Things. Places. Years.
The knowledge of Jewish Women. Absence and Presence.
Vienna and London. A documentary in
'Things. Places. Years' focuses on Jewish
Women and their contribution to cultural production in London and other
cities of the UK. Our protagonists are Jewish Women of the 1st, 2nd and
3rd generation after the holocaust. The project aims to investigate and
document the different spaces where Jewish Women's knowledge is produced,
preserved, passed on and redefined. We want to look at how this knowledge
is represented in libraries, books, music or film as well as in urban
spaces or in every day life, where it is passed on from mouth to mouth
from grandmother to mother to daughter to grand- daughter
or remembered and reconstructed from names of streets or buildings, from
public spaces and their histories. The project shall consist of a photographic
research, of a series of interviews on video and of a documentary film
for TV and cinema.
State of Project.
From November 2000 until February 2001
we have been in London and interviewed 11 women there. A key issue which
more and more crystallised as the most important one while talking to
these women was place, the notion of place. One of the questions asked
in the interviews was which places were important for them in terms of
their own histories as Jewish Women and their work in the cultural field.
The question was asked in a way that they could refer to urban spaces
in London as well as to places of knowledge and cultural production like
museums or other institutions. Also they could refer to places in the
city where they felt comfortable or just enjoyed going to. And of course
they could refer, and many did, to the absent and inaccessible place
Vienna/Austria, the place where their relatives and friends had been killed,
the place where they or their (grand)parents had to flee from, the place,
where they could never come back to without immediate suspicion and prejudice,
especially today. One of the women interviewed discussed the meaning of
place and its role in defining one's identity. She said that she
whose parents fled from Vienna, who had to deal with their history of
escape, holocaust and emigration in her childhood and youth, who went
to Israel to find out if she wanted to live there could never
think of a place as her 'own'. We, on the other hand, the interviewers
living and working in Vienna, have a place, more precisely we 'own' this
very place, where our (grand)parents weren't killed in the holocaust,
where no one ever questioned that we and our relatives and friends are
where we are and what we are.
Concept and Position.
When talking about presence and absence,
about lack and loss, this means entirely different things according
to who is speaking. Thus descendants of survivors of the holocaust speak
of 'The Presence of the Absence' (Katherine Klinger) and thereby mean
the presence of the loss of their whole family, the loss of their parents'
mother tongue, the loss of places their parents loved, places that still
exist in Vienna unchanged until today. But what does 'The Presence
of the Absence' signify for us, as descendants of the perpetrator society?
It means to deal with 'The Past in the Present' (Ulf Wuggenig), to work
against the old and new anti-semitism and racism that Jews and Migrants
are confronted with in Austria today.
From debates, discussions and co-operations with
migrants we have learned that majoritarians (which we both are: white,
citizenship-owners, non-Jewish, non-migrant ...) have to reflect their
own history and position in society, and that differences between women
have to be discussed and negotiated in order to develop strategies to
act up against the old and new racisms (and sexisms) which are more and
more legitimised especially in Austria, where a racist party is in government
It is this context, the participation of the racist
freedom party in government, the normalisation of SS slogans like 'Meine
Ehre heißt Treue' (which was used by a politician of the freedom
party without any consequences), the increasing violence against migrants
and members of the Jewish Community in Austria which led us to the project:
'Things. Places. Years'. We think that a public visibility of anti-racist
positions of Migrant Wo/men and Jewish Wo/men is necessary in order to
establish a political counter position against state racism (and - sexism)
in Austria. With the project we want to contribute to a discussion between
Jewish Wo/men's and Migrant Wo/men's politics and think about ways of
making these discussions, positions, politics more visible in public.
Photo Research and Video.
The photo research shall document the
presence of Jewish Women's cultural production in London and other cities
of the UK. A presence which is an absence, a loss in Vienna, the city
where Jewish culture and knowledge has been expelled from forcefully,
the city where both of us live. Where in London, in the UK are books,
works of art or music visible that these women have been and are producing?
Who makes their knowledge accessible to others? And in which ways? How
is Jewish Women's knowledge represented in these cities' libraries or
other spaces of education and cultural production? Which meaning and importance
does it have in every day life?
The video shall comprise interviews with Jewish
Women who emigrated from Vienna to London, to England. We also want to
talk to their daughters and grand- daughters, to represent the view of
the 2nd and 3rd generation of Women with a Jewish background, to find
out about their interests and experiences, and about the impact of their
histories of emigration, of diaspora, of the holocaust on how they see
themselves in society today socially, politically and culturally.
Furthermore we want to interview those women,
who are collecting, cataloguing and systematising Jewish (Women's) knowledge
thus making it visible and at the same time accessible to others
in libraries or museums for example.
Way of Working.
Finally one word on our way of working
with film and video: Klub Zwei see their projects as co-operations between
us and the women involved. We want to question authoritative film- and
video making that reserves decision-taking for the film-makers only while
the ones interviewed are regarded as objects. Therefore we aim to establish
co-operative structures in the process of making a film or video. Both
content and visual realisation of the video shall be discussed and decided
upon together with the women interviewed.
Perhaps the immobility of the things that surround
us is forced upon them by our conviction that they are themselves and
not anything else, by the immobility of our conception of them. For it
always happened that when I awoke like this, and my mind struggled in
an unsuccessful way to discover where I was, everything revolved around
me through the darkness: things, places, years.
Places. Years. text
(Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past, p. 6, translated by
C. K.Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin)
here for Klub Zwei's website
click for bigger pictures and captions