FALL or Fail?FALL or Fail?

6 million domino rally to mark Shoah?

British adman turned artist hopes to raise $2.5 million for unusual Holocaust installation; Jewish community official says project trivializes victims

Amanda Borschel-Dan is The Times of Israel's Jewish World and Archaeology editor.

From the promo video introducing Julian Hanford's FALL art installation. (Vimeo screenshot)
From the promo video introducing Julian Hanford's FALL art installation. (Vimeo screenshot)

Can six million custom designed dominoes fairly represent the six million Jew murdered in the Holocaust? While the jury is still out whether Julian Hanford’s planned art installation, titled FALL, will be epic, or an epic fail, even prior to the launch of its crowdfunding campaign this week, it is generating conversation.

The British adman turned artist told The Sunday Times he intends to use new crowdfunding platform Phundee to raise some £1.58 million (almost $2.5 million) to pull the project off.

According to the Times, the proceeds would go to pay domino events installer, Robin Weijers, and the cost of the site.

Hanford’s intention is to build the artwork and leave it in situ for six days. He said a Holocaust survivor would topple the first domino, and expects the fall to take some 12 hours.

The goal of the project is to broadcast the scope of the six million murders. After the fall, Hanford intends to send tiles with educational materials on the Holocaust to British schools.

British adman turned artist Julian Hanford (Youtube screenshot)
British adman turned artist Julian Hanford (Youtube screenshot)

“My mission is to bring to a new generation what happened to Jews in the war,” Hanford told the Times.

Not everybody is lining up in support, though.

Jonathan Arkush, the vice-president of Jewish umbrella organization Board of British Deputies told the Times that representing the deaths of six million Jews with falling dominoes “trivializes the greatest crime of industrial murder in modern times.”

According to the British Jewish Telegraph newspaper, Hanford is not Jewish, but has Jewish ancestors on his mother’s side. As a 13-year-old he visited Bergen-Belsen which had a profound impact on him.

“What I could never get my head around is the scale of the Holocaust… I struggle to visualize the vast figure — it is an abstract number, diluted by the passage of time,” Hanford told the Jewish Telegraph.

The project is not the first attempt to use small objects to try to grapple with the scope of the Holocaust. In 1998, students at a Tennessee middle school embarked to collect 6 million paper clips to learn about the Holocaust. The campaign won international accolades and resulted in an Emmy-nominated movie.

In a promo video currently on Vimeo, Hanford’s daughter Aurelia described FALL, saying the project would require a space comparable to a soccer pitch. Shots of the pre-teen are interspersed with graphic horrific historical images of piles of corpses. In one image, an emaciated arm is seen reached out from a crematorium oven.

Hanford told the Times, there is no suitable venue in Britain. The paper reported Hanford is currently in talks with Berlin about the use of Tempelhof, a former airport that was used during World War II to build bomber aircraft.

Bizarrely enough, Hanford’s project is the second domino display devoted to the slaughter of Jews to be in the news this week.

On Sunday, a video emerged out of Iran showing a massive domino and pyrotechnic display, ending with a missile destroying a display of tiles made to look like the Israeli flag.

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