The Eichmann Box

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The curators have been arranging the exhibition since 1945 and anticipation for consistent sell out shows is high. The Eichmann stands a little under 6ft tall and appears unremarkable at first glance. It has a drab exterior decorated by a dark suit of patted down wool fabric, in this guise it bears a significant resemblance to the civil servants of England. Neatly packaged with its balled-fist fingers and tie, it peers back at its audience through the black framed glasses that lend it an air of civility, it does not deserve. There is no denying the spectacle of The Eichmann as it stands in its glass case, protected from the ever curious hands of a public, so overwhelmed to finally see it on display that there is a fear they may be overcome and destroy it. The Eichmann is not a passionate thing, it is as cold as the glass that surrounds it, which makes the outpouring of emotion from its onlookers a curious site to behold. The Eichmann is a nothing, a thin strip of darkness in the light of a translucent prison, yet the world cannot help but stare.

The oldest complete piece in the exhibition was preserved by Salafia with formalin, alcohol and glycerin in 1920. The Lombardo, unfortunately, no longer stands but sleeps and so its visibility in the exhibition is minimal. Formally known as Rosalia, this is a work of magnificent detail with rosy skin and brown curls which took two years to perfect, much to the artist’s credit. The Lombardo was originally secured with a thick glass, airtight lid and wax seal, extensive restoration has removed these original touches but they have not altered the overall impact. The Lombardo appears archaic, perhaps a little lost in comparison to the unwavering gaze of The Eichmann, which dominates much of the exhibition.

There is a small phial held in an ornate pewter tree, its branches curve around and caress the crystal droplet which contains the ossicles of an unknown Saint. It is commonly known as the Whispering Tree, and it is the first part of an oblique collection within the exhibition: 25 Reliquaries Making up the Fragments of a Human Face. The Eye, a semi-rotten crushed sphere in a globe of formaldehyde, the same shade of ochre as nicotine, rolls around the table, twisting and turning its dead gaze on each and every onlooker. Pigment seeps through the iris and reveals flecks of cobalt, giving the eye a uniquely accusatory feeling. Everyone flinches when it turns to them, so unnerving is the stare that they pretend it’s not there. Even in this, the imposition of The Eichmann prevails as it returns each and every glance without conscience.

The curators curious addition to the exhibition is the portrait of a Screaming Pope. It hangs directly opposite The Eichmann and appears to be the only thing that it cannot bear in its presence. The Pope sits in a cubicle of streaming shadow and light, fingernails digging into the arm of the chair as its face remains locked in a scream that echoes through time. Whilst The Eichmann stands in its box, the Pope sits and screams, reaffirming his humanity in the shrill tone of an imagined voice. The Eichmann will speak and say its words which seem polite and well directed, but they will never achieve what the Pope has accomplished without ever uttering a word; that when imprisoned in a box, the last human thing to do is scream.

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