Artur Żmijewski b. 1966
80064 (2004)
Duration: 10 minutes

In the short video “80064,” the artist who made it, Artur Zmijewski, persuades an elderly Auschwitz survivor to have the faded number on his forearm refreshed by a tattoo artist. The befuddled old gentleman had evidently agreed beforehand to have this done, but on camera he is having second thoughts. He doesn’t see the point and worries about the consequences. But he eventually surrenders to Mr. Zmijewski’s implacable urging, and the tattooist retraces the digits. Afterward the old man seems ambivalent; it’s hard to tell whether he’s glad he let it be done or not. Maybe he is just relieved that the ordeal is over.

Ostensibly, renewing the number is a metaphor about memory and history. We mustn’t forget the Holocaust and other catastrophes, or similar events are bound to happen again. Was this hackneyed lesson worth the price of a vulnerable old man’s peace of mind?