Pictures of an Exhibition

Dear readers of my blog,

writing about pictures is something you get used to when concerned with Oscar Wilde, although he did not draw or paint much himself. Also, he was photographed multiple times, and there are virtually thousands of period photographs that help to understand his life and times, while he himself was also very interested in having his books accompanied if not illustrated by works of visual artists.

Thus anyone interested in Wilde might find their way to a contemporary artist, too, who twice side-stepped her artistic interests, which are very broad, to write down her memories. In one case, Tanya Kagan-Josefowitz actually coupled the arts of drawing and writing in an artist’s memoir of the bond she lived with a tiny bird. At the same time, there are two exhibitions on show at Ludgerikirche Norden, the largest Romanesque church in northern Germany.

While studying Wilde’s ideas about pernicious influence as presented in The Picture of Dorian Gray might one day allow you to imagine how anti-Jewish feeling on the part of an individual or many individuals for that matter could turn into anti-Semitic ideology – following the ideas about how influence could harm not only the few, as outlined in the novel, but the multitude – a victim, such as Tanya Kagan-Josefowitz, of that historical evolution that took on planetary dimensions might be able to circumscribe both in writing and in visual art with documentary black and white photography supplying the necessary detail the situation of survivors who remained traumatized all their lives by the questions both unanswered and unanswerable about why it was them rather the other loved ones who survived the Shoah.

If you want to see that for yourselves do not hesitate to look at some of the drawings and photos soon to be exhibited at Norden, East Friesia. There are short texts for each of the images, and while Wilde is, of course, not mentioned here, you might be able to establish the link yourselves. Reading the book on which all of this based might also provide helpful. You can do so by ordering a printed copy or an e-book. And if you happen to come close to Norden, you could also procure an audio book. Streaming the audio book is also on the cards for the near future.

Last but not least, the location of the exhibition is a very special one, since the Police headquarters of Norden during World War Two served as the chief office of the Nazi party. To this day, this fact is known to just a few people. Whitewashing the walls to allow for Tanya Kagan-Josefowitz’s works of art to shine does not, however, mean that the Nazi past of the building is going to be washed off for good – in utter contrast to what happens at the beginning of Andorra, the drama by Max Frisch where whitewashing was to cleanse people’s personal bad consciences as much as make the houses look bright in the sun. On the contrary, holding the exhibition there and renovating the walls means to enhance people’s perception of what had happened there with the deathly Nazi past – hardly on record as yet, as in many places elsewhere – being sharply contrasted to the details known about how difficult it was to organize survival when talking about the reasons would have triggered “vulgar” details – as Wilde would have it – that nobody could bear.

All best wishes,

Jörg W. Rademacher

P.S. In the near future, the results of a study will be presented as a blog-post that features Antisemitic stereotyping as inferred from Oscar Wilde’s biography in general as well as from his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, his bibliography, that is, in particular. While only three texts by Wilde will be looked at in terms of “toxic language” (Monika Schwarz-Friesel): the typescript and the two printed versions of his novel, the main focus of the study will lie on how such stereotyping became part of the translations of his novel into various languages, German in particular.

Tanya Kagan-Josefowitz:
"Capinero. A Bird. Pictures of an Exhibition"

Polizeikommissariat Norden, from 1st to 22nd September 2022

Welcome to “Capinero. A Bird. Pictures of an Exhibition.” My name ist Jörg W. Rademacher. I am the curator of the exhibition and will accompany your tour.

As for the direction of your visit, you first walk up to the third floor of the old building to the briefing room before passing the ensuing corridor and the stair-well to the second floor of the new building where you can look at all the other exhibits. So you live the adventure of touring this exhibition in Polizeikommissariat Norden by walking downstairs rather than upstairs.

The sub-title “Pictures of an Exhibition”, which literally nowadays stands for a piece for piano and orchestra both popular and famous, originally refers to the pictures of a late painter, a friend of the composer Modest Mussorgsky. Capinero, a bird, is dead, too, when Tanya Kagan-Josefowitz takes up pen and pencil to tell his story.

Drawing all the minute details of a small bird, Tanya Kagan-Josefowitz presents us her favourite pet. This is the cover drawing, and it recurs several times in the book, that is why it was chosen to figure on the opening poster of the exhibition, too.

*

Swiftly the artist outlines the holiday home of the family in Italy, capturing the atmosphere rather than any details.

*

The bird sings; a mother and her three daughters want to have him; the shopkeeper, though, says no.

*

The mother carries Capinero in his cage; her daughters follow her home.

*

The car is fully loaded, a friendly customs officer in uniform waves them all on: dog and man and bird.

*

People, sitting in chairs, playing quartet; birds in cages singing in terzetto.

*

A tiny bird
’s life being saved with Sympatol and Scotch whisky aiding and abetting.

*

Capinero as ornithologists also draw him.

*

vs. the quintessence of a bird emerging from a very critical condition.

A “real survivor” again displaying “joie de vivre”, zest for life, that is.

*

Capinero photographed with Touki, a poodle, and Tanya.

*

Difficult to imagine the smallness of Capinero on this photograph!

*

Capinero is like a chick, sprightly, while being extremely old.

*

Capinero in his box.

*

Capinero can be grasped by two fingers of a hand – as shown by this photograph.

*

Taken out of hiding, so that Capinero can breathe freely.

*

Tanya to the customs officer: “I won’t give him up – I cannot!”

*

Tanya: “Oh, my bird, my necklace!”

Capinero examined by the veterinarian, photograph.

*

Capinero in his home, drawing.

*

Suddenly awake in the plane because the bird is gone.

*

Tanya and Capinero photographed in front of a mirror.

*

Capinero’s accident in the yoghurt.

*

Capinero having just passed away, in Italy, where he had also seen the light of day.

*

Capinero as drawn from memory.

*

Capinero lying dead in Tanya’s hand, photograph.

*

The epigraph Tanya Kagan-Josefowitz noted in copy no. 632 of the first printing of the English text is suitable, too, for again she combines word and image here, linguistic sign and drawing and singing.

 

Capinero. A Bird exists as a bilingual printed and e-Book, issued by Elsinor Verlag, Coesfeld, as well as a bilingual audio book, only available in Norden.

Written and spoken by Jörg W. Rademacher

 

 

Go back

Comments

Add a comment

Please add 7 and 8.