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Sans souci by Christian Boltanski is a collection of 115 snapshots with scenes from the daily life of German soldiers

Christian Boltanski
Sans-souci, 1971

Is there really a difference between criminals and ordinary people?

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Christian Boltanski’s Sans souci screams out for a relevant answer and yet every answer is equally inappropriate.

Boltanski shows a photo album that he found on a flea market in Berlin: friendly smiling Wehrmacht soldiers and SS officers going about their everyday business. They celebrate their birthday, Christmas or proudly hold a baby up.

These 115 snapshots are reproductions from an album with scenes from everyday life. These photos encourage us to think about involvement with history. The photos highlight the duality of innocence and the blame latent in each of us.

The power of Boltanski’s work lies in the important role of the spectator. Over and over again, the viewer has to fill in the gap and create their own story. You know that behind every portrait there is a personal story, but the faces do not show it.

In reality, the face of a criminal is hardly distinguishable from that of a good citizen.