Inherited Trauma

I was applying for DYCP funding to focus on researching and developing the idea of

Inherited Trauma, a new project that will explore epigenetics - the study of

heritable phenotype changes that do not involve alterations in the DNA

sequence. New research shows that genetic changes stemming from the

trauma suffered by Holocaust survivors can be passed on to their children

(Yehuda, R. 2018). I recently completed an MA in Jewish History and Culture,

writing my dissertation about the Holocaust and Art. I wanted to learn about the

experiences of people living with Shoah trauma and to touch on a sense of

being suspended in the vacuum of history and the impact this seems to have on

part of my husband’s identity. His mother, then a little girl, was rescued from

Krakow's Ghetto. I am trying to establish something that they both cannot

remember, but seem to somehow feel. I plan to use a range of media including

installation, photography, moving image and sound/silence to explore our

perception of reality. To date, I have mainly operated within the museums and

galleries circuit. For this project, I want to reach out to organisations that are

interested in connecting art and neuroscience. I want to build upon this new

trajectory and develop new networks with new partners. I would begin my

research speaking with a New York psychiatrist Rachel Yehuda, and Ewan

Birney, Director of the Bioinformatics Institute, UK. In a form of film,

photographs, installation and artist’s book I want to tell the story of my husband

and his mother.


Review of Being Becoming/Becoming Being


Completed in 2018 as part of the MA Photography at the University of Brighton, Being Becoming/Becoming Being is a complex art work that comprises a series of photographs, an artist book and a film made by Polish-British artist Violetta Liszka, whose previous work includes photography, moving image and sculpture.


A starting point was to investigate how the unspoken can be captured or visualized. Although not fully autobiographical, the project explores complex and ever shifting identities and the artist’s quest for an authentic and personal truth. When Liszka and her husband discover his Jewish identity (hidden from him at birth) they embark on a journey through the archive, through stories and through poetry, seeking to reconcile and embrace an aspect of the family’s heritage that had been lost. 


Journeying towards a new reality and integrating various life fragments, Liszka explores distance and closeness, loss and recovery. Through the medium of still and moving images alongside text her work explores what it means to be fully human. The deliberate and considerate layout of the handmade and bound artist book, with photographs of the body printed onto fragile and transparent tracing paper inserts and offset with strong colour pages of personal objects that are part of her husband’s life narrative can be viewed and experienced against the slow paced artist film. Confronting frailty and the prospect of mortality, this work is moving and while personal, also has the ability to strongly resonate with viewers.


Since completing this work, Violetta Liszka has made several other projects, including The Tracks and Flagrant Injustice (2021) which were inspired by Elie Wiesel’s Trilogy, Night, Dawn and Day. Both Tracks (made with handmade fabric, paper and threads) and Flagrant Injustice (which worked with archival imagery) represent an active engagement with the legacy of the Holocaust and with collective and communicative memories. All of these recent works are interconnected by Liszka’s immersion in Judaism and her extensive exploration of Jewish history and culture. 


A key process of her practice is to try to interconnect iconic and historical images from within art histories with her own visual sensitivities. Making visible what is hard to be spoken – or cannot be spoken easily, and mediating this through her artistic engagement. 


Dr. Julia Winckler, Principal Lecturer, School of Art and Media, University of Brighton