands of men, women
and children are systematically eradicated. The 20th
century is documented as the bloodiest age in human history.
65 million people lost their lives during the first and second
World Wars and more than half of these casualties were
civilians. Leaders of nations have repeatedly declared
outrage against the destruction and systemic cleansing of human
life. However, it is a fact that acts of genocide and mass
murder continue to plague humanity regardless of genocide
prevention and humanitarian intervention.
The exhibit, These are 7,000,000 Bodies, is a stark
reminder of the slaughter and mayhem that engulfed Rwanda, Congo,
Darfur and Bosnia. Organizing a photo exhibition about
genocide poses a dilemma, presenting aesthetically pleasing images
while maintaining the solemnity that is necessary in addressing
events of this magnitude. At times the visitor’s experience of
viewing art in a gallery can create a separation from everyday
reality. However, in the case of a photo documentary
exhibition, the medium delivers a powerful outlook. The
documentary photographer speaks through the lens about places,
people and happenings, giving meaning and significance to theses
Witnessing second hand the horrors that are presented situates
viewers into a curious position, forcing them into feeling the
guilt of inaction as they allow themselves a psychological distance
from the effectiveness of the images. What could have
otherwise been rationalized as an incident with no real
implications to an individual’s life now confronts the viewer with
the actualities that others face. Given this new knowledge, how
will one react?
In 1944, Raphael Lemkin, a Polish-Jewish lawyer, coined the word
genocide from a combination of the Greek word geno meaning race or
tribe with the Latin word cide, which means killing. Lemkin’s
definition was used to describe the crimes that were committed in
the Nazi Holocaust. On June 22, 1941, Wiston Churchill
stated that the mass murders being committed were “a crime without
a name.” In 1907, the Hague convention defined the meaning of
war crimes as “violations of the laws or customs of the war.”
The distinct phenomena of extermination camps in World War II
elicited a definition that would encompass racial, national and
religious considerations. The International Military Tribunal
held in Nuremberg, Germany in 1945, prosecuted Nazi leaders with
“crimes against humanity.” Lemkin’s word genocide was included in
the indictment. His efforts aided in procuring an ethical and legal
model to prosecute individuals or states accused of genocide and
other crimes against humanity.
“These are 7,000,000 Bodies” affords the audience an opportunity to
witness the violence of war with hope that someday these conflicts
will no longer happen. Through the works of documentary
photographers Jonathan Torgovnik, Marcus Bleasdale and Ron Haviv,
we are reminded that the world we live is not perfect. It is
important to remember that still today mass murders are being
committed in countries not included in this exhibition. These
incidents continue to perpetuate in regions of the world as
countless victims continue to lose their lives in needless
bloodshed. It is within our duty to recognize these conflicts
and act in whatever way we can in order to stagnate such
violence. The images in this exhibition provide a visual
reminder for us so that the lives that have been lost are not gone
in vein, and that as each day passes we are afforded the
opportunity to enact change in the world in which we live.