Jewish Museum in Vienna Shows Political Acts of Contrition

More+More+ ♦ Published: October 12, 2022; 20:05 ♦ (Vindobona)

The Jewish Museum Vienna is showing a video installation by film artist James T. Hong as the museum's first project to have more influence on social discourse. The exhibition "Apologies" displays apologies by heads of state for crimes approved or ordered by the state.

The video installation can be seen on the second floor of the Jewish Museum in Dorotheergasse in the so-called Extra Room until February 12, 2023. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons / Bwag / CC BY-SA 4.0 (

The video installation of the Taiwanese-American film artist with apologies of heads of state strung together without commentary will be shown until February 2023 on the second floor of the Jewish Museum in Dorotheergasse in the so-called "Extrazimmer" (Additional Room).

Beginning with Willi Brandt, who fell to his knees in front of the monument to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1970, in the video work Apologies by the Taiwanese-American film artist James T. Hong, heads of state from all over the world express their regret in a montage.

According to the Jewish Museum Vienna, the heads of state apologize in a symbolic act of contrition for crimes ordered or sanctioned by the state. In the video exhibit, these dignitaries are seen asking for forgiveness and affirming that they will do everything they can to prevent such atrocities from happening again. Each speech lasts only a few minutes, then the next head of state follows with the next apology, in chronological order, up to the recent present. Some heads of state are visibly moved emotionally, some read the apology seemingly unmoved. Some apologies seem sincere, some forced.

The video exhibition "Apologies," which lasts more than an hour and a half in total, evokes strong emotions. As the Jewish Museum describes "while one apology follows another, the crimes continue."

Apologies makes viewers question humanity and reflect both on political responsibility and on well-wishing apologies that often help the perpetrator:s more than the victims.

Aim of the exhibition "Apologies

The installation is the first project under the new museum director Barbara Staudinger and is programmatic of the fact that the Jewish Museum in Vienna wants to become more involved in social discourse in the future. On the occasion of the commemoration of the November pogroms, the museum aims to start a discourse on how we should and want to remember.

For this reason, Apologies has its place in the Jewish Museum Vienna. The work reflects on the rituality, but also the phrasiness of state-staged acts of contrition and asks how we want to deal in the future with injustices suffered and even more so with injustices committed.

Literary scholar and Auschwitz survivor Ruth Klüger noted, "You say 'Never again' and then you look at all the massacres that have happened in the meantime. It's absurd to say it shouldn't happen again." To illustrate the whole concept of the exhibition once again, this quote adorns the wall in the exhibition room of the video exhibition "Apologies".

Jewish Museum Vienna