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Yvonne Hackenbroch’s birdcage: the experience of Jewish exile and the return as object

änne söll

Fig 1: Yvonne Hackenbroch with family dog 'Racker', Frankfurt on the Main, c. 1935/36 (from: Jörg Rasmussen: Festschrift: Studien zum europäischen Kunsthandwerk, München 1983, cover).

Two years after receiving her doctorate from the University of Munich in 1936, the Jewish art historian Yvonne Hackenbroch (1912 – 2012) was compelled to leave Germany and emigrate to London in 1938, where her older sister and mother were already residing. Yvonne Hackenbroch’s father, a prominent and prosperous art and antiques dealer, had passed away the year before. This photo portrait shows Hackenbroch with the family dog ‘Racker’ (Rascal) in her native city, Frankfurt am Main, near her parents’ house in 34 Untermainkai. It is from this house, Yvonne Hackenbroch’s childhood home in Frankfurt, that the birdcage in question originates.

Fig. 2: Birdcage, 1757, 26.3 x 35.5 x 21.2 cm, carved, partly coloured and gilded oak and coniferous wood, metal wire covering, tray, Historisches Museum Frankfurt am Main, donated by Yvonne Hackenbroch 2012 (© Horst Ziegenfusz).

Hackenbroch took the cage with her to London. In fact, it accompanied her throughout her exile spanning decades. The two went first to Toronto, where she worked from around 1945 until 1949 as a curator for the Fareham Collection at the University of Toronto, then to New York, where she curated the Irwin Untermeyer Collection, even moving with the collection when it was relocated to the Metropolitan Museum. When she returned to London after her retirement in 1982, the birdcage was again among her belongings and remained in her apartment near Hyde Park until her death in 2012. At her behest, the wooden cage was then donated to the Historical Museum in Frankfurt as a ‘token of reconciliation[1]’ by her great-nephew Adam Hills. The cage is thus both a gift and a legacy. In its current presentation at the museum, as will become clear, it is as much a gesture of reconciliation as it is an object of admonition. The birdcage as museum object also produces a contradiction: it is simultaneously a symbol of incarceration as well as a reminder of Hackenbroch’s endurance and dignity in the face of persecution turning it into a truly dis:connected object. With this bequest, Hackenbroch has (re-)inscribed herself and her displaced family into the history of the city of Frankfurt and sent what initially appears to be a reconciliatory message to the post-war generation. This gift can also be seen as the symbolic ‘return’ of Hackenbroch to the city of Frankfurt, which she had visited sporadically after the war, even delivering a lecture at the Historical Museum in 1990, but from which she was to remain permanently exiled, though it was the place she first called home. Since incorporating the birdcage into its collection in 2013, the Historical Museum in Frankfurt has preserved it and, since 2017, displayed it not only in its permanent exhibit on the history of the city, specifically as part of the display on National Socialism, but also shown it online as an item in the digital collection. Within the museum, the birdcage thus leads a double life, for, as will become clear, its physical presentation in the collection and its presentation on the museum's online platform are significantly different.

Bird/human/enlightenment: history, function and the symbolism of the cage

The birdcage presumably dates from 1757, as the year is emblazoned – prominently – along with Frankfurt's eagle emblem on its front. Why the year 1757 was so conspicuously positioned on the front of the cage, however, remains a mystery.[2] 1757 is not connected with any significant event in Frankfurt’s history. Was the year an important turning point in the life of the person or family who owned it? A marriage or a birth perhaps? Or maybe it had not belonged to a family at all, and 1757 marks the founding of a bird breeders’ association? Was the date inscribed on the cage retroactively, or does it denote the year of its manufacture? It is also impossible to determine whether the cage is a family heirloom that had belonged to the Hackenbroch family since the 18th century. After all, her mother’s side had resided in Frankfurt from the late Middle Ages. Might the cage not have come from Zaccharias Hackenbroch’s antique business after all? In short, there is no reliable information about the first 250 years of the birdcage’s ‘biography’. What is certain, however, is that the birdcage with its eagle, the emblem of the city of Frankfurt, reminded Yvonne Hackenbroch of her origins and that she valued the object immensely for that reason.[3] Thus, following Tilmann Habermas, the birdcage’s function for Hackenbroch was to integrate and symbolise her life story in exile.[4] In this way, the cage can also be called a Verlustsouvenir,[5] ‘a souvenir of loss’ that reminded Hackenbroch of the hometown that she had to leave behind and of her father, who most likely acquired it. In addition to the imposing eagle on the outside, the cage also contained a bird: when it was delivered to the museum, there was a small wooden bird inside. It is not a mechanical songbird in a cage of the kind that was popular in the salons of the early 18th century, but a simple, modern wooden toy, likely manufactured in the 20th century. Its greenish-yellow colouring resembles a canary. It is, therefore, a ‘modern’ inhabitant of an ‘old’, richly decorated and stately birdcage. In addition to its two bays, where the food dish and water bowl can be placed, the cage is made of partially gilded oak, softwood and iron rods.[6] Measuring 26cm x 25cm x 21 cm, the cage is quite small and was most likely intended for a delicate, domestic songbird or canary. Canaries had been bred in Tyrol as early as the 18th century and sold in large European cities by traders organised in guilds.[7] Birdcages of the 18th and 19th centuries featured a variety of designs from simple wood and wire models to elaborate, ornate versions made with costly materials.[8] This range indicates that bird keeping was a common activity across (almost) all social classes. Small pets, such as dogs and squirrels and birds, grew increasingly popular in the 18th century as ‘luxury objects of the “better circles” and social climbers’.[9] Birds were thus ‘the means and locus of social distinction and the representation of power’.[10] They were relevant to the starkly segregated social classes for different reasons. The nobility kept birds for reasons of status, including falconry birds and expensive birds imported from overseas. Learned, bourgeois circles — largely men — were interested in birds as objects of study. Bourgeois women, on the other hand, kept birds as companions and amusements, sometimes training them.[11] In the course of the 18th century, according to Julia Breittruck, there was a ‘”bourgeoisification” of the bird. Songbirds were no longer just a noble, elite accessory, but became a bourgeois cultural asset.’[12] Especially in genre paintings of the 18th century, birds are more frequently depicted as the domesticated pets of bourgeois ladies. For example, in this painting by Jean Simeon Chardin, a lady plays a melody to her canary on a serinette — a small organ made especially for this purpose.

Fig. 3a Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin: La Serinette, also called Lady varying her amusements, 1751, 50 x 43 cm, oil on canvas, Musée du Louvre, Paris (© 2010 RMN-Grand Palais (musée du Louvre) / René-Gabriel Ojéda).

Fig. 3b: Jean-François Colson: Portrait of the chemist Balthazar Sage, 1777, 100,5 x 81 cm, oil on canvas, Musée des beaux-arts, Dijon (© Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon/ François Jay, from: Julia Breittruck, Ein Flügelschlag in der Pariser Aufklärung, Zur Geschichte der Beziehungen zwischen Menschen und ihren Vögeln, Dortmund 2020, 64).

According to Julia Breittruck, the motif of the bourgeois lady with a bird she has trained was very popular in the mid-18th century. Breittruck sees this as enjoining bourgeois women to engage in the rearing not only of birds but also, of course, of their own children. In contrast to the aristocracy, bourgeois women were encouraged to see child-rearing as their intrinsically ‘female’ duty. The preoccupation with parlour birds was thus gender coded. While women were expected to educate, men were assigned the role of scientist, and their attention to birds became part of an experiment. Pet birds also developed into objects of bourgeois entertainment for ‘convivial circles’ and in salons over the course of the 18th century. They became domestic companions, kept in the private rooms reserved for family and close friends.[13] Consequently, ‘domesticated birds became more and more the private leisure companions of their respective owners, even co-constituents of the kind and manner of private leisure’.[14] In paintings and prints, the bird functions, according to Julia Breittruck, ‘as the imagined and real double, the eyes and ears of its owner’. Hackenbroch's birdcage, then, transports us to a time when songbirds had become a leisure activity of the middle classes and the object of scientific investigation and educational ambitions. So how did these factors impact museum’s presentation of its newly acquired object?

Semiophores: the twofold contextualisation of the birdcage in the museum

One of the fundamental tenets of museology is that objects stored or displayed in museums trade their original meaning and use value for a new one. They become what are known as ‘semiophores’,[15] a term coined by the Polish historian Krysztof Pomian to describe objects whose purpose, meaning or value is transformed with their relocation to the museum. In this vein, Hackenbroch’s birdcage loses its function as an 18th-century animal enclosure and the historical connotations discussed above. As a sort of ‘prison’, the old birdcage in the new context of the Historical Museum may allude to forced emigration and the ambiguous ‘freedom’ of exile. If we then see the wooden bird in the cage as representing the cage’s owner (and her persecuted family), we soon grasp the birdcage as a visual metaphor for the persecution of Jews in the Third Reich.

Fig. 4: Birdcage as shown within the Historische Museum Frankfurt's permanent collection (© 2022 the author).

Hackenbroch's cage, however, is not displayed in isolation but gains a special inflection from the objects around it, evoking a host of significations from which the historical background of 18th century fades entirely. Standing in the Historical Museum before the display case containing the birdcage, which forms part of the exhibit on National Socialism in Frankfurt,[16] the visitor sees diagonally below it a broken Biedermeier chair. The chair likely originates from the Museum of Jewish Antiquities that opened in 1922 in the former house of the Rothschild banking family in Frankfurt, which was looted and destroyed in 1938.[17] To the left of the cage is a can of Zyklon B, the poison manufactured in Frankfurt and used for mass murder in concentration camps. Walking around this ‘island’ of glass display cases, the visitor sees behind the bird cage objects ranging from a silver swastika once used as a Christmas tree ornament in a Frankfurt household to silver teapots and cutlery that once belonged to Frankfurt Jews that were confiscated and forcibly sold by the Nazi regime in the 1930s and 40s. In this arrangement, where the tools of destruction clash with bourgeois Jewish urban and commemorative culture – a composition designed deliberately by the museum’s curators to create contradictions and startling object constellations – the dainty birdcage with its Frankfurt eagle naturally signifies the annihilated Jewish urban culture of Frankfurt. That Hackenbroch took this cage into exile and donated it to the museum posthumously as a gesture of reconciliation is only revealed through the inscription on the display case. In light of the juxtapositions, the repatriation of the birdcage and the concomitant reconciliation recedes into the background. Nevertheless, the cage as gift also signals an intrinsic dialectic. After all, the cage as ‘prison’ refers to internment, execution and, with respect to exile, the forced escape from persecution, internment and death. The cage is thus not only a gesture of reconciliation and a symbolic return, but also an object of admonition.

Fig 5: Birdcage as shown on the Historische Museum Frankfurt's website, Screenshot (https://historisches-museum-frankfurt.de/de/node/34467?language=de, 07.02.2023).

While the birdcage in the museum is presented in the context of the threat to and annihilation of Jewish culture in Frankfurt, assuming various, sometimes contradictory levels of meaning, the website depicts it as an isolated object. It is displayed there with an inventory number, object data and the text of the panel on the display case, which informs visitors about the donor, her history of exile and her gift as a sign of reconciliation. The question, then, is which presentation better does justice to the object, its only partially reconstructable history and to the exile of its previous owner? Having first become acquainted with the birdcage virtually due to the pandemic, and only later being able to view it physically exhibited, I was initially surprised by the museum's perceptual arrangement (Wahrnehmungsordnung).[18] The juxtaposition of the birdcage with the objects described above disturbed me, as I had not expected to see it next to a can of Zyklon B. In the words of Gottfried Korff, the placement of the birdcage in the museum put me, the visitor, ‘in a state of heightened, imagination-enhancing self-awareness’.[19] The objects are arranged to place the birdcage visually and conceptually in the context of National Socialism and its extermination machine, subordinated or eliminating other associations. According to Korff, ‘the subject [through museum arrangements, in the best case] should be freed of pragmatic references and become porous in the “performative” process of perception’.[20] Korff is highlighting the fact that visitors can become more receptive, permeable, ‘porous’ to historical, social and emotional entanglements through such provocative arrangements. In the case of the birdcage, however, it also means that we are not only reminded of the object's connections to the period of National Socialism in Frankfurt, but are also reminded of the ruptures, detours, stations of exile — the dis:connections — contained in the fragmentary history of the birdcage. Thus, the birdcage does not function exclusively as a symbol or memento. As a multi-dimensional object, it resists clear-cut interpretation and integration into discourses of exile or National Socialism. This is complicated further by the fact that, as Doerte Bischoff and Joachim Schlör argue, objects of exile retain a ‘minimal power […] to preserve human dignity’.[21] The birdcage as a symbol of incarceration (and therefore inhumanity) on the one hand and as the symbol of Hackenbroch’s endurance and dignity on the other combines in itself contradictions that cannot be easily resolved, transforming the birdcage into a truly dis:connected object.

Dis:connectivities in the museum: exile, return, reconciliation?

As Burcu Dogramaci and her colleagues aptly describe in their preface to an edition of the Jahrbuch Exilforschung devoted to archives and museums of exile, the ‘placement of such materials in archives and museums [confronts us] with a tension between a delimiting situatedness, on the one hand, and a portability and boundarylessness to which they themselves bear witness’.[22] With respect to Yvonne Hackenbroch's birdcage, this tension arises not only from the object’s placement in the museum, but from the cage itself, which, as a movable thing, paradoxically exists to restrict the bird's freedom of movement. The birdcage embodies the indissoluble dialectic of exile as ‘liberation’ from persecution, on the one hand, and captivity in a foreign land on the other. It symbolises an intermediate state best described by Rafael Cardoso: ‘Exile, in the broad sense of the term, is a condition. One that involves simultaneous absence and presence […]. There is a liminality to this condition, an essential in-betweenness, that precludes ever arriving at anything so clear cut and unambiguous as freedom of the past.’[23]The return of the birdcage to the Historical Museum in Frankfurt is not an unequivocal gesture of reconciliation. Instead, the birdcage carries Hackenbroch’s exile experience within it and affects us, as Arjun Appadurai argues, through ‘the force of [its] histories, journeys, accidents and adventures’.[24] Hackenbroch's birdcage, then, is an ambivalent signifier of forced emigration and ‘dislocation’ that challenges us to see the experience of exile as a ‘cage perspective’ rooted in violent displacement from which there can be no liberation, not even for those standing outside the cage.   [1]  ‘ Zeichen der Versöhnung’ as worded in the object description of the museum: https://historisches-museum-frankfurt.de/de/node/34467, last accessed on 3 February. 2023, and: Jan Gerchow and Nina Gorgius, eds., 100 * Frankfurt: Geschichten aus (mehr als) 1000 Jahren (Frankfurt: Societäts Verlag, 2017), 274–75. [2] Neither the Hackenbroch family nor the museum curators were able to provide any information in this regard. [3] Adam Hills, Email to author, 21 February 2022. [4] Tilman Habermas, Geliebte Objekte. Symbole und Instrumente der Identitätsbildung (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1996), 281. [5] Habermas, 278. [6] Julia Breittruck, Ein Flügelschlag in der Pariser Aufklärung: Zur Geschichte der Beziehungen zwischen Menschen und ihren Vögeln (Munich: University Library LMU, 2021). [7] Breittruck, 3–39. [8] This is based on research in the image library of the European Cultural Heritage Database, which I cannot discuss here due to space limitations: https://www.europeana.eu/de, Access date missing [9] Breittruck, Ein Flügelschlag in der Pariser Aufklärung: Zur Geschichte der Beziehungen zwischen Menschen und ihren Vögeln, 40. [10] Breittruck, 53–54. [11] Breittruck, 40 et seq. [12] Breittruck, 41. [13] Breittruck, 83. [14] Breittruck, 87. [15] Krzysztof Pomian, Der Ursprung des Museums: Vom Sammeln (Berlin: Wagenbach, 1988). [16] My visit to the Historical Museum in Frankfurt took place in May 2022. I thank the curators Nina Gorgus and Anne Gemeinhardt for their help and cooperation in my research. [17] Gerchow and Gorgius, 100 * Frankfurt: Geschichten aus (mehr als) 1000 Jahren, 277–79, on the Can of Zyklon B, 291– 93. [18] Gottfried Korff, ed., ‘Speichern und/oder Generator: Zum Verhältnis von Deponieren und Exponieren im Museum’, in Museumsdinge, deponieren/exponieren, 2nd ed. (Cologne: Böhlau Verlag, 2007), 172. [19] Korff, 173. [20] Korff, 172. [21] Doerte Bischoff and Joachim Schlör, ‘Dinge des Exils. Zur Einleitung’, in Dinge des Exils, Jahrbuch Exilforschung 31, 9-22. (Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, 2013), 18. [22] Sylvia Asmus, Doerte Bischoff, and Burcu Dogramaci, eds., Archive und Museen des Exils, Jahrbuch Exilforschung 37 (Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, 2018), 2. [23] Rafael Cardoso, ‘The living archive: On Hugo Simon’s posthumous return to Germany’, in Archive und Museen des Exils, Jahrbuch Exilforschung 37 (Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, 2019), 106. [24] Arjun Appadurai, ‘Museum Objects as Accidental Refugees’, Historische Anthropologie 25, no. 3 (November 2017): 406.
Appadurai, Arjun. ‘Museum Objects as Accidental Refugees’. Historische Anthropologie 25, no. 3 (November 2017): 401–8. Asmus, Sylvia, Doerte Bischoff, and Burcu Dogramaci, eds. Archive und Museen des Exils. Jahrbuch Exilforschung 37. Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, 2018. Bischoff, Doerte, and Joachim Schlör. ‘Dinge des Exils. Zur Einleitung’. In Dinge des Exils, Jahrbuch Exilforschung 31, 9-22. Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, 2013. Breittruck, Julia. Ein Flügelschlag in der Pariser Aufklärung: Zur Geschichte der Beziehungen zwischen Menschen und ihren Vögeln. Munich: University Library LMU, 2021. Cardoso, Rafael. ‘The living archive: On Hugo Simon’s posthumous return to Germany’. In Archive und Museen des Exils, Jahrbuch Exilforschung 37, 96–107. Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, 2019. Gerchow, Jan, and Nina Gorgius, eds. 100 * Frankfurt: Geschichten aus (mehr als) 1000 Jahren. Frankfurt: Societäts Verlag, 2017. Habermas, Tilman. Geliebte Objekte. Symbole und Instrumente der Identitätsbildung. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1996. Korff, Gottfried, ed. ‘Speichern und/oder Generator: Zum Verhältnis von Deponieren und Exponieren im Museum’. In Museumsdinge, deponieren/exponieren, 2nd ed. Cologne: Böhlau Verlag, 2007. Pomian, Krzysztof. Der Ursprung des Museums: Vom Sammeln. Berlin: Wagenbach, 1988. Continue Reading

Hanna Charag-Zuntz’s Levantine ceramics: dis:connecting objects through narratives

hanni geiger
[Editor's note: The adjective 'Islamic' was changed to 'Arab' for greater accuracy in a single instance on 11 September 2023.]
The ceramic works of Hanna Charag-Zuntz (1915—2007) in exhibitions throughout the world cannot be read in isolation from the nationally framed history of Israeli ceramics. The exhibition catalogues all address the creative and social connections between East and West in very different ways. Some exhibitions link the artist’s vases, pots and bottles to the themes of exile and imported European modernism as an influence on Israeli ceramics since the state was founded in 1948. This contrasts with exhibitions that link the objects as representatives of a new Jewish pottery (and identity) with archaeological finds in the Middle East and to the state’s demand for cultural assimilation and national stability. In the postmodern-oriented exhibitions, the works are presented as transcultural objects that distance themselves from the early Zionist premises of social unification, but the exhibitions’ frames hardly allow for any deviation. As different as the programmes might appear, exhibitions framed or funded by national and/or religious institutions tend to conflate Orient and Occident. Favouring a state identity based on connection, these exhibitions and their catalogues fail to problematise the complex, politically charged entanglements of East and West. By analysing three exhibitions and their catalogues with a local approach focused on the Levant, I decouple Charag-Zuntz’s ceramics, mainly created in the 1950s—70s, from national narrative patterns of abbreviated connections between East and West.[1] Drawing on Levantine cultural philosophy — a social concept linked to the Eastern Mediterranean — my aim is to reveal the artistic and social interruptions and absences that are usually blurred in nation-based frames. I work with the concept of dis:connectivity, which emphasises the simultaneity and dynamic co-constitution of integrative and disintegrative elements in globalisation processes, which only become relevant in relation to each other.[2] I argue that the vessels, which were made on the shores of the eastern Mediterranean, should be interpreted relative to a dis:connective body of water and its local cultures. This means reading the objects in connection to a Levantine Mediterranean — a reading that contradicts geopolitical narratives as presented in the catalogues and as known from theories of the Mediterranean.[3] Although these theories survey many definitions of this sea and recognise the significance of regional cultures and fragmentations, they all emphasise connectivity, which — whether conceived nationally or otherwise — ultimately produces a certain degree of temporal and spatial stability as well as homogeneity.[4] What remains absent in such representations is the predominantly North-Western perspective on the narrated Mediterranean and the structurally conditioned, asymmetrical relationship between the narrow ideas of the sea and its creators. Recontextualising these objects in terms of a ‘Levantine Sea’, which appears unifying and stable only in terms of its physical characteristics and is in fact socially marked by ambivalent connections that coincide with migration, unbounded and fluid identities, constant change and subversion,[5] would mean recognising these characteristics as intrinsic to Charag-Zuntz’s work. Relating the forms, colours, materials and techniques of her pieces to Mediterranean dis:connectivities could reveal past and present hegemonic structures that feign connectivity. In order to disrupt the nationally constructed narratives, it is necessary to allow for other perspectives and agencies. I analyse the formal properties of the ceramics through a contemporary Mediterranean lens and reveal what these objects communicate when read as creations not only of the artist, but also of the sea and its coast. Doing so yields insights as to what objects connected to a specific locality but that elude anti-territoriality can tell us about design and ultimately about society. It uncovers how objects that are materially and narratively immobilised in exhibitions but that are in a constant state of cultural performativity tell stories about heterogeneity and entanglements as well as discrimination and exclusion. It describes how the Mediterranean relates to the global North and West or Europe. And it demonstrates how dis:connective objects help to reframe the sea and contribute to thinking globalisation from the eastern and southern Mediterranean.
On becoming one: harmonising East-West disconnections
A photo from the online exhibition Ton in Ton. Jüdische Keramikerinnen aus Deutschland nach 1933 at the Jewish Museum Berlin in 2013 shows the young Charag-Zuntz in Siegfried Möller’s studio (fig. 01), where she apprenticed in pottery, before she fled to Palestine in 1940.[6] At the wheel, she is shaping an object with a narrow base and voluminous belly that tapers toward the opening. In its simplicity and progressiveness, the piece can be associated with the Bauhaus, to which Charag-Zuntz was indirectly exposed.[7]

Fig. 01: Hanna Charag-Zuntz, Stuttgart, 1936, family collection Hanna Charag-Zuntz (from: Jüdisches Museum Berlin, Ton in Ton. Jüdische Keramikerinnen aus Deutschland nach 1933, online exhibition, 2013, https://artsandculture.google.com/story/IQVBfUHgPN-sLA?hl=de).

The influence of exile, the design teachings from Germany and their imputed superiority over Middle Eastern material, techniques, forms and designs are evident in the text accompanying the exhibition.[8] In it, Michal Friedlander describes the confluence of the East and West in the foundation of Jewish craft, but at the same time allows for criticism of the inhospitable geographic environment and the limitations of indigenous Arab pottery. Although following a long tradition, and though early Israeli ceramic production also draws on the knowledge of Arab potters and collaboration with them, the text depicts ‘underdeveloped Palestine’, with its aridity and heat that prohibited Western glazes, tints and kilns, as an impediment to the establishment of serious ceramic art in Israel. Nevertheless, according to Friedlander, Charag-Zuntz succeeds in fusing European purism with Middle Eastern experiments with clay, resulting in a seemingly universal aesthetic. This creative connection of purportedly universal validity can be read as a reference to the social unity and stability to which the newly founded nation of Israel aspired. In fact, though, it was caught between cultures. This exhibition, like numerous others, effaces the tensions that attended the simultaneous selection and rejection of West and East in society and the arts. The exhibition Forms from Israel, sponsored by the Government of Israel in cooperation with the America-Israel Cultural Foundation & Crafts From Israel, and shown at the New York Museum of Contemporary Crafts, chose a different context for Charag- Zuntz’s objects as mediators among the cultures of Israel exactly a decade after its founding in 1948.[9] Under the heading Continuities, her works are flanked on the following page of the accompanying catalogue by a basalt bowl from the biblical site of Beersheba dating to 4000 BCE (fig. 02a + 02b).[10]

Fig. 02a: Hanna Charag-Zuntz, various ceramic vessels, undated.


Fig. 02b: Basalt bowl, Bersheeba, 4000 BCE
(© American Federation of Arts /
Courtesy American Craft Council
Library & Archives).

Despite a certain formal resemblance between the longer vessel shown here and the early pieces she had created in Germany (see fig. 01), the narratives about her objects in this exhibition, which celebrates the formation of Israeli identity, focus less on European modernity than on the archetypes of the territorially delimited landscape of the Middle East. The juxtaposition of contemporary Israeli handicrafts and purportedly Jewish-Canaanite archaeological finds in the catalogue is intended to emphasise the continuity of biblical Palestine and to restore its authenticity, which had been thought lost.[11] Additionally, the ‘renascence of a Hebrew civilisation’ is linguistically affirmed by employing the words ‘convergence’, ‘mixing’ and the ‘melting pot’ of carefully selected cultural elements.[12] This hybridisation of particular set pieces — traditional and contemporary — is noticeable in the juxtaposition of Turkish coffee sets, Arab drums, poster design and modern wooden toys. Charag-Zuntz’s work here is marshalled to reinforce a national ceramic tradition based in multicultural assimilation of excavated finds as markers of genuine Jewish culture and diverse immigrant cultures into the Middle Eastern landscape. What remains invisible, however, is a fusion restricted to selected art pieces, styles, elements and cultural groups.[13] As Rachel S. Harris argues, connecting with the new landscape economically and physically meant simultaneously remaining intellectually and socially distinct from the Middle Eastern ‘Other’. The catalogue erases the exclusion of any unreformed groups, namely Muslim communities, Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews, that blurred identities and disrupted hybridisation. My next example is the 2018 exhibition in San Diego, entitled Israel. 70 Years of Craft and Design, that reckoned with the Zionists’ previously lauded notions of hybridisation. According to the catalogue’s authors: ‘[…] it did not result in forming the collective unified identity of the “New Jew” dreamt of by Israel’s first leaders. Instead the Israeli melting pot sizzled with a vast array of ideologies, vigorously contradicting and swiftly replacing one another but never cohering into one entity’.[14] The exhibition was a collaboration between the House of Israel, which professes emphatically to be ‘non-profit’, ‘non-political’ and ‘non-sectarian’ at the beginning of the catalogue, and the Mingei international Museum, whose programme is dedicated to the collection, preservation and exhibition of arts of daily life ‘from all eras and cultures of the world’.[15] Although the catalogue distances itself from Israel’s early policy of unification, the exhibition recalls Form from Israel. It includes a selection of diverse objects from different times and cultures that have shaped Israel. Traditional Bedouin textiles and Yemeni jewellery were shown alongside contemporary industrial products, furniture and ceramics, notably Charag-Zuntz’s.[16] In contrast to what the museum claims on its webpage, the objects do not ‘[…] speak for themselves — in line, form, and color — the universal language of art’.[17] Instead, they are contextualised by Smadar Samson’s introduction, who relates the multidisciplinarity and stylistic heterogeneity of the vessels to a pluralistic Israel, open to differences and deviations. But, by emphasising the connection of diverse creative set pieces within one object — without referring to social gaps, segregation and isolation — the objects are once again truncated as symbols of cultural reconciliation,[18] at which point we must return to the exhibition’s title. The artefacts are employed to commemorate the founding of a state that geopolitically subsumes its cultures, religions and languages under an all-encompassing category. The curators’ critique of Israel’s unity policy and the museum’s pacifist programme thus seem committed to an imaginary postmodern dissolution of artistic and social classifications that never manifests in (national) reality.
Levantine disruptions or detours to connection
The émigré and philosopher Vilém Flusser observed that ‘visual languages’ ‘[…] run across the boundaries of national languages […]’.[19] So what do Charag-Zuntz’s ceramics reveal when decoupled from geopolitical narratives? What happens when we focus instead on their formal properties from a local perspective that would, unlike previous exhibitions, view the Mediterranean as the objects’ co-designer? Upon moving to Haifa in 1943, Charag-Zuntz specialised in Terra Sigillata, an ancient Mediterranean technique.[20] In this process, the pieces are fired at high temperatures and usually obtain a shimmering red surface without glazing. This technique was practiced throughout the Mediterranean 2500 years ago and suggests that people and their products were moving across historical and political boundaries.[21] Nationally framed exhibitions mention Terra Sigillata in Charag- Zuntz’s work as one of her many design tools. These exhibitions invoke this technique to symbolise Israel’s unitary ideal of interconnected cultures. In the context of the philosophy of Levantinism, however, the objects’ core message changes. ‘Levantine’ stands for a diverse society of immigrants from different places in the Mediterranean, including descendants of Genoese and Venetian merchants and of Jews who fled to the Ottoman Empire from Spain since antiquity.[22] They are migrants, refugees and dissidents who mixed with other minorities in the coastal countries of the eastern Mediterranean: Christian Arabs, Greeks, Armenians and Jews. Marked by their place of arrival rather than their origins, even Jewish immigrants from North Africa and Arabic groups were called Levantines. They were branded as non-conformist, partly Eastern in the West and partly European in the East, subject neither to the colonial dictum of imitating the West nor to the later Israeli orientation towards Europe.[23] This diverse group of people were perceived as a threat to national identity and security, presumably because they were ‘not all of a piece’ and refusing to be ‘contained’ in geopolitical categories.[24] In their territorially and culturally indeterminate existence on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, as ‘cross-breeds’ despised by Israel’s early assimilating forces,[25] they de-stabilised territories and interrupted political narratives of connection. Prompted by the politically negated diaspora and the collective memory of Jews of European and Arab origins in the 1950s and 60s, Jaqueline Kahanoff dared to revitalise Levantinism as a social option for the young state.[26] In a 1959 article entitled Israel: Ambivalent Levantine, she called for a transcultural society that would include Arab and other minorities on an equal footing.[27] She referred to the absence of all the rejected, discriminated and geographically and socially excluded groups in slums, refugee camps of the Occupied Territories and marginal development town,[28] especially those marked by centuries of migration along the eastern Mediterranean coastline, which actually means half the population of Israel.[29] Linking Charag-Zuntz’s objects to the contested waters off Israel’s coast exposes ambiguities and tensions that are constitutive of social entanglements. It reveals constant change, disturbing expectations of rootedness that coincide with residence and indicating the simultaneous identification with and disavowal of both East and West. In short, it subverts spaces and disrupts singularities.[30] Also, the vessels narrated through this Mediterranean-Levantine lens disclose absences caused by the (neo-)colonial and imperialist programme of connections limited to selected decorative facets[31] of the Middle East that become equally evident in most exhibitions of Charag-Zuntz’s pieces. The narratively excluded elements of the cultural ‘Other’ remain invisible. Therefore, the works’ interruptions and absences in form and content demand interrogation. This becomes evident not only in Charag-Zuntz’s use of Terra Sigillata, which is a politically discarded symbol of cultural non-fixation and ambivalence in the eastern Mediterranean, but also through the ceramic’s shadings (fig. 03). Apart from the numerous reddish, yellow and brown objects, such as those in Forms from Israel, she also uses turquoise, blue and green nuances, which the exhibitions omit and fail to associate with the Oriental and Mediterranean ceramics known for these hues.[32]

Fig. 03: Hanna Charag-Zuntz, various ceramic vessels, late 1960s and 1970—’76s, image: Shay Ben Efraim (© The Benyamini Contemporary Ceramics Centre / © Shay Ben Efraim).

The absence of the ‘Other’ in design also becomes apparent in the objects’ material. Charag-Zuntz finds sand and brine for the firing process off the ‘impure’ coast of Israel and clay in the formerly Arab Negev Desert, since absorbed into Israel.[33] This becomes relevant considering that the ascendence of Israeli ceramics and their national promotion to the status of art rests on the allegorical creation of ‘Adam’ and ‘Adamah’, referring to Israeli society, which actually arose from local — most recently Muslim — earths.[34] The catalogues’ description of the vessels as predominantly ‘calm’, ‘clear’, ‘simple’, ‘balanced’ and ‘unifying’ is also disputable.[35] In contrast to the exhibitions, one could equally focus on the tension between the pots’ protruding bellies and narrow openings, which interrupts Israeli rhetoric of cultural harmonisation. The objects’ doubtful functionality, which is a product of this formal disparity, further reinforces the impression of disruption: as in design, so in society. The references some exhibitions make to ostensibly Jewish archaeological finds can also be disrupted. Round artefacts with shapes that merge almost seamlessly into the opening and elongated forms that expand in the middle are also found among Levantine cultures from Cyprus and Muslims from Syria and Palestine (fig. 04a + 04b).[36] Moreover, the horizontal lines are also a common design element in ancient Levantine ceramics.[37] Charag-Zuntz’s brushstrokes, interpreted as Japanese in some exhibitions,[38] exemplify such Levantine characteristics.

Fig. 04a:
Jar with geometric designs, Levantine, ca. 585 BCE, h. 10,2 cm, terracotta, The William D. and Jane Welsh Collection at Fordham University, (from: Barbara Cavaliere and Jennifer Udell, eds., Ancient Mediterranean Art. The William D. and Jane Welsh Collection at Fordham
University (New York: Fordham University Press, 2012), 334.)

Fig. 04b
Bottle with pouring spout for water transport, mid-4th millennium BCE, Habuba Kabira, Syria, clay, pottery wheel ceramics, h. 69 cm, Prähistorische Staatssammlung, München, inv. nr. 1985, 701; (from: Gisela Zahlhaas, Prähistorische Staatssammlung. Keramiken des Vorderen Orients im internationalen Keramik-Museum Weiden, collection catalogue, Weiden, Keramik-Museum, 1990, 65.)

Thus, if we consider Charag-Zuntz’s works to be shaped by the eastern Mediterranean, a double dis:connectivity emerges. First, the detachment of the vessels from national narratives and their simultaneous coupling with a Levantine local culture is a methodological dis:connectivity, which reveals absent maritime narratives. Second, these maritime narratives frame the pieces as products of complex connections that go along with interruptions and absences. They are bound to a specific location but subvert the ideas of a settled territory and singular religions, languages and identities; they perform culture without possessing it.[39] A ‘neither—nor’ supplants and interrupts the narrow national vision of a ‘both—and’.[40] Interpreting the objects through this local cultural lens exposes the politically constructed absences that the nationally framed narratives of the exhibitions manage to circumvent. Instead of connection, harmony, and stability, analysing the works through an expanded Levantine perspective unveils past and present hegemonic mechanisms that segregate and exclude unwanted groups. The objects testify to the multidimensional interconnections in a space whose natural characteristics seem stable, all-encompassing and unifying, but whose social and political changes connote instability. These pieces echo the understanding of globalisation Deleuze and Guattari described as ‘[…] an effect of the multitudes of forces that coalesce, concatenate, and collapse at local, provisional sites.’[41] In this light, the Mediterranean and the understanding of the ceramics produced along its shores are more complicated than most theories (and exhibitions) permit. By revealing the interruptions and absences — in research and society — dis:connected objects read in contemporary Levantine terms present an alternative to the simplistic rhetoric of national connectivity. Extending the point, this new perspective and the visualisation of excluded artefact narratives and groups can even reintroduce previously erased themes and agents in art and society. For the history of art, craft and design, regionally influenced approaches can complicate object-bound narratives by generating more creative, institutional and personal participation and contribute to non-hegemonic research and theorisation. Locally framed objects represent a detour to a social and artistic presence and inclusion that national narratives only imagine. By extension, dis:connective Mediterranean artefacts could interrupt the dominant Northern and Western narratives of the Mediterranean, de-nationalising its past for its future perception.[42] New (trans-)local perspectives, images, ideas and representations would help to reconceive the global impact of the Mediterranean and the discursive absences of the manifold influences, which it has always exerted on modern Europe and its identity. [1] According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term ‘narrative’ goes back to the postmodern philosopher Jean-François Lyotard, who used it 1979 in La condition postmoderne to refer to a crisis that for him heralded an era succeeding optimistic modernity, when the meta-narratives of the Enlightenment and Idealism had become implausible. Recognising and naming a narrative as such thus means distancing oneself from it. In the social sciences of the last three decades, the term ‘narrative’ stands for ’meaningful storytelling’: as regionally, culturally or nationally related narratives that are subject to change and are imbued with legitimacy. In my investigation, I refer to both concepts and use the term critically to denote how storytelling can influence the way the environment and thus art and design are perceived. In the following, the term relates to the creation of meaning in Charag-Zuntz’s objects in the context of nationally framed exhibition catalogues on the one hand and the cultural concept of ‘Levantinism’ — a sort of counternarrative to the catalogues — on the other. See: ‘Narrativ’, Duden, 2023, https://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/Narrativ_Erzaehlung_Geschichte; Matthias Heine, ‘Hinz und Kunz schwafeln heutzutage vom “Narrativ”’, Die Welt, 13 November 2016, https://www.welt.de/debatte/kommentare/article159450529/Hinz-und-Kunz-schwafeln-heutzutage-vom-Narrativ.html; Wolfgang Seibel, ‘Hegemoniale Semantiken und radikale Gegennarrative. Beitrag zum Arbeitsgespräch des Kulturwissenschaftlichen Kollegs’, Uni Konstanz, 22 January 2009, https://www.exc16.uni-konstanz.de/fileadmin/all/downloads/veranstaltungen2009/Seibel-Heg-Semantiken-090122.pdf. [2] This concept was coined by the Käte Hamburger Research Centre global dis:connect, see: ‘Research’, global dis:connect, 2023, https://www.org/research/disconnectivity/. [3] Among the basic theories of the Mediterranean are: Fernand Braudel, La Méditerranée et le Monde méditerranéen à l’epoque de Philippe II (Paris: Armand Colin, 1949); Peregrin Horden and Nicholas Purcell, The Corrupting Sea. A Study of Mediterranean History (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000). [4] See Braudel’s study on how the geographical and cultural consistency and uniformity of the Mediterranean has affected humanity and our perception of the natural Connectivity — a concept later adapted by Horden and Purcell — plays a major role. Although the latter refer to the fragmented nature of the micro-regions, the natural disposition of a larger inland sea implies a bond and an exchange that ultimately ensures unity in diversity — which is once again elevated to the specificity of the Mediterranean. See: Braudel, La Méditerranée et le monde méditerranéen; Horden and Purcell, The Corrupting Sea; Mihran Dabag et al., ‘“New Horizons” der Mittelmeerforschung. Einleitung’, in New Horizons. Mediterranean Research in the 21st Century, eds. Mihran Dabag et al., Mittelmeerstudien, 10 (Paderborn: Fink/Schöningh, 2016). [5] Rachel S. Harris, ‘Israel. Finding the Levant within the Mediterranean’, review of The Place of the Mediterranean in Modern Israeli Identity by Alexandra Nocke, The Levantine Review, no. 1 (Spring 2012): 107-8. [6] Jüdisches Museum Berlin. Ton in Ton. Jüdische Keramikerinnen aus Deutschland nach 1933. Online exhibition 2013, Google Arts and Culture, 2013, https://artsandculture.google.com/story/IQVBfUHgPN-sLA?hl=de. [7] Even though Charag-Zuntz, like colleagues of hers, such as Hedwig Grossmann, had not attended the famous art school, she attests in an interview with Antje Soléau to growing up in ‘the artistic atmosphere of the Bauhaus’ and emphasises its tangible influence on the ceramic attitudes of the young ceramicists in Germany in the Cf.: Antje Soleáu, ‘Zwei Leben — Zwei Schicksale: Margarete Heymann-Loebenstein und Hanna Charag-Zuntz’, Neue Keramik, no. 1 (2016): 33. [8] For the following paragraph see: Michal Friedlander, ‘Vasen statt Milchflaschen — Eva Samuel, Hedwig Grossmann und Hanna Charag-Zuntz: Die Töpferpionierinnen in Palästina nach 1932’, in Avantgarde für den Jüdische Keramikerinnen in Deutschland 1919—1933. Marguerite Friedlaender- Wildenhain, Margarete Heymann-Marks, Eva Stricker-Zeisel, Berlin, Bröhan- Museum, 2013, 104–11. Exhibition catalogue, https://www.jmberlin.de/sites/default/files/katalogbeitrag_friedlander_0.pdf. [9] The Israel Institute of Industrial Design in consultation with The American Federation of Arts, eds., Forms from Israel, New York, Museum of Contemporary Crafts in New York City, 1958–1960. Exhibition catalogue, https://digital.craftcouncil.org/digital/collection/p15785coll5/id/4735/rec/2. [10] Ibid., 44ff. [11] Friedlander, ‘Vasen statt Milchflaschen’, 108-9. On roots of Jewish pottery in ancient Canaanite finds, see: Gidon Ofrat, ‘The Beginnings of Israeli Ceramics’, Ariel 90 (1992): 79. The authors of the exhibition catalogues largely dismiss the influence of the ‘small’ and ‘little’ Arab pots, especially since they produced the porous earthenware disdained by German ceramists. Cf.: Soleáu, ‘Zwei Leben — Zwei Schicksale‘, 33. [12] The Israel Institute of Industrial Design et. al., Forms from Israel, 6-7. [13] For the following paragraph see: Harris, ‘Israel’, 106–11. [14] Samson Smadar, ‘Introduction’, in 70 Years of Craft and Design, Mingei International Museum, 2018—2021, ed. Jean Patterson, San Diego, House of Israel, 2018, 12-13. Exhibition catalogue. [15] Jean Patterson, ed., 70 Years of Craft and Design, San Diego, Mingei International Museum, 2018—2021, San Diego, House of Israel, 2018, exhibition catalogue. Mingei International Museum, ‘About: Mission and Vision,’ accessed 9 February 2023. https://mingei.org/about/mission. [16] Patterson, Israel, 92ff. [17] Mingei International Museum, ‘About’. [18] Patterson, Israel, 92-3. [19] Vilém Flusser, ‘Nationalsprachen’, in Von der Freiheit des Einsprüche gegen den Nationalismus (Hamburg: CEP Europäische Verlagsanstalt, 2013), 12. [20] The term dates to the 18th A name from antiquity is not certain. Cf.: Verena Hasenbach, ‘Terra Sigillata’, Historisches Lexikon, 31 December 2011, https://historisches-lexikon.li/Terra_sigillata. [21] Ofrat, ‘The Beginnings of Israeli Ceramics’, 87. [22] For the following paragraph, see: Eva Meyer and Eran Schaerf, ‘Kahanoff’s Levantinism: The Anachronic Possibilities of a Concept’, BAK, accessed 3 February 2022, https://www.bakonline.org/prospections/kahanoffs-levantinism-the-anachronic-possibilities-of-a-concept/. [23] Jaqueline Kahanoff, ‘Reflections of a Levantine Jew’, Jewish Frontier, April 1958, 7, cited in Meyer and Schaerf, ‘Kahanoff’s Levantinism’. [24] Meyer and Schaerf, ‘Kahanoff’s Levantinism’; Harris, ‘Israel’, 107-8. [25] Harris, ‘Israel’, 108. [26] Jacqueline Shohet Kahanoff, ‘Ambivalent Levantine’, in Mongrels or Marvels: The Levantine Writings of Jacqueline Shohet Kahanoff, Deborah A. Starr and Sasson Somekh (Redwood City, CA: Stanford University Press, 2011), 193–212. [27] Ibid. [28] Karen Grumberg, Place and Ideology in Contemporary Hebrew Literature (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2010), 243, cited in Harris, ‘Israel’, 116. [29] Abraham B. Yehoshúa, ‘Beyond Folklore: The Identity of the Sephardic Jew’, Quaderns de La Mediterrània, no. 14 (2010), https://www.iemed.org/publication/beyond-folklore-the-identity-of-the-sephardic-jew-2/. [30] Ronit Matalon, The One Facing Us (New York: Metropolian Books, 1998), 214, cited in Harris, ‘Israel’, 116. [31] Harris, ‘Israel’, 107. [32] The objects were shown in an Israeli exhibition in 2019, which dealt with inter-generational dialogue among the artists. Cf.: Benyamini Contemporary Ceramics Centre, Type of a Dialogue — Hanna Charag-Zuntz, Michal Alon, exhibition, Tel Aviv-Jaffa, 2019, https://www.benyaminiceramics.org/en/ceramic-galleries/past-exhibitions/2019-2/type-if-a-dialogue/. [33] Ofrat, ‘The Beginnings of Israeli Ceramics’, 76. [34] From a quote by the ceramist Hedwig Grossmann-Lehmann on the beginnings of Israeli ceramics. Cf.: Maika Korfmacher, ‘Hanna Charag-Zuntz und Varda Yatom’, in Hanna Charag-Zuntz und Varda Yatom. Gefäße und Skulpturen aus Israel, ed. Bernd Hakenjos, Düsseldorf, Hetjens Museum, 1998, 6. Exhibition catalogue. [35] Ibid., 7, as well as Tadmor, Tova Berlinski. [36] For an overview of Levantine jars from the ancient Mediterranean region, see: Barbara Cavaliere and Jennifer Udell, eds., Ancient Mediterranean Art. The William D. and Jane Welsh Collection at Fordham University (New York: Fordham University Press, 2012). For Syrian or Palestinian traditional pottery, see: Gisela Zahlhaas, Prähistorische Staatssammlung. Keramiken des Vorderen Orients im internationalen Keramik-Museum Weiden, (1990). Collection catalogue; John Landgraf and Owen Rye, ‘Introduction’, in Palestinian Traditional Pottery. A Contribution to Palestinian Culture, eds. Elizabeth Burr et al. (Leuven/Paris/Bristol: Peeters, 2021), XXVII–XXX. [37] Cavaliere and Udell, Ancient Mediterranean Art, especially 334. [38] For example, in the exhibition 70 Years of Craft and Design. Cf.: Patterson, Israel, 92. [39] Gil Hochberg, ‘“Permanent Immigration”: Jacqueline Kahanoff, Ronit Matalon, and the Impetus of Levantinism’, Boundary 31, no. 2 (Summer 2004): 220–21, cited in Harris, ‘Israel’, 107. [40] Ibid. [41] Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guttari, A thousand plateaus: capitalism and schizophrenia (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, First published 1980 by Éd. de Minuit, Paris), cited in: Cavan Concannon and Lindsey A. Mazurek, ‘Introduction: A New Connectivity for the Twenty-First Century,’ in Across the Corrupting Sea: Post-Braudelian Approaches to the Ancient Eastern Mediterranean, eds. Cavan W. Concannon and Lindsey A. Mazurek (London: Routledge, 2016), 14. [42] Matthew D’Auria and Fernanda Gallo, ‘Introduction. Ideas of Europe and the (Modern) Mediterranean’, in Mediterranean Europe(s). Rethinking Europe from its Southern Shores, Matthew D’Auria and Fernanda Gallo (London/New York: Routledge, 2023).
Benyamini Contemporary Ceramics Centre, Type of a Dialogue — Hanna Charag-Zuntz, Michal Alon. Exhibition, Tel Aviv-Jaffa, 2019. https://www.benyaminiceramics.org/en/ceramic-galleries/past-exhibitions/2019-2/type-if-a-dialogue/. Braudel, Fernand, La Méditerranée et le monde méditerranéen à l’epoque de Philippe II. Paris: Armand Colin, 1949. Cavaliere, Barbara and Jennifer Udell, eds. Ancient Mediterranean Art. The William D. and Jane Welsh Collection at Fordham University. New York: Fordham University Press, 2012. Concannon, Cavan, and Lindsey A. Mazurek, eds. Across the Corrupting Sea: Post-Braudelian Approaches to the Ancient Eastern Mediterranean. London: Routledge, 2016. Dabag, Mihran, Dieter Haller, Nikolas Jaspers and Achim Lichtenberger. ‘“New Horizons” der Mittelmeerforschung. Einleitung’. In New Horizons. Mediterranean Research in the 21st Century, edited by Mihran Dabag, Dieter Haller, Nikolas Jaspers, and Achim Lichtenberger, Mittelmeerstudien, 10. Paderborn: Fink/Schöningh, 2016. D’Auria, Matthew and Fernanda Gallo. ‘Introduction. Ideas of Europe and the (Modern) Mediterranean’. In Mediterranean Europe(s). Rethinking Europe from its Southern Shores, edited by Matthew D’Auria and Fernanda Gallo. London/New York: Routledge, 2023. Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guttari, A thousand plateaus: capitalism and schizophrenia (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987. First published 1980 by Éd. de Minuit, Paris). Duden. ‘Narrativ’, 2023. https://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/Narrativ_Erzaehlung_Geschichte. Flusser, Vilém, ‘Nationalsprachen’. In Von der Freiheit des Migranten. Einsprüche gegen den Nationalismus, 11–14. Hamburg: CEP Europäische Verlagsanstalt, 2013. Friedlander, Michal, ‘Vasen statt Milchflaschen — Eva Samuel, Hedwig Grossmann and Hanna Charag-Zuntz: Die Töpferpionierinnen in Palästina Nach 1932’. In Avantgarde für den Alltag. Jüdische Keramikerinnen in Deutschland 1919—1933. Marguerite Friedlaender-Wildenhain, Margarete Heymann-Marks, Eva Stricker-Zeisel, 104–11. Berlin: Bröhan-Museum. Exhibition catalogue, https://www.jmberlin.de/sites/default/files/katalogbeitrag_friedlander_0.pdf. global dis:connect, ‘Research’, 2023. https://www.globaldisconnect.org/research/disconnectivity/. Google Arts and Culture, Jüdisches Museum Berlin. Ton in Ton. Jüdische Keramikerinnen aus Deutschland nach 1933, online exhibition, 2013. https://artsandculture.google.com/story/IQVBfUHgPN-sLA?hl=de. Grumberg, Karen, Place and Ideology in Contemporary Hebrew Literature. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2010. Harris, Rachel S., ‘Israel. Finding the Levant within the Mediterranean. Review of The Place of the Mediterranean in Modern Israeli Identity by Alexandra Nocke, The Levantine Review, no. 1 (Spring 2012): 106–17. Hasenbach, Verena, ‘Terra Sigillata’. Historisches Lexikon, 31 December 2011. https://historisches-lexikon.li/Terra_sigillata. Heine, Matthias, ‘Hinz und Kunz schwafeln heutzutage vom “Narrativ”’. Die Welt, 13 November 2016. https://www.welt.de/debatte/kommentare/article159450529/Hinz-und-Kunz-schwafeln-heutzutage-vom-Narrativ.html. Hochberg, Gil, ‘“Permanent Immigration”: Jacqueline Kahanoff, Ronit Matalon, and the Impetus of Levantinism’. Boundary 31, no. 2 (Summer 2004): 219–43. Horden, Peregrin, and Nicholas Purcell. The Corrupting Sea. A Study of Mediterranean History. Oxford: Blackwell, 2000. Israel Institute of Industrial Design, The, in consultation with The American Federation of Arts, ed. Forms from Israel. New York: Museum of Contemporary Crafts in New York City, 1958. Exhibition catalogue, https://digital.craftcouncil.org/digital/collection/p15785coll5/id/4735/rec/2. Kahanoff, Jacqueline Shohet, ‘Ambivalent Levantine’. In Mongrels or Marvels: The Levantine Writings of Jacqueline Shohet Kahanoff, edited by Debora A. Starr and Sasson Somekh, 193–212. Redwood City, CA: Stanford University Press, 2011. Kahanoff, Jaqueline, ‘Reflections of a Levantine Jew’. Jewish Frontier, April 1958. Korfmacher, Maika ‘Hanna Charag-Zuntz und Varda Yatom’, in Hanna Charag-Zuntz und Varda Yatom. Gefäße und Skulpturen aus Israel, edited by Bernd Hakenjos, 6–8. Düsseldorf, Hetjens Museum, 1998. Exhibition catalogue. Landgraf, John and Owen Rye, ‘Introduction’. In Palestinian Traditional Pottery. A Contribution to Palestinian Culture, edited by Elizabeth Burr, Jean- Baptiste Humbert, Owen Rye and Hamed Salem, XXVII–XXX. Leuven/Paris/ Bristol: Peeters, 2021. Matalon, Ronit, The One Facing Us. New York: Metropolian Books, 1998. Meyer, Eva and Eran Schaerf, ‘Kahanoff’s Levantinism: The Anachronic Possibilities of a Concept’. Prospections. Accessed 3 February 2022. https://www.bakonline.org/prospections/kahanoffs-levantinism-the-anachronic-possibilities-of-a-concept/. Ofrat, Gidon, ‘The Beginnings of Israeli Ceramics’. Ariel 90 (1992): 75–94. Patterson, Jean, Israel. 70 Years of Craft and Design, San Diego, Mingei International Museum, 2018—2021. San Diego: House of Israel, 2018. Exhibition catalogue. Seibel, Wolfgang. ‘Hegemoniale Semantiken und radikale Gegennarrative. Beitrag zum Arbeitsgespräch des Kulturwissenschaftlichen Kollegs Uni Konstanz.’ Konstanz, 2009. https://www.exc16.uni-konstanz.de/fileadmin/all/downloads/veranstaltungen2009/Seibel-Heg-Semantiken-090122.pdf. Smadar, Samson, ‘Introduction’. In Israel. 70 Years of Craft and Design. Mingei International Museum, 2018—2021, edited by Jean Patterson, San Diego, House of Israel, 2018. Exhibition catalogue. Soleáu, Antje, ‘Zwei Leben — Zwei Schicksale: Margarete Heymann- Loebenstein und Hanna Charag-Zuntz’. Neue Keramik, no. 1 (2016): 30–33. Yehoshúa, Abraham B. ‘Beyond Folklore: The Identity of the Sephardic Jew’. Quaderns de La Mediterrània, no. 14 (2010). Zahlhaas, Gisela, Prähistorische Staatssammlung. Keramiken des Vorderen Orients im internationalen Keramik-Museum Weiden. Collection Catalogue. Weiden: Keramik-Museum Weiden, 1990.
citation information:
Geiger, Hanni. ‘Hanna Charag-Zuntz’s Levantine Ceramics: Dis:Connecting Objects through Narratives’. Blog, Global Dis:Connect (blog), 2 May 2023. https://www.globaldisconnect.org/05/02/hanna-charag-zuntzs-levantine-ceramics-disconnecting-objects-through-narratives/.
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‘The question is whether there are even two modes of working?’ A conversation about cooperation between the arts and humanities with Ayşe Güngör and Enis Maci

(an interview conducted by Nikolai Brandes and Anna Sophia Nübling of gd:c)
  Encouraging dialogue between the arts and the humanities is one of the principal goals of global dis:connect, so we asked two of our fellows about their experiences and what they would like to see at an institution like gd:c. We wanted to know what they think about this relationship in light of their current projects and to what extent this relationship is relevant to their work. Ayse Güngör is a curator and art historian with a background in art theory, anthropology and curation. She researches the confluence of art and anthropology in the work of contemporary Turkish artists, broadening narratives of global art, cultural exchange and eco-art practices. She investigates theories of artistic representation and institutional frameworks. Enis Maci studied sociology and creative writing. She is the author of an anthology, Eiscafé Europa (Suhrkamp 2018), and a number of plays, including WUNDER (Suhrkamp 2021). She has (co-)edited A Fascinating Plan (Spector 2021) and Filamentous Magic Carpets (März 2022). Most recently, her play LORBEER premiered at Schauspiel Stuttgart.

Enis Maci and Anna Nübling (right) discussing Filamentous Magic Carpets at the Lenbachhaus, August 2022 (Photo: Luzia Huber)

AN: To start, could you both tell us a bit about what you're currently working on? And given the subject of this conversation, we are especially interested in how you, as an author-playwright and curator, approach your topics considering that you both keep one foot in academia. EM: My current project started from a piece of pop culture: the early 90s high-school sci-fi movie Habitat, which is set in a near future where the ozone layer is irreversibly damaged. Earth has become extremely hot, and people mostly go out at night. The teenage protagonist, who has all kinds of teenager problems, is the son of two rogue scientists who have stolen an inexplicable, gnostic, slimy life form from a government lab. It escapes from its container and kind of eats or absorbs the father. However, this artificial life form is then somehow supposed to save the irreversibly doomed Earth. These themes lead to questions about multiplicity, about what life is exactly and what cooperation and interconnectedness could mean. And then, on another level, the teenage protagonist finds out that his parents have genetically engineered him to dampen the high temperatures. He thinks that's terrible and kind of embarrassing, but it turns out to be a superpower. Watching the movie today shows how the near future was imagined not too far in the past, while some of the parameters of this dystopic vision have vanished simply because there is not really a hole in the ozone anymore. The mysterious life form — the gnostic slime — interested me greatly. Something communal, but not collective. One cell with many nuclei, maybe. I explored that in an event at Lenbachhaus[1] and an accompanying anthology under the title Filamentous Magic Carpets (März, 2022). It turned out that the Lenbachhaus was planning an exhibition on Rosemarie Meyer, an American feminist artist of the 1970s who worked mostly in textiles. Rosemary’s work often dealt with unexpected connections between points in space and between materials. Loose threads everywhere. Her sister, Bernadette Meyer, is a poet. I’ve always loved her work. So, l turned to her book Utopia. Here, again, questions of communality, of a better future and the everyday life surrounding it. In Utopia, there is a chapter titled Filamentous Magic Carpets, where everything comes together. And then I invited five writers and two scholars to think about these things and write about them. It was an experiment and, eerily, their different ways of thinking did in fact intertwine into a slimy sort of tapestry. AN: As I was one of the two scholars you invited to think and about those things, I might add that it was fruitful to approach the topic as you suggested. To think with those ‘loose threads’ and to see what they unravelled. But let’s turn to Ayşe: what can you to tell us about your current project?

Ayşe Güngör

AG:  My project is about a series of exhibitions on representations of Istanbul in Germany since 2000. By exploring this as a complex relationship of global interconnectivity, I identify gaps and limitations in the globalisation of contemporary Turkish art by considering art and cultural politics in Europe. These exhibitions featured Turkish artists entangled in representational forms of the international art scene’s global agenda. Exhibitions of ‘Turkish art’ in Germany were often supported by big institutions that supported cultural exchange following Turkey’s application for EU membership. I focus on the ideas of connectedness and disconnectedness that evolved around those exhibitions, considering exhibition strategies and artistic forms of resistance. The goal is to decolonise the globalisation of contemporary Turkish art. I ask how we can represent without reductively constructing, defining, restricting, disintegrating or silencing artists’ autonomy. EM: If this is about being a Turkish artist in a global space, or maybe just outside the country, what is ‘being Turkish’? How can people be Turkish apart from citizenship? AG: I think the designation ‘Turkish’ allows outsiders to starkly limit who counts as ‘Turkish’. Everything was being related to Turkey in very restricted ways that didn’t acknowledge many identities. EM: That’s why I'm asking — people could relate to Turkey because they have lived there or they have citizenship, but still refuse the notion of being Turkish, which is a highly political question. AG: Definitely. But cultural identity is often instrumentalised while cultural diversity is supposedly celebrated. Turkish artists were also stereotyped in Germany. That was part of the cultural strategies that always relate to identity. I would love a term that denoted ‘from Turkey’ without implying ‘Turkish’. But I am also interested in how several exhibitions instrumentalised ‘Turkishness’ as a tool of cultural politics. AN: Returning to the matter at hand, do you consider artistic practice a process of cognition and knowledge production? It might, for example, offer freedoms denied to scholarship. And to what extent is what we learn from art different from what we learn from research? EM: I don’t think writing yields cognition or insight. The poetry of my work has a lot to do with finding something out. It is about having a hunch and trying to get to the bottom of it, or maybe having an itch, but not knowing where to scratch. So writing would be getting to the bottom of the hunch. Or maybe it’s as if I were trying to write directions to my itch. A lot is about finding out, like a detective or a scientist, maybe a mad scientist. And then I also think in terms of method, research, however you frame it, which is often finding the truth in something as much as discovering something useful. In my first book, for example, there's one essay on the identitarian movement. Not until I started compiling my artistic research did a realise that I had this huge database, which led me to write my master's thesis about them. So, the question of knowledge production kind of started with literature and evolved into scholarship.

Nikolai Brandes (Photo by Lamber Strehlke, strehlke@gmail.com)

NB: I like the idea that the starting point is the itch… EM: Isn’t that the case for you too? You go into the office, it's a nice day in Munich, you drink your coffee, you do some paperwork, things that need to be done, but then there’s something else, right? There is this one thing you need to find out about. Or maybe some asshole wrote an article, and he was like 80% correct, but 20% of it was wrong. You are so sure of that, so you need to, you know, understand it, prove it, get the truth out there. NB: Could you expand on switching between working artistically and academically? EM: The question is whether there are even two modes of working? Both methods have their limitations. In academia we are committed to objectifiable truths. But literary writing also seeks truths that need to be protected, truths in the slipstream of objectifiable truth. Both these commitments, in literature and in scholarship, come with certain ethics. But in the end, for my work at least, the distinction boils down to something esoteric, something small that resists enclosure. It’s even more blatant in the visual arts, because they resist the logic of language-based narration. AN: You described the process of digesting material. You leave things out, you add things, you have something in the ‘slipstream’ of the objectifiable … EM: You try to produce conclusions that are kind of necessary. But I don't think they would always meet the criteria of a necessary conclusion in the academic world. But there is a necessity to them somehow. It always depends on the work at hand. It always depends on what you're trying to find out and where the itch is or what the hunch was … NB: Ayse, maybe you could also expand on how you combine your research and curation. Is curating just another form of scholarship? AG: There is a negative impression that science always needs to keep a distance from society to remain objective. And today, artists are becoming more engaged with society as a research topic, which shows how research and art are joining forces. As Enis mentioned, she also digests material in many different ways. From my point of view, working as a curator and as a social scientist, artistic and scholarly approaches complement each other. In curation, research results might appear directly when organising an exhibition, which goes far quicker than research. Research and artistic practices cannot be distinguished from one another anymore. Therefore, I think in terms of ‘knowledge-making’, which we need to integrate into the social sciences. They need to be ‘flatter’ in engaging with arts. NB: Artistic thinking as a means of producing knowledge has become a very popular topic recently. It's a popular topic in art history and in curation too. If your own approach to art and artistic thinking is a means of knowledge production, can you think of any role models? Enis, have any writers inspired your way of learning through creative writing? You said that you sometimes find fine arts more interesting than literature because of what you called the visual arts’ ‘resistance towards language-based narration’. Are there any artists that you find particularly interesting? EM: That’s very difficult to answer. Artistic learning, maybe academic learning and maybe everyday learning (like you shouldn't touch the hot stove and such) don't really seem separate to me. I think the separation happens in methods and in the mutually agreed limitations of speech, maybe. So, I’m interested in finding out where these limitations lie and making that fertile for my work. I’m more interested in finding out how other people find things out and how that relates to me. But that, of course, is a sort writing that is very research based, that is kind of essayistic. Maybe you would find very different answers if you talked to novelists, which also requires research that is similar but not identical to the research my writing is based on. NB: I asked that question because when I began my current research — the architectural history of modernism in Africa — I first looked into the literature on the topic, which was interesting. But then I found a photo book by Guy Tillim, a South African photographer. He took pictures of late-colonial and early post-colonial architecture in southern Africa. Those pictures said so much. I felt there was not much to add academically. I had the feeling that everything was already there in the pictures. EM: That’s so interesting because if I saw that myself, as a writer, I would be like, ‘Okay, there is nothing to add; good luck to you; you did it’. But some things don’t ‘exist’ until you’ve researched them. Academia is oblivious to them. And you as an academic want to change that. I mean, this architecture exists to the people who live there, who see it every day, and to the people who built it, and to the people who know these photographs. But it does not exist to academics. So basically, you bring something that already exists into existence for other people. And that is an undertaking that goes beyond getting to objective truth. So, you were on a different kind of mission, which I find extremely interesting. AN: Ayse, do you feel the same? That you can't really answer whether there are any role models for your curation? AG: Not for curation, but I can think of role models for my research. My work focuses on the confluence of art and anthropology. I'm really influenced by the way Tim Ingold thinks in terms of the integration of anthropology, archaeology, art and architecture, by the way he thinks of ‘Making’ as transformative knowledge production, and how he advocates practicing inquiry rather than the conventional practice of ethnography, the way he argues that conventional ethnography does not lead anywhere. AN: Maybe you could say what you would expect from global dis:connect in the future? How can global dis:connect provide an environment for interdisciplinary cooperation? AG: You are already. I’d like a bit more collaboration with artists, because, ‘science’ has a bad reputation, it’s loaded with objectivity, which distances academia from other forms of research. So more artistic engagement could expand our understanding of academic research. Artistic research, visual representations and experimental practices could supplement text-based academic research. NB: But how do we avoid including artists as mere ornaments in projects like global dis:connect? You know, scholars doing the ‘serious’ stuff, and then including some artists who kind of illustrate the academics’ findings. EM: I didn’t feel like an ornament. Maybe because I don’t really regard my own research as substantially different from academic research. I expected exchange between fellows, I expected to connect with the city at large. And I am happy to report that both those things happened. So that's nice. I’m curious to see where I stand with this work after my fellowship. Will it feel like a wrap or will it lead to more questions? We will see!     [1] Maci’s event "Filamentous Magic Carpets" took place at the Lenbachhaus on 14 August 2022 and included readings, talks, a concert, a film and the launch of the book of the same title, see: https://www.globaldisconnect.org/10/18/ruminating-on-a-hunch-at-filamentous-magic-carpets/. Continue Reading

8 February 2023, Workshop: Istanbul on Display

On 8 February 2023, the Centre will hold a workshop centring on the representation of Istanbul in Germany through several exhibitions since 2000. The global curatorial and artistic narratives about artists from Turkey have resulted in several critiques of European representational strategies that are predominately centred on geographical, cultural and national identities. In consequence, an increasing number of critical artistic and curatorial practices have emerged that attempt to transcend and challenge the art world's reductionist, Eurocentric tendencies, such as casting doubt on conventional stereotypes of East vs. West and the construction of 'Other'. With global connectedness and disconnectedness as framing concepts, this workshop aims to explore the tensions that emerge from this dichotomy and how they relate to representations of Istanbul through several exhibitions in Germany since 2000. By exploring this context as a complex relationship of global interconnectivity, it aims to identify gaps, limitations and tensions in the globalisation processes of contemporary art from Turkey by considering the politics of art and exhibition politics in Europe. This workshop's main objective is to contribute to a decolonial discussion on the globalization of contemporary art from Turkey by focusing on exhibition strategies and artistic forms of resistance. This involves sharing knowledge to understand globalisation and its intricate structures from a variety of perspectives. The workshop is a forum for debate and dialogue, bringing together scholars, artists, and curators to further develop this research and share from their own areas of expertise.   Where and when: Munich, 8 February 2023, 9.00 - 18.30 Language: English Venue: Käte Hamburger Research Centre global dis:connect, Maria-Theresia-Str. 21, 81675 Munich   Click HERE to download the poster. Continue Reading

The global politics of give and take: a workshop with Susanne Schütte-Steinig and Sabine Sörgel in two parts

sabine sörgel
Image 1: In lieu of the audience: the gaze of the touch-spectre
Our performance workshop started from the premise of ‘give and take’ in the global dynamics of social and economic exchange to investigate the notion of ‘dis:connect’ from a phenomenological perspective. By emphasising sensual touch in the encounter with personal objects, we sought to abstract from the visual and intellectual engagement that is often the focus of such transaction in other contexts. The debates on the restitution of art objects from the Global South to their countries of origin was also at the back of our minds, yet we did not want to make this our direct and obvious starting point. Rather, we sought to address some of those issues at a micro-level of interhuman exchange and communication. Our shared interest in objects and hands also arose from a common background in yoga, meditation and somatic practice. We both wondered about how such practices affect communication and how we cope with the global intersections of contemporary crises, as the wider consequence of the many so-called darker sides of global modernity and racial colonial capitalism. Our initial conversations started over socially distanced walks and coffees in the Englischer Garten. Susanne Schütte-Steinig soon showed me a sketch of two wooden boxes facing each other closely resembling a basic puppet theatre. Except that in this case, the puppeteers use their own hands only, whilst their bodies are held in upright stillness, resting their chin on a soft foam pad, legs shoulder-width apart in a relaxed posture, with their pubic bone just underneath the open window facing their partner on the opposite side (Image 1, 2 and 4).[1]
Image 2: The somatic “box set”
That sketch ended up depicting the position held by our workshop participants for several heartbeats a couple of months later, half-way through my research fellowship. And whilst each participant centred their hands on their chest, focusing their attention inwards before offering their object for exchange, I wondered about the shadows of globalisation in that empty space (Image 4).

Part one: interviews at global dis:connect

Image 3: A sprocket cassette from Taiwan
Interviews are a common method in various types of research, including oral histories, anthropology and history. They are also a common feature of the TV and social-media world, and many of us will have sweated through an interview as the final hurdle to getting their dream job. However, our artistic workshop was not particularly interested in any of these interview techniques and formats. Rather, the focus was to be solely directed towards the object itself, as well as the gestures of the hands holding it. The objects were therefore initially chosen by each participant with the following instruction:
  • Bring a personal object related to your current research project, either an archival source or an everyday tool, that is indispensable to the way you work at your best.
Later in the artistic process, this instruction was modified to say that the object would have to be three dimensional and fit between two hands and no larger than a laptop screen, for the practical reason that it had to fit through the window set-up as well, as we became more and more interested in the idea of being able to hold something of personal value in your actual hands from both a kinetic and felt-energetic perspective. Some of the interview questions arose from my academic research on the Jungian notion of the shadow to investigate the darker aspects of globalisation, as those repressed parts of the Western European psyche run havoc in the present shaping of contemporary crises, from the resurfacing of unaddressed systemic racism to the extraction of resources and climate change. The aim of the interview was thus to interrogate the extent to which Europe itself, and perhaps academia and academics more than others, must question many commonplace Enlightenment values and liberties, which have historically been built on the exclusion and exploitation of human and non-human ‘sources of life’ from the Global South.[2] Susanne’s artwork, on the other hand, addresses some of these questions through her practice in dance and architecture to investigate the in-between space of encounter through the performative engagement with objects she designs and choreographs as set spatial scores and actions. Through dance and body work, we each had a point of reference that connected us throughout the initial conversations on the theme of ‘give and take’ that led to the following set of interview questions for the workshop participants:
  • Why did you become a historian (researcher)?
  • Why did you choose to bring this object?
  • What is your fondest memory of visiting an archive?
  • What is your relationship to the European Enlightenment?
  • Did you ever experience theft, steal something or was something stolen from you?
The interviews were planned so as to meet our participants in our everyday work surroundings at the global dis:connect offices and to introduce the object as a personal object closely tied to both the researcher’s sense of self as well as their profession and research. As a researcher at global dis:connect, I was very aware of the risks this workshop was asking my colleagues to take. A professional habitus is hard to acquire, difficult to shed and marks so much of our market value as humanities researchers in the contemporary world. Therefore, we were careful to create an open situation of mutual trust that would make it very difficult for the researcher to automatically fall into their default academic habitus of presenting themselves through an elaborate talk or paper, but rather to give us an impromptu and spontaneous response of no more than three to four unprepared sentences. Such initial thoughts and associations, as a matter of fact, enabled an open encounter with the participants’ objects as a form of disconnect rather than a carefully crafted argument that would usually have to be closed to persuade. It was thus that I hoped to get hold of the shadow aspects entailed in this form of presentation. On the day of the interviews, we had four participants from global dis:connect share their objects and responses, whilst the camera captured the ‘handling of the object’ in a posture of care no wider than the camera frame between lap and top and the gestures one makes in this sacred space between the pelvis (lap) and the heart (top).

Part two: the Yoga of talking hands

Hand on your heart, are you ready to give your object?
Disconnected from our everyday working environment, the invitation to Susanne’s Atelier in Munich’s Baumstraße offered the researchers an opportunity for a performative encounter with each other and our objects in a different setting. The day was sunny and two more members of global dis:connect were able to join us, as they had recovered from a Covid-19 infection the previous week. In their cases, we had no accompanying interview to go with but only their yoga of hands. Not unlike the European Enlightenment, yoga practice has also journeyed across the globe into our living rooms and local gyms. Yet, as a practice it predates the European Enlightenment by centuries and perhaps is the more sophisticated for it. Although many people around the world practice yoga and meditation these days, there is still a tendency to consider these spiritual and physical activities separate – as separate as is the body from the mind, even now, for some of us brought up in a false sense of neutral objectivity grounded in notions of Enlightenment philosophy and the split that was supposedly created there. In this second part of the workshop, it was our chance to break with the Enlightenment conventions of European research and bring these disconnected spheres of research and artistic practice together. With the help of the artist’s skill to re-connect the disconnected through her theatrical set-up, we hoped to shed some light on the shadow aspects of global exchange practices in other realms. And as each participant entered Susanne’s installation, they found themselves no longer able to hide behind elaborate words or even in a photographic representation of themselves as in aesthetic realism, because all but their hands touching was withheld from their own view. In this vulnerable moment, the hands started talking their own language, as they were led by the energy of the individual heartbeat.
The Yoga of Hands and the Space In-Between

The wounded researcher

A week after the workshop, I listened again to the interviews in search of the shadows of our hidden thoughts, those truths we so often do not dare to speak. This is to say that in each of our thoughts there is always a disconnect from all that is not thought in that moment so that an in-between space marks this shadow area that is always also at work in thought processes. As Merleau-Ponty continues to explain this idea in an essay called The Philosopher and his Shadow:
Just as the perceived world endures only through the reflections, shadows, levels, and horizons between things (which are not things and are not nothing, but on the contrary mark out by themselves the fields of possible variation in the same thing and the same world), so the works and thoughts of a philosopher are also made of certain articulations between things said.[3]
These ‘certain articulations between things said’ are now captured in the yoga of hands and the silent negotiation that takes place in the in-between encounter of Susanne’s edited film of this performative installation in two parts. Deprived of their elaborate wordings, the researchers in this project opened themselves to become vulnerable to the essence of touch. This in-between space holds, for me, the colon in the conceptual idea of the centre’s name: ‘Dis:connect’ then offers an opportunity to account for the shadow aspect of that absence, which is only made visible by all that is not seen much less explained, but merely felt in an instance of touch.   [1] There is no audience in the conventional sense, only the camera (alias ‘The Touch-Spectre’), which zooms in on the exchange of hands and the space in/between. No one claps, the beginning and end are decided by the two participants only and guided by Susanne’s movement instructions and action score. [2] Achille Mbembe addresses this point in several of his works and the term ‘sources of life’ reflects on the energetic and creative essentials of living that have been sacrificed to the necropolitical project of Western colonial modernity whilst they remain a constant source also for the rebuilding of new African subjectivities. [3] Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Signs (Chicago: Northwestern University Press, 1964), 160.
Bourdieu, Pierre. Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977. Hicks, Dan. The Brutish Museums. The Benin Bronzes, Colonial Violence and Cultural Restitution. London: Pluto Press, 2020. Iyengar, B.K.S. Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali. London: Thorsons, 1993. Mauss, Marcel. The Gift. The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies. London/New York: Routledge, 1990. Mbembe, Achille. Critique of Black Reason. Durham: Duke University Press, 2017. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Signs. Chicago: Northwestern University Press, 1964. Mignolo, Walter. The Darker Side of Western Modernity. Global Futures, Decolonial Options. Durham: Duke University Press, 2011. Priyamvada, Gopal. ‘On Decolonization and the University’. Textual Practice 35, no. 6 (2021): 873–99. Romanyshyn, Roman. The Wounded Researcher. Research with Soul in Mind. London/New York: Routledge, 2013. Savoy, Bénédicte. Africa’s Struggle for Its Art. History of a Postcolonial Defeat. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2022. Schütte-Steinig, Susanne. Going to Paradise. München, 2022. www.sss333.de.  
citation information:
Sörgel, Sabine, and Susanne Schütte-Steinig. ‘The Global Politics of Give and Take: A Workshop with Susanne Schütte-Steinig and Sabine Sörgel in Two Parts’. Blog, Global Dis:Connect (blog), 29 November 2022. https://www.globaldisconnect.org/11/29/the-global-politics-of-give-and-take-a-workshop-with-susanne-schutte-steinig-and-sabine-sorgel-in-two-parts/?lang=en.
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Ruminating on a hunch at Filamentous Magic Carpets

Anna Sophia Nübling
From left to right: Eiko Honda, Enis Maci, Anna Sophia Nübling (Image: Luzia Huber)
On Sunday 14 August 2022, the Lenbachhaus hosted an event in its beautiful garden: Filamentous Magic Carpets, curated by the writer and global dis:connect fellow Enis Maci. The event was part of the exhibition ‘Rosemary Mayer. Ways of Attaching’ at the Lenbachhaus. The event was inspired by the artist’s engagement with textile materials, weaving and matters of form that resonated with Enis Maci’s own interest in the 1990 science-fiction film Habitat and the Internet conspiracy saga surrounding the user 9MOTHER9EYES9HORSE, which she explored while at global dis:connect. Habitat is a science-fiction high-school comedy that examines the ecological discourse about the ozone hole and its disastrous consequences for life on earth in the late 90s. With the sun to incinerate all life on Earth in the near future, a scientist invents an inexplicable life form that expresses constantly emerging, shifting and disintegrating forms. The story of 9MOTHER9EYES9HORSE is a mashup of familiar conspiracy theories with LSD-fuelled paranormal occurrences around fleshy tunnels into other dimensions. Both narrations deal with implications of beholding the world through the lens of connections. The film is about a global ecological ‘system’ in which everything is connected with everything and that enables both a sense of attachment to what is called nature and technicist notions of its readjustment. The saga shows that, if done excessively, imagined connections can lead to the paranoia of conspiracy theories. Each in its own way, they challenge the notion that everything is connected and raise the (utopian) question of how a lifeform or a community might look when not fraught with the danger that notions of connectedness can entail, when they weave worlds too tightly. They inspire thoughts about a mode of living and thinking that would go beyond unifying, holistic notions of the self and of social entities to a way of thinking difference, alterity and a form of life that can entail such difference. As the exhibition showed, Mayer thought about her artworks as being at the ‘borderline to chaos’. That is, they are about forms that are hardly forms. In this sense, her work, too, is engaged with a way of thinking not in closed, well-ordered entities, but of dissolving rigid forms into ones that change, that can’t be fixed, and are therefore open to different interpretations and otherness. The life form in the film and Mayer’s textile sculptures and installations don’t dismiss any connections or attachments, but, as Enis Maci proposed with this event, inspire thought about how we imagine such connections, because they have implications for how we act. Following a ‘hermeneutics of suspicion’, as she called it, Enis Maci juxtaposed different artistic and scientific approaches and perspectives to ‘ways of attaching’ by association, which fruitfully complemented and communicated with each other. Under a bright sunny sky, the event started with a talk between Enis Maci, Eiko Honda and me. This was followed by readings from the publication Filamantous Magic Carpets, which the event launched (– mind the connection: the title is a citation from the book Utopia by Rosemary Mayer’s sister Bernadette Mayer). It brings together texts of writers (Sophia Eisenhut, Marius Goldhorn, Jonas Mölzer, Mazlum Nergiz and Pascal Richmann) and scholars (Eiko Honda and me). A concert by the sound artist Rosaceae and a film screening of Habitat completed the program. The light atmosphere of those special hours, the words that wafted through the warm air were ephemeral and will remain inscribed in the memories of those present, but what remains is the written word. Check it out at https://www.maerzverlag.de/shop/buecher/literatur/filamentous-magic-carpets/. Continue Reading