On Forgiveness

This installation included vinyl wall text, wall painting, 6 drawings and a video. The text included excerpts from Jacques Derrida’s essay On Forgiveness. The drawings and video were organized around three elements of contemporary Jewish identity: the holocaust, Zionism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Derrida text follows below:

Pure and unconditional forgiveness, in order to have its own meaning, must have no ‘meaning’, no finality, even no intelligibility. It is a madness of the impossible…

Forgiveness is thus mad. It must plunge, but lucidly, into the night of the unintelligible…

As soon as the victim ‘understands’ the criminal, as soon as she exchanges, speaks, agrees with him, the scene of reconciliation has commenced, and with it this ordinary forgiveness which is anything but forgiveness.

In the radical evil of which we are speaking, and consequently in the enigma of the forgiveness of the unforgivable, there is a sort of ‘madness’, which the juridico-political cannot approach, much less appropriate.

Imagine a victim of terrorism, a person whose children have been deported or had their throats cut, or another whose family was killed in a death oven. Whether she says ‘I forgive’ or ‘I do not forgive’, in either case I am not sure of understanding. I am even sure of not understanding, and in any case I have nothing to say. This zone of experience remains inaccessible, and I must respect its secret…

What I dream of, what I try to think as the ‘purity’ of a forgiveness worthy of its name, would be a forgiveness without power…

Will that be done one day? It is not around the corner, as is said. But since the hypothesis of this unrepresentable task announces itself, be it as a dream for thought, this madness is perhaps not so mad…

J. Derrida