Zbigniew Libera is a Polish artist known for creating controversial works. His 1996 series of Lego Concentration Camps is known for having propelled the artist into the international art scene. He works in many mediums producing photographs, videos, installations and drawings. Using popular images such a play kits for children or recognizable photographs, Mr. Libera comments on popular media transforming visual memory by manipulating our perceptions of historic events.
In the Lego series Mr. Libera created seven box sets which contain various 'areas' of concentration camps. Reminiscent of the police station set (which my monkeys have) is an entire concentration camp complete with gallows, barbed wire, uniformed guards, gas chambers and medical experimentation rooms. The prisoners in this case are not the iconic black and white striped inmates but are skeletons which originate from the Lego pirate series. In interviews with the artist Mr. Libera states that “The first concentration camp was set up not by Germans, not even by Russians, but by the British during the Boer war in South Africa around 1905". He goes on to say that “When I was working on "Lego" in 1996, the war in Yugoslavia was going on and there were concentration camps in Bosnia, we could see these things every day on TV. This was one of the strongest reasons why I decided to make this piece. So there is no specific historical reference, and I do not represent any particular camp.” Of the three sets of seven boxes one is displayed in the New York Jewish Museum, one is in the "Haus der Geschichte" in Bonn and one is in the hands of a private collector.
In Mr. Libera’s Positive series (2002-2003) he uses iconic negative photographs and manipulates them to convey positive images. The original imagines are part of the world collective sense of history. Similar to his use of Lego, a toy with generally happy connotations, the transformation illicits a murky recollection of memory and emotion.
Mr. Libera uses popular, culturally relevant material to create art which arouses conflicting emotions. In my opion this is genius.
Here is a great interview with the artist: