3-1 | Table of Con­tents | http://​dx​.doi​.org/10.17742/IMAGE.stealimage.3-1.4 | Ury Des­marais PDF To Port­fo­lio


Dialogue

Tues­day, Feb­ru­ary 7th 2012.
Cologne, Ger­many / Kelow­na, BC, Cana­da.

TANYA: Some­thing real­ly weird hap­pened. It might be appro­pri­ate or not. I’ll just quick­ly tell you. A cou­ple of weeks ago, I was con­tact­ed by a the­atre direc­tor in Ulm, which was the town my father came from. Basi­cal­ly, they told me about some­thing that was already a fait accom­pli: a the­atre pro­duc­tion about the life of Rom­mel with a Jew­ish ghost, and they chose my grand­moth­er Hed­wig Ury to be the Jew­ish ghost. It was very, very weird because they told me this, like, a week before the pre­miere. I have to admit that it was a bit upset­ting, but any­way, on Sun­day I’m going to go to Ulm to see the piece. Sort of strange; it was a bit like being vis­it­ed by a ghost of the past.

CLAUDE: Do you know why they picked your grand­moth­er?

TANYA: No. I don’t know why. They didn’t say why.

CLAUDE: What do you know about her?

TANYA: There is some doc­u­ment­ed mate­r­i­al, and the strange thing is because I’m trans­lat­ing arti­cles that I wrote for the book I’ll be pro­duc­ing this year, I was look­ing at that arti­cle again. A woman called Resi Weglein, who came from Ulm, was a friend of the fam­i­ly. She was with my grand­moth­er in There­sien­stadt, and she has writ­ten about all of the peo­ple that she knew in the camps she sur­vived; she was a wit­ness, so to speak, and wrote about every­body she knew, includ­ing my grand­moth­er. And this para­graph, which I read for the first time about 20 years ago about her and my grand­moth­er in There­sien­stadt was real­ly very upset­ting. It was about how she and anoth­er accom­pa­nied a wag­on of corpses to the edge of the con­cen­tra­tion camps with the rab­bi, say­ing their prayers. And I know now that it made a pic­ture of my grand­moth­er very real, although I had nev­er real­ly known any­thing about her before. Before she was sent to There­sien­stadt, she went to a home where the Jew­ish peo­ple in Ulm were sent to before they were sent to [the camps]. She looked after all the peo­ple there before she was sent to Auschwitz. The place had pre­vi­ous­ly been in Esslin­gen, a house where Rom­mel had lived. And that’s why this the­atre piece involves two aspects of what hap­pened in the house. I thought you might be inter­est­ed.

CLAUDE: No, that’s quite fas­ci­nat­ing. If you think about it, now we’re talk­ing about quite a num­ber of years since the war and the Holo­caust, the Shoah, and yet these things are still so present in Ger­many, you know.

TANYA: Yes, I know.

CLAUDE: I find it very inter­est­ing the dis­course in North Amer­i­ca is still very much about the Cold War, and Ger­many as part of the war has to do with the Sec­ond World War of course and the Cold War, but…um… around me and in all this area are the First Nations. In fact, British Colum­bia is the place where the fewest treaties have been signed.

TANYA: What do you mean by treaties?

CLAUDE: Well, in the East­ern part of North Amer­i­ca (and Cana­da) treaties were signed between the First Nations peo­ples of Cana­da and the col­o­niz­ers, basi­cal­ly reduc­ing indige­nous people’s land claims to reserves. But here in B.C., there are very few treaties, so that means that the claims of the First Nations to the land are still very much real. You can’t just take the land, and not have a treaty and think that it’s yours. And the thing is, we do not have the Shoah, but we def­i­nite­ly had a geno­cide here [Editor’s note: This is some­times false­ly reduced to a cul­tur­al geno­cide, where­as in real­i­ty this geno­cide involved many dif­fer­ent rep­re­hen­si­ble and crim­i­nal acts, includ­ing mur­ders] and the one large-scale event most dis­cussed is the res­i­den­tial school sys­tem as an assim­i­la­tion­ist tool to destroy the First Nations cul­ture. Where­as in Ger­many, it is part of the offi­cial dis­course that this [the Shoah] hap­pened, and then there’s nego­ti­at­ing in that soci­ety. Here, there’s part of the soci­ety that rec­og­nizes that, but the offi­cial dis­course, apart from the few of the “Oh, we’re sor­ry about what hap­pened,” there’s real­ly not any­thing as advanced as in Ger­many.

TANYA: That’s dis­grace­ful. Why is it? I don’t under­stand that. I mean if you think about what’s still going on in Turkey, where the Armen­ian geno­cide is still being denied, and I mean, I know a Turk­ish writer here, Dogan Akhan­li, who lives in Cologne. He actu­al­ly has done a cou­ple of prison terms in Turkey because he has pub­licly voiced his per­son­al dis­ap­proval that the geno­cide is not being talked about and admit­ted to. Ignor­ing some­thing com­plete­ly is impos­si­ble. It’s just so dis­re­spect­ful to the peo­ple and the mem­o­ry of the peo­ple in the fol­low­ing gen­er­a­tions.

CLAUDE: Yes, well there’s that moral imper­a­tive, and I think it’s some­times in our world we have a real­ly hard time mak­ing those moral imper­a­tives val­ued. And there’s anoth­er side to it, and that’s sim­ply that a soci­ety that doesn’t look at its past crit­i­cal­ly and deal with the past is always going to be los­ing out. There’s a very real loss, which isn’t just one per­son, isn’t the orig­i­nal vic­tims, but it’s all those cycles of vic­tim­hood, which are just per­pe­trat­ed and re-per­pe­trat­ed. I look around here; this is a beau­ti­ful area, and I look at how the area is dealt with and I say to myself, this is because that whole colo­nial and I don’t say colo­nial in the sense of all the peo­ple back then, I’m talk­ing about this life right now, the colo­nial expe­ri­ence hasn’t been worked through and Ger­many shows that this work­ing through such things is almost always difficult—and then there is the con­tin­u­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion in Ger­many and all oth­er coun­tries—, but..

TANYA: —but it’s pos­si­ble—

CLAUDE: Oh yes, and Ger­many has gone through all sorts of stages and still needs to work through quite a few things though. But back to your sto­ry, you are going to Ulm; they invit­ed you to come to Ulm?

TANYA: That is incog­ni­to (laughs). I’m going incog­ni­to, on my own and in my own opin­ion…

CLAUDE: Did they invite you or did they tell you about it? Did they ask or did they say we’d like you to come?

TANYA: Yes, but I mean, per­son­al­ly, I would have pre­ferred it if they’d been in touch a cou­ple years ago when they start­ed writ­ing the project; that would have been respect­ful.

CLAUDE: And what do you think kept them from being respect­ful? I think this might point to one of the dilem­mas Ger­many is fac­ing; before the Shoah and before WWII, Germany/Eastern Europe was full of vibrant Jew­ish-Ger­man com­mu­ni­ties. If you ever go to Yad Vashem you see all the com­mu­ni­ties that were destroyed in the geno­cides and for me, that was a more telling expe­ri­ence because it wasn’t about a num­ber, it was about all these com­mu­ni­ties that had been destroyed and—

TANYA: —and the cul­ture.

CLAUDE: Yes of course, the cul­ture. And the impov­er­ish­ment of the cul­ture –

TANYA: —the gen­er­al cul­ture.

CLAUDE: Yes, def­i­nite­ly. And the present state of Ger­many to be described by com­par­i­son as one where there are very few Jew­ish peo­ple liv­ing in Ger­many. And if you live out­side of Berlin and Cologne…

TANYA: —there is a com­mu­ni­ty in Munich.

CLAUDE: Yes, Munich and Frank­furt. There are com­mu­ni­ties, and I think once you start look­ing, you will be sur­prised at how many Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties there are in Ger­many; there’s many more than one would think, right? Maybe it’s sur­pris­ing, but the day-to-day inter­ac­tion with peo­ple who are of Jew­ish her­itage, cul­ture or religion—this is much less than it was pri­or to the war and the Shoah and so here comes my ques­tion, do you think that in Ulm they’re just with­out con­tact with any peo­ple who are Jew­ish-Ger­mans or Jew­ish, and there­fore, they didn’t think of it?

TANYA: Yes, and I will tell you what I feel and it’s utter­ly unfair towards them, but I have my own emo­tion­al response before I’ve seen the piece. They just didn’t think, and I wrote them an e-mail say­ing they are priv­i­leged, belong­ing to the gen­er­a­tion after an entire nation of crim­i­nals. And they have the priv­i­lege of choice, whether to deal with this sub­ject mat­ter or not, and I don’t have that choice and I think that is why I felt rather upset. They have a choice and of course it’s won­der­ful that they are deal­ing with this sub­ject mat­ter, but they didn’t real­ly think about the impli­ca­tions and what it might mean to the fam­i­lies. It only occurred to them a week pri­or and it would have been so easy to have done some research. We know the for­mer head of the NS-Doku­men­ta­tion­szen­trum der Stadt Ulm (Nation­al-Social­ist Doc­u­men­ta­tion Cen­tre in Ulm), Sil­vester Lech­n­er, who is now retired—he would have put them in touch with us and they would have just, you know, one e-mail to the Doc­u­men­ta­tion Cen­tre …

CLAUDE: Can I push you a bit on that point in two ways? One is that I would say, actu­al­ly, although they might not be as per­son­al­ly implicated—I’m not coun­ter­act­ing your idea—they have a choice because they’re in the major­i­ty cul­ture, right? And they have all sorts of priv­i­leges attached to that, but in a way, Ger­mans don’t real­ly have a choice if one is look­ing at it from a point of view of their own well-being. Because if one looks to the so-called nation­al lib­er­at­ed zone in Meck­len­burg, I believe it is, where these peo­ple with the neo-Nazi ide­ol­o­gy are try­ing to take over the schools and such things, they don’t have a choice, because with this her­itage, there are two choices—you either work through this her­itage in a crit­i­cal way and try to go beyond it or it is going to come back and revis­it you.

TANYA: Yes.

CLAUDE: So, would you …

TANYA: Okay, maybe they imag­ined that they have a choice (laughs).

CLAUDE: Okay (laughs), that’s inter­est­ing. The oth­er thing I would say is they imag­ine they have a choice and the idea that Ger­mans can live their lives in the main as part of the major­i­ty cul­ture with­out real­ly think­ing about the minori­ties among them and this can be true about the Turks, the East Ger­mans, Jewish-Germans—German-Jews what­ev­er ter­mi­nol­o­gy one wants—and this cre­ates a kind of blind­ness. I’ll give a com­par­i­son. Here, where I live in the Okana­gan val­ley, you could pos­si­bly think about incor­po­rat­ing some­one from the Silyx First Nation into a sto­ry or the­atre piece with­out con­sult­ing with them; you could, but it would be pret­ty hard—

TANYA: Incor­po­rate into what?

CLAUDE: I could imag­ine a play about some char­ac­ter from the past, and I could incor­po­rate a Sylix First Nation char­ac­ter with­out con­sult­ing that com­mu­ni­ty; but it would be very hard [and wrong] for me to do [so], because they’re quite present and it would be dis­re­spect­ful in my view. So what I’m say­ing is in Ulm, is it pos­si­ble that the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty, the Jew­ish past is not present, because even in Munich and Frank­furt where there are Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties, peo­ple can live their lives with­out any real inter­ac­tion with that com­mu­ni­ty?

TANYA: I can’t real­ly say, because I have noth­ing to do with Ulm, so I real­ly can’t answer. But I do know that in Eng­land, when I was liv­ing in Eng­land, this is going back twen­ty years or so, nobody then would have dreamt of writ­ing a play with­out con­sult­ing a com­mu­ni­ty because it wouldn’t have been con­sid­ered PC, whether it’s real­ly about people’s feel­ings or not is anoth­er mat­ter, but it’s sort of part of the cul­ture now that you have to be polit­i­cal­ly cor­rect and that means talk­ing to the peo­ple before you write a play.

CLAUDE: Do you feel that speaks to a cul­tur­al dif­fer­ence in Ger­many or just a lack of aware­ness of what that kind of appro­pri­a­tion of a his­to­ry does or can do, or the dan­gers behind it? [In oth­er words,] is it a cul­tur­al dif­fer­ence between Eng­land and North Amer­i­ca and Ger­many, or is it about not being aware of the tricky ter­ri­to­ry of appro­pri­at­ing cul­tur­al mem­o­ry?

TANYA: I guess Great Britain has had longer to deal with their colo­nial his­to­ry and the immi­grants who came from Jamaica or Pak­istan or India are very vocal and have been since the 60s and in Ger­many there wasn’t a com­mu­ni­ty to be vocal; all of the talk was going on out­side Ger­many. I reck­on because there’s been less dis­course about com­mu­ni­cat­ing and the Ger­mans have done their re-appraisal (repro­cess­ing) [Editor’s note: in Ger­many, the term com­mon­ly used to describe this process of con­fronting this past has been Aufar­beitung)] on their own more or less, because the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties are small­er. It often doesn’t occur to peo­ple there might be a com­mu­ni­ty there at all, or peo­ple who are rel­a­tives of those who were mur­dered in the Holo­caust.

CLAUDE: So if you go and they invite you up to say a few words at the end…

TANYA: I’m going incog­ni­to. I would have loved to have done some­thing if they had con­tact­ed me a year or two ago, but I feel very awk­ward, and actu­al­ly I feel awk­ward now talk­ing about this in the way that I am, because I should be show­ing more grat­i­tude. It is real­ly won­der­ful that my grand­moth­er is being remem­bered in this way. But I think, you know, she’s not being insult­ed at all (laughs), but I am.

CLAUDE: Yes, it’s a process. Tanya your appear­ance in a group announces your com­mit­ment to art right? If I’m in a group of peo­ple and I see you, I would say “Okay, this per­son is an artist” and I’m think­ing of Ulm, the the­atre crowd that’s going to be there, peo­ple who know each oth­er, right? And then there’s going to be this artist per­son there, your­self, who peo­ple don’t know and they have prob­a­bly seen pho­tos of you, right? The peo­ple who are orga­niz­ing it—

TANYA: I’m not famous.

CLAUDE: I know, but still, peo­ple can go on the Inter­net. So I’m just guess­ing they’re going to know it’s you; they’re going to speak to you; they’re going to thank you for com­ing; they’re going to ask you how you feel about it, and they might ask you to talk. So, just say­ing this all hap­pens, and they do ask you to talk, what would you say to them?

TANYA: Well, I wouldn’t say what I’ve just said to you (laughs). Of course, I need to see the play first, but assum­ing that it’s a good play and I’m sure it will be, because I looked on the Inter­net and the peo­ple who wrote it and the direc­tor have an inter­est­ing his­to­ry behind them. [Editor’s note: The play Rommel—Ein deutsch­er Gen­er­al, by Stephan Suschke and Michael Som­mer (direc­tor), first played Jan­u­ary 25, 2012 at the The­ater Ulm]

CLAUDE: Do you think it’s going to be a good piece?

TANYA: I expect it will be a very inter­est­ing and well-writ­ten piece, and I think if I were asked to make a com­ment, I would express my grat­i­tude. I’d talk about re-appraisal [repro­cess­ing] in Ulm, that it’s great that they’re doing that. I’m real­ly unsure because they did tell me in an e-mail that the woman who is tak­ing on the role of my grand­moth­er, the Jew­ish ghost, has a dou­ble role and will also be play­ing Hitler.

CLAUDE: Will also be play­ing Hitler?

TANYA: Yes, I’m sort of con­fused and won­der­ing how on earth that is going to work.

CLAUDE: That could be very inter­est­ing (laughs).

TANYA: I think at the moment it does upset me. I think I just want to go incog­ni­to and make my own mind up and maybe I’ll get in touch with them after­wards.

CLAUDE: This might be a big jump, but it’s some­thing that wasn’t cov­ered in the ques­tions, yet they are sim­i­lar in some ways. The mate­ri­als you’ve brought to the Cologne Archives—on the artis­tic or the Ger­man art scene— all the doc­u­men­ta­tion you brought to the Cologne Archives; it was a very con­scious deci­sion about pre­serv­ing his­to­ry and his­to­ry being tied to its local­i­ty. Then what has hap­pened there with the acci­dent and I’m wondering—although I’m sure it’s very fresh in your mind—where your think­ing is about all that right now and how that’s maybe impact­ing your art and your work?

TANYA: The whole episode for peo­ple who don’t know what hap­pened here in Cologne, on the third of March 2009, the His­tor­i­cal Archives in the city of Cologne just col­lapsed. And this was a very impor­tant archive, one of the largest this side of the Alps, with doc­u­ments which were up to 2000 years old and many doc­u­ments from over the last hun­dred years of lots of artists, writ­ers, peo­ple like Hein­rich Böll, whose entire archive was there and I don’t think they have recov­ered that yet—same with Gün­ter Wall­raff.

CLAUDE: Those two writ­ers give an idea of the impor­tance of the archives.

TANYA: Peter Bus­mann, who is the archi­tect of the Muse­um Lud­wig Köln and the con­cert hall in Cologne, his archive was lost.

CLAUDE: Could you talk now a bit about the actu­al event and your per­son­al inter­est?

TANYA: That is what hap­pened: it col­lapsed. For me, it was an extreme­ly emo­tion­al thing. I was very upset by this. It was the his­to­ry of a Jew­ish fam­i­ly that had been exter­mi­nat­ed. I had options, but I decid­ed they (the archival doc­u­ments of var­i­ous fam­i­ly mem­bers) should all be togeth­er in Cologne, rather than [go] to the Leo Beck Insti­tute in New York or the Jew­ish Muse­um in Berlin. Then to lose it was real­ly dread­ful, and I became very active short­ly after that: wrote four arti­cles for a news­pa­per; I did a cou­ple of tele­vi­sion inter­views. In the archive, [there were] a lot of pho­tographs, super 8 films of my child­hood but also (mate­r­i­al) of my great uncle, pho­tographs of his gen­er­a­tion going back to before the war. My father had been a com­pos­er when he was a young man—he had worked togeth­er with Peter Zadek when they were young and in Great Britain before Zadek went back to Ger­many and became the most impor­tant the­atre direc­tor in Ger­many, up to a cou­ple years ago when he died. But he and my father were friends in Eng­land in the 50s and my father wrote music for all of his pro­duc­tions in England—so all the orig­i­nal mate­r­i­al was in the archive. And my grand­fa­ther was a writer, and also a scriptwriter for the Ufa (film) Stu­dios; he was the Chef Dra­maturg (Head Scriptwriter), so I’m talk­ing about all of his mate­r­i­al. A cou­ple of months back, the archive got in touch with me to say some mate­r­i­al had been recov­ered.

CLAUDE: Oh okay, that’s excel­lent. How did you feel when you heard that?

TANYA: I’m not sure if this should be in the inter­view, but I’ll leave that up to you. As I said, the whole thing upset me so much, and I actu­al­ly decid­ed to dis­tance myself from the whole sub­ject. I haven’t actu­al­ly gone to look at the mate­r­i­al yet; I need to get on with my life and the work that I’m doing. So I’ve been over­whelmed with work and that’s just one of the things that I have not dealt with yet.

CLAUDE: Well, I don’t think you need to apol­o­gize for that. I think what you’re say­ing about your own work is impor­tant. I mean, if you look at your fam­i­ly, your grand­fa­ther and your father, they didn’t have an impact by say­ing, “Well, I’m going to look at what my father did”; they did some­thing. And by giv­ing the mate­ri­als to the Cologne archive, you gave it to spe­cial­ists whose job it is to look after things.

TANYA: Exact­ly and they failed mis­er­ably.

CLAUDE: Yes so, I guess what you’re say­ing is that if it does play a role in your work right now, it’s not real­ly some­thing that you thought about at length or because you know, your work, if one con­tex­tu­al­izes your work, you’re an artist in Ger­many, but you could also say you’re an Eng­lish artist in Ger­many, you’re a Jew­ish artist in Ger­man, you’re a Ger­man-Jew­ish-Eng­lish artist in Ger­many; I don’t know how that frame­work for inter­pre­ta­tion has changed over the years, because you’ve now been in Ger­many for a num­ber of years. So how long have you been in Ger­many and how have you seen the devel­op­ment now that you’ve lived in Ger­many for a longer time?

TANYA: Which devel­op­ment?

CLAUDE: Well just how the con­text has changed from when you first arrived in Ger­many and where you are now.

TANYA: I’ve left Great Britain behind, you know. I’m there very rarely, maybe once a year just to see friends or my nieces or rel­a­tives. It doesn’t inter­est me that much, and I’m pret­ty well estab­lished here. In the last year, a lot has hap­pened for me in Cologne, so I would say that I’m actu­al­ly def­i­nite­ly estab­lished in Cologne. This is the place I belong to, though I would nev­er say a place is my home or that I have a feel­ing about a coun­try that it’s my home­land; this is where I’m at home; my friends, they’re here; I have friends here; I have friends in Berlin too; I have friends in Cana­da.

CLAUDE: Yes (laughs), so are you a Lokalpa­tri­otin (a patriot/supporter of the city you live in) or is that word just as anath­e­ma to you?

TANYA: Yes, I wouldn’t want to use that kind of word (laughs). I’m a local matri­arch, sor­ry.

CLAUDE: Yes, okay, a local matri­arch. I can see that. How has your inter­ac­tion and dis­course with Ger­mans and Ger­many and with art changed over the years. If you’re asked to look back, what do you see as a kind of devel­op­ment, what would you say if you were try­ing to cre­ate a grand nar­ra­tive?

TANYA: My good­ness. I think in the last twen­ty years I’ve said a lot of what I need­ed to say and then I got ill and I think I men­tioned in the inter­view that there were a cou­ple of projects that were quite impor­tant to me which I just stopped doing because it was too much. And now I’m doing this poet­ry which is almost like impro­vised poet­ry, but I’m also doing impro­vised poet­ry with musi­cians and although I don’t do that more often than once every 3 weeks, that is a real­ly big dif­fer­ence; it’s com­plete­ly new in that I’ve only been doing it for the last year. And I allow myself sub­ject mat­ter that can be any­thing. It can be real­ly absurd, it can be fun­ny, seri­ous, and it can be any top­ic, so it can include the seri­ous top­ics that I used to han­dle. But it can also just be on absolute­ly any­thing, and to be hon­est, it’s a real relief to be able to do that. And I wouldn’t say that I’m mak­ing poet­ry about sil­ly love songs or any­thing like that; you can still try to achieve some sort of depth in the moment—that is also pos­si­ble. And nev­er­the­less, it is such a relief to let go of the very, very heavy sub­ject mat­ter that I have been deal­ing with for the last twen­ty years. Hav­ing said that, I’m not going to leave it behind at all; I’m going to be doing both par­al­lel, so that is a dif­fer­ence, yes.

CLAUDE: So, this new sense of free­dom and of not hav­ing this oblig­a­tion to con­stant­ly deal with cer­tain mat­ters with the past, is what “fem­i­nini­a­tion” is about?

TANYA: There are two ver­sions. The oth­er one is “fem­i­nin­i­ty” and the rea­son it was called “fem­i­nin­i­ty” was because there’s “Nini” in the cen­tre of it, and my sister’s name is Nini, short for Ninette.

It’s an ini­ti­a­tion; it’s about ini­ti­a­tion.

CLAUDE: Okay, yes. It also has “nation” in it.

TANYA: Yes.

CLAUDE: And if you think of the whole dis­course about iden­ti­ty and the past, this whole idea of Ger­man­ness, which is still at work in Ger­many and oth­er coun­tries, this sort of eth­no-racial fal­la­cy is essen­tial­ism; insert­ing the fem­i­nine in nation is also an act of dis­rupt­ing that essen­tial­ist iden­ti­ty con­struct, right? Because the nation­al iden­ti­ty con­struct that’s essen­tial­ist is pred­i­cat­ed on exclud­ing the fem­i­nine, the Oth­er, etc. It uses those things as the Oth­er, but doesn’t include them in its con­struct. So, what I’m get­ting at it is, here’s the local matri­arch, who has reclaimed the fem­i­nine, the wom­an­ly, what­ev­er term we use, then it’s about the nation being forced to real­ly play a sec­ondary role to that.

TANYA: Well, I can shout as loud as I want to; it usu­al­ly gets ignored. I’m not real­ly sure it’s mak­ing any impact, at all. Still car­ry on.

CLAUDE: How do you find, in Ger­many, the open­ness to wide rang­ing dis­cus­sions about the roles of women, the roles women can take or have in soci­ety, and the polit­i­cal dis­cours­es? Do you find it’s quite pro­gres­sive or do you find it’s quite ret­ro­grade? I mean in terms of the whole dis­course of women’s rights and such things?

TANYA: My good­ness…

CLAUDE: I’m ask­ing this because I’m won­der­ing how that inflects on your role as an artist.

TANYA: Well, what came to mind just then is a friend of mine who is a pro­fes­sor of Art His­to­ry at The Hochschule für Bildende Kün­ste (HBK) Braun­schweig (Braun­schweig Uni­ver­si­ty of Art), Katha­ri­na Syko­ra. The last time we met up for din­ner in Berlin, she men­tioned how priv­i­leged she was; she said the fact is that in Ger­many only six per­cent of the pro­fes­sors are women, so that tells it all about the cul­tur­al scene. One would be blind to say equal­i­ty is there. It’s some­thing that one has to fight for, even if young women would like to think that fem­i­nism is some­thing that belonged to an era past. Unless every­one involves them­selves in it, now as well, things are not going to improve.

CLAUDE: And how is the art world for you, in that sense?

TANYA: Sim­i­lar. And I remem­ber I was involved in a very large art exhi­bi­tion some years ago, about 6 years ago, at the Muse­um Bochum. They decid­ed to do a sort of ret­ro­spec­tive of artists com­ing from a Jew­ish back­ground, and now I don’t have the sta­tis­tics at hand, but there were many artists invit­ed or rep­re­sent­ed from the past as well—I remem­ber, I felt hon­oured to be part of the project and I then sort of added up all of the names, and again, it was this six per­cent. It just pops up, of women—from a mar­gin­al­ized group.

Skype dia­logue tran­script edit­ed and abridged by Claude Des­marais, Reich­wald Pro­fes­sor in Ger­man­ic Stud­ies (FCCS) at UBC, Okana­gan Cam­pus. Thanks go to Mar­go Tamez, Pro­fes­sor of Indige­nous Stud­ies and Gender-Women’s Stud­ies at UBC, Okana­gan cam­pus for her insight into the geno­cide against indige­nous peo­ples in North America/Turtle Island.


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