NYUAD Sophomore to Exhibit at Chile's National Museum for Memory and Human Rights

Nikolai Kozak, NYUAD Class of 2015, exhibits his collection, Memoria 35000, in an exhibit at Chile's National Museum for Memory and Human Rights.

For NYUAD sophomore Nikolai Kozak, creating bridges between the social sciences and the arts is an interesting way of addressing heavy and complex topics — topics like the Chilean dictatorship, which is the theme of Kozak's Memoria 35000 art project. Named for the 35,000 cases of human rights abuses that occurred during the dictatorship (which took place from 1973 to 1990), the project has been accepted for exhibition in Chile's National Museum for Memory and Human Rights.

Kozak, who was born in Chile and whose father spent a large portion of his life helping to free political prisoners in Chile, always felt that the dictatorship was present in his life, but "never truly understood it," he said. "Despite the pain, it's a subject that newer generations are quick to forget or dismiss; after all, Chile's youth never lived the dictatorship, and have more pressing social problems with which to struggle," he explained. With a desire to investigate the idea of a dying piece of collective memory, as well as to "restart a conversation with the youth regarding the dictatorship, its effects, and its importance," Kozak looked to the Centre for Documentation at the National Museum for Memory and Human Rights, specifically, its archives.

Choosing a selection of 60 letters, manuscripts, reports of abuses, notices of detention and execution, and drawings that, Kozak said, "transmitted a sense of commonality and also deep, profound emotion," he created a series of 60 drawings in coal, ink, and pencil to be displayed alongside 50 corresponding phrases, excerpts taken from the archives and reinterpreted to look and sound like excerpts from poems. "The idea being that even in commonality one can always find unexpected poetry," Kozak said. An exploration of collective memory and human rights, Memoria 35000 also sheds light on the effects of the dictatorship on Chilean society.

In addition to the development of the exhibition, as a side project during his time in Santiago this summer, Kozak also reinterpreted Memoria 35000's phrases and drawings, turning them into anonymous pieces of street art that were stenciled and wheat-pasted around the city. As Kozak said, "Returning to Chile and diving into this project was a deeply introspective and rewarding experience. But it was a crazy two months!"