It’s a way of looking at the Holocaust that you might never have seen before: what did it mean to be trans person during that time? Gil Yefman, who spent two years as a woman, has created a provocative piece of art called “Tumtum” (slang for “stupid,” but also a term for hermaphrodites, taken from the Bible) that elicits plenty of questions.
It’s a massive crocheted ball, depicting various eyes, vaginas, penises, and secretions. It looks like it would be awfully cozy to cuddle up with, provided you don’t think too hard about what it is. According to Yefman, the title refers to “people who are considered freaks, pushed to the margins of society the way Holocaust survivors have been.”
Yefman’s piece appears in “Bay Mir Bistu Sheyn” (To Me You Are Beautiful), his first New York solo exhibit.
Other pieces in the exhibit depict a crocheted doll strapped down, awaiting use as a sex slave. Another shows a baby blanket made of swastikas, and another depicts Nazi leaders as porn models. Perhaps the most upsetting is a collection of bars of soap embedded with bits of hair, ash, and fingernails.
Yefman’s also known for an installation called “Let it Bleed,” which he created with his sister. It’s an eerily bare room featuring looping video and posters. A monitor shows various people adopting stereotypically feminine dance moves as they cycle through a range of outfits. The people in the video are of indeterminate gender themselves.
Yefman was inspired by the book House of Dolls to explore the history of his people. At the same time that he was learning about sexual slavery, he was feeling betrayed by his body, which led him to eventually transition to a woman before transitioning back. It’s a feminine perspective on the Holocaust that is particularly unique, and might never be explored in quite the same way ever again.