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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Tanya Ury

D-50672 ,
Germany

As a mature student I gained a BA HONS in Fine Art, First Class, 1988, at Exeter College of Art and Design (GB), which is now part of the University of Plymouth, and in 1990 was awarded a Masters in Fine Art with Distinction at Reading University. Parallel to the time at Reading I attended the Institute for Theatre, Film and Television Studies, Cologne University, Germany for one semester in 1989. From 1991-92 I was employed as guest lecturer during the Colin Walker Fellowship in Fine Art, at Sheffield Hallam University. My postgraduate studies were supported by a British Academy Award and an Erasmus Grant. Before and after my academic studies I spent some years practicing Raj Yoga meditation in London, working with children as a housemother in a state children’s home, later on the land in Norfolk as herb gardener, and in an old people’s home as a? care-taker. I have also worked as a cook in an old people’s home and in several vegetarian restaurants, in Great Britain and Germany. At the start of my art practice my choice of subject matter: signs of the Holocaust in contemporary Germany and issues of Jewish identity in a feminist context, led to such positive feedback in Germany during my study period there, in contrast to the general disinterest of Great Britain, that I decided to move to Germany, although it was the land from which my Jewish parents and grandparents had fled the Nazis; I gained English/German dual nationality in 1993.

Apart from taking part in more than 150 exhibitions, giving workshops and lectures, over the last 20 years, I have also curated exhibitions, published several short stories in Germany and articles (selection): 1999 Taking on the Mantle (English) in AufBr?che - Kulturelle Produktionen von Migrantinnen, Schwarzen und j?dischen Frauen in Deutschland (Marginal Cracks - Cultural Production of Women Migrants, Black and Jewish Women in Germany), publ. Ulrike Helmer Verlag ISBN 3-89741-042-7 (D) 2002 Transcending the Ladder (English) in From Work to Word, publ. Korridor Verlag ISBN 3-9804354-8-2 (D) 2005 Das Leiden Anderer Missachten - Disregarding the Pain of Others, (German only) in FILMRI:SS - Studien zum UNTERGANG der Erinnerung (Memory Loss – Studies in the downfall of Memory), Unrast Verlag ISBN 3-89771-435-3 (D) Tanya Ury, January 2007.

Feminist Artist Statement

The importance of a feminist position in my art and writing has held a parallel status for me, with the concern over problems of xenophobia and blind spots in history reflected in European society today, particularly Germany, my home since 1993. I started working on the re-appraisal of Shoah, the Holocaust in Great Britain of the late 80’s. Although this was belated, hardly any British artists were doing that, preferring to engage with Britain’s colonial history and its aftermath, although the Holocaust and its consequence is relevant to British history, principally because the government under Churchill ignored the fact of the concentration camps, which the British could have bombed for humanitarian reasons, preferring to protect their territorial interests with World War 2. My family was exploited, abused, and murdered, as were many non-Jews. In terms of a feminist approach, the criminalization of rape in war has only been recognised since the Balkan war of the 90’s, although Nazis systematically perpetrated this crime, a subject that I engaged with in my artwork of the 90’s. My immediate survivor family were part of a wave of refugee-immigrants to Great Britain from Nazi Germany in the late 30’s. Today, the British Jewish community is 273,500 strong (http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judentum) but I have not observed any particular interest by them or a wider British populace to support a culture of art by “Jewish” artists. I ask myself why this is. Has British Jewry become too comfortable, too assimilated/ integrated? Why is a Jewish art culture neglected in the United Kingdom? In Germany it is a different story. The Jewish community with its 103,000 is smaller than the British one (http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judentum), but a “Jewish” and “Jewish feminist” art culture is nurtured and celebrated. One must also keep alert here, however, in “The Right of the Image, Jewish Perspectives in Modern Art,” Bochum Museum (D) (2003-04), probably the most comprehensive exhibition of “Jewish” art to be held, only 6% of the artists represented were women. Although I am not religious in a Jewish sense, I continue to find the examination of contemporary Germany in the face of Shoah important; wider issues are reflected because this capitalist society has benefited from crimes of the recent past, although some truths are still repressed, such as the fact that Hugo Boss exploited forced labour employed as seamstresses and tailors, to make Nazi uniforms. Tanya Ury, January 2007

<p>Who’s Boss: Art Prize Nr.4</p>

Who’s Boss: Art Prize Nr.4

Concept: Tanya Ury
Digital processing: David Janecek
Artist’s self-portrait, camera: Doris Frohnapfel
Photograph sealed under plexiglass and mounted
H 55 cm x B 122.5 cm
This photograph, one of four digital photo-collages is composed of three elements; the first constituent, taken from a set of Hugo Boss advertisements for the autumn and winter collection 1998-99, demonstrates amongst other things, a leather coat that closely resembles a World War II German Luftwaffe overcoat. The second is a collection of Spanish postcards from the Franco era displaying simplistic drawings of couples, doll-like girls with uniformed boy soldiers. The last of the three components are photographic self-portraits (of Tanya Ury) from 1996, naked and posing with an original full-length, Nazi leather Luftwaffe coat.

The revelations of the Boss Nazi origins in 1997 were obviously bad press for Hugo Boss AG. They preferred to be seen in a more charitable light and believed correctly that this would be possible, for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation had, as early as 1996, already administered a biennial international art award of $50,000 in the name of Hugo Boss.

Who’s Boss: Art Prize Nr.4

Concept: Tanya Ury
Digital processing: David Janecek
Artist’s self-portrait, camera: Doris Frohnapfel
Photograph sealed under plexiglass and mounted
H 55 cm x B 122.5 cm
This photograph, one of four digital photo-collages is composed of three elements; the first constituent, taken from a set of Hugo Boss advertisements for the autumn and winter collection 1998-99, demonstrates amongst other things, a leather coat that closely resembles a World War II German Luftwaffe overcoat. The second is a collection of Spanish postcards from the Franco era displaying simplistic drawings of couples, doll-like girls with uniformed boy soldiers. The last of the three components are photographic self-portraits (of Tanya Ury) from 1996, naked and posing with an original full-length, Nazi leather Luftwaffe coat.

The revelations of the Boss Nazi origins in 1997 were obviously bad press for Hugo Boss AG. They preferred to be seen in a more charitable light and believed correctly that this would be possible, for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation had, as early as 1996, already administered a biennial international art award of $50,000 in the name of Hugo Boss.

Who’s Boss: Your Rules

Concept: Tanya Ury
Camera: Tanya Ury and Katja Butt
Digital processing: David Janecek

Photograph sealed under plexiglass and mounted, H 56 cm x B 77 cm

The filmed process of Tanya Ury’s body art embroidery and parody of the Boss credo ‘your fragrance, your rules’ has also been captured in a video-performance Röslein Sprach…

The photographic image of the artist’s stretched out hand, the word ‘Boss’ hand-sewn into its palm, against a table cloth background, is combined with a photo of a shop window displaying a poster advertising Hugo men’s cologne ‘your fragrance’, on which a young man displays his hand inscribed with the handwritten logo ‘your rules’.

Encoded within this digital collage are allusions to the fascist Era and the collusive activities of the fashion house Hugo Boss AG, when slave labour tailors made Nazi uniforms in the Metzingen workshop, Germany. A minimal payment in reparation was not offered until the year 2000. The Boss code of re-writing the rulebook to suit oneself, is reflected in the Boss German television advertising campaign 2004, ’your rules’.

lesser is me more or less

Concept: Tanya Ury
Camera and digital image processing: David Janecek

Photograph sealed under plexiglass and mounted (MDF), height 64 cm x width 90 cm

“lesser is me more or less” features the artist Tanya Ury to the right of the picture, sitting in three-quarter view. Digitally incorporated into the photograph and facing her to the left, is the German Impressionist Lesser Ury, Tanya Ury’s great-great-grand uncle, in a reproduction of his ‘Selbstportät mit Dunklem Hut’ (Self-portrait with dark hat, 1914, 64 x 40 cm). At the time, Lesser Ury was 53 years old and at the height of his powers. In this double portrait, the two Urys are more or less the same age, Tanya dresses and poses similarly to Lesser and mimics his facial expression. At the centre of lesser is me more or less, conjoining the two picture halves, is the representation of a scar and human scar tissue.

Further double portraits in this series are:

or else, 2007 and doo bee doo, 2007, Du bist Einstein, 2007

Blue Danaé 1

Photograph sealed under plexiglass and mounted (MDF), 34 x 49 cm

“Blue Danaé 1,” one of two self-portrait photographs was created a year after the making of Tanya Ury’s video/performance: ‘Golden Showers’, in which, over a two hour period, her body was completely covered in gold leaf by a German art restorer. Blue Danaé 1 & 2 depict the artist seated on blue velvet; the close-up images are of her genitalia covered in gold leaf. The photos are a homage to Gustav Klimt whose painting ‘Danaé’ was created during 1907-08. Danaé was impregnated by the god Zeus when he appeared to her in the form of a shower of gold.

Moving Message

LED display sign

The LED displays a moving message with various combinations of the three words YOU ARE WHY. The dictum YOU ARE WHY, not only poses the most fundamental of existential questions but is also a word-play: the phonetic spelling of the artist’s name URY, in English.

Accompanying the sign are twelve holographic pages of quotations, framed in rows of three by four. The format emulates the Urim and Thummim, an ancient Jewish oracle. Taking issue with the ‘Word’ of the bible and the name of the father, which have been upheld as Law from time immemorial, from Moses until Freud, Tanya Ury attempts to locate her own position within the Judeo/Christian tradition.

Franco and Elke J.

Photograph sealed under plexiglass and mounted (MDF) 63cm x 94.5cm

This double-profile-portrait combines the image of a Spanish 25 peseta coin from 1957 and a cutting from a German magazine in 1994. On the left, into the cheek of General Franco’s face, a swastika has been carved. Opposite Franco is the photographic image of Elke J. a disabled German teenager who claimed that skinheads had attacked her and scratched a swastika onto her cheek. The scarification turned out to be self-inflicted. On the press photo her identity has been protected; a black line covers her eyes making her appear anonymous or blinkered.

Who’s Boss: Soul Brother: Shaheen

Concept Tanya Ury
Camera: Tanya Ury
Digital processing: Claudia Stasch

Photograph B 22, 9 x H 42 cm

Spring 2005, Hugo Boss manufactured and presented a new men’s cologne with the advertising campaign: Body, Mind and Soul: “Do you have what it takes to be successful? Behind the surface of every man is his soul. Sharpen your mind. Challenge your body.”

“Who’s Boss: Soul Brother: Shaheen” features Shaheen Merali, artist and Head (of the section): Exhibition, Film, New Media, House of World Cultures, Berlin, photographed in March 2005. The background is: “17.3-15.5.05” by Michael Lin, in the foyer of the House of World Cultures. This photograph, the first of the photo series “Soul Brother,” is a collage of the Hugo Boss “Body, Mind and Soul” advert digitally combined with this portrait of Shaheen wearing Tanya Ury’s T-shirt with her transformed Boss Logo design that incorporates the SS Rune. Displaying the Nazi symbol is illegal in Germany. Some truths are still repressed, such as the fact that Hugo Boss exploited forced labour employed as seamstresses and tailors, to make Nazi uniforms. But those depicted in “Soul Brother” are individuals who, having discovered this fact, wished to be involved its exposure to a wider public.

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