Since its first season in September, 1994, the Dr. M. T. Geoffrey Yeh Art Gallery has been dedicated to the exhibition of all forms of contemporary art. It brings to the Queens campus works of art created by well known and emerging artists of regional, national and international backgrounds. Hosting seven exhibitions each academic year, the shows fall into five categories: The Invitational, The Juried National, Theme and the annual Faculty and Student exhibitions.

Current Exhibition These are 7,000,000 Bodies
September 1 - October 24, 2009
Opening Reception
Tuesday, September 15, 2009, 4:30 - 8 p.m.

When someone kills another human being, they destroy an individual’s future, present and past.   Killing another human being is the single worst act one can do to another.  A murderous act creates a domino effect which drags countless other individuals into this void. Now imagine if thousands of men, women and children are systematically eradicated.   The 20th century is documented as the bloodiest age in human history.  65 million people lost their lives during the first and second World Wars and more than half of these casualties were civilians.  Leaders of nations have repeatedly declared outrage against the destruction and systemic cleansing of human life.  However, it is a fact that acts of genocide and mass murder continue to plague humanity regardless of genocide prevention and humanitarian intervention.

The exhibit, These are 7,000,000 Bodies, is a stark reminder of the slaughter and mayhem that engulfed Rwanda, Congo, Darfur and Bosnia.  Organizing a photo exhibition about genocide poses a dilemma, presenting aesthetically pleasing images while maintaining the solemnity that is necessary in addressing events of this magnitude. At times the visitor’s experience of viewing art in a gallery can create a separation from everyday reality.  However, in the case of a photo documentary exhibition, the medium delivers a powerful outlook.  The documentary photographer speaks through the lens about places, people and happenings, giving meaning and significance to theses stories. 

Witnessing second hand the horrors that are presented situates viewers into a curious position, forcing them into feeling the guilt of inaction as they allow themselves a psychological distance from the effectiveness of the images.  What could have otherwise been rationalized as an incident with no real implications to an individual’s life now confronts the viewer with the actualities that others face. Given this new knowledge, how will one react?

In 1944, Raphael Lemkin, a Polish-Jewish lawyer, coined the word genocide from a combination of the Greek word geno meaning race or tribe with the Latin word cide, which means killing.  Lemkin’s definition was used to describe the crimes that were committed in the Nazi Holocaust.   On June 22, 1941, Wiston Churchill stated that the mass murders being committed were “a crime without a name.”  In 1907, the Hague convention defined the meaning of war crimes as “violations of the laws or customs of the war.”  The distinct phenomena of extermination camps in World War II elicited a definition that would encompass racial, national and religious considerations.  The International Military Tribunal held in Nuremberg, Germany in 1945, prosecuted Nazi leaders with “crimes against humanity.” Lemkin’s word genocide was included in the indictment. His efforts aided in procuring an ethical and legal model to prosecute individuals or states accused of genocide and other crimes against humanity.

“These are 7,000,000 Bodies” affords the audience an opportunity to witness the violence of war with hope that someday these conflicts will no longer happen. Through the works of documentary photographers Jonathan Torgovnik, Marcus Bleasdale and Ron Haviv, we are reminded that the world we live is not perfect.  It is important to remember that still today mass murders are being committed in countries not included in this exhibition.  These incidents continue to perpetuate in regions of the world as countless victims continue to lose their lives in needless bloodshed.  It is within our duty to recognize these conflicts and act in whatever way we can in order to stagnate such violence.  The images in this exhibition provide a visual reminder for us so that the lives that have been lost are not gone in vein, and that as each day passes we are afforded the opportunity to enact change in the world in which we live.