A video docu­men­ta­tion of the perfor­mance concert archive burn out, filmed and edited by Freya Hatten­berger on 10th April in the Nazi Docu­men­ta­tion Centre, Cologne, with Suspended Beliefs”, poetry and textwith impro­vised music: Tanya Ury (voice), Gernot Bogumil (trumpet), Kasander Nilist (double bass), Hans Salz (percus­sion), can be seen here: Docu­men­ta­tion: 46:06 minutes: vimeo​.com/​112831445 Trailer: 6:51 minutes: vimeo​.com/​112828403 8:30 minutes: vimeo​.com/​112828985

Tanya Ury has devel­oped archive burn out, a spoken text, to be presented together with the impro­vising musi­cians of Suspended Beliefs: Gernot Bogumil trumpet, Kasander Nilist double bass, Hans Salz percus­sion. Each of four parts: the gath­erers, the library, anti gone and burn out depict various stages in the devel­op­ment and even­tual collapse of an archive. The inclu­sion of a video-clip about the book burning in 1933 by the Nazis, in the context of this piece that refer­ences the collapse of the Histor­ical Archive of the City of Cologne, five years after it’s occur­rence, connects the two events.

The impro­vised music keeps to a struc­ture that inte­grates various concepts – an African rhythm of the Ewe people is recre­ated for example. East Asian sounds are also created with a penta­tonic scale. Jazz-like and the more abstract sounds of new music, as well as a chorale-like element, form part of the impro­vised score, to suggest diver­sity and inclu­sion, in the accu­mu­la­tion of an archive, before it fails because of censor­ship or care­less­ness.
If Freud suffered from mal d’archive, if his case stems from a trouble de l’archive, he is not without his place, simul­ta­ne­ously, in the archive fever or disorder we are expe­ri­encing today, concerning its lightest symp­toms or the great holo­caustic tragedies of our modern history and histo­ri­og­raphy: concerning all the detestable revi­sionisms, as well as the most legit­i­mate, neces­sary, and coura­geous rewrit­ings of history.

P. 90 Archive Fever – A Freudian Impres­sion”, Jacques Derrida 1994, The Univer­sity of Chicago Press 1996 ISBN: 0226143678
Within the mind and body, a person carries a covert, personal library that includes genetic memory and the subcon­scious. An archive like­wise may be more than the sum of its collected parts when in between the lines (the walls of shelves), the subordinate’s voice is somehow incor­po­rated into the museum’s body, as oral history, for instance – not walled in and forgotten (anti gone). Tanya Ury’s piece archive burn out makes a case for the rein­state­ment of the hidden or excluded.

Inte­grated into the piece are quota­tions from, amongst other things:

Wir bauen eine Stadt”, Kinderoper, Paul Hindemith 1930
The Story of General Dann and Mara’s Daughter, Griot and the Snow Dog”, Doris Lessing, 2005
The Post Card – From Socrates to Freud and Beyond”, Jacques Derrida 1987
Archive Fever: A Freudian Impres­sion”, Jacques Derrida 1995
Fahren­heit 451”, Ray Brad­bury 1953, the film by François Truf­faut in 1966
The Emigrants”, W.G. Sebald, 1992
And from Elfriede Jelinek’s email corre­spon­dence with Joachim Lux, in the programme notes for Das Werk“ (The Works), Burgth­e­ater, 2002/​2003.

***

A hege­monic power may demon­strate its ruth­less will, when frac­tions of a society’s estab­lished history are simply elim­i­nated or disre­garded. Whether it happens by chance, as in Alexan­dria of 48 BCE — legend has it that Julius Caesar acci­den­tally burned down the Ancient Library, the largest in the ancient world, during a conflict with Achillas; or by strategy – the Armenian geno­cide of 1915 is still offi­cially being denied in Turkey today; by intrigue — with the efface­ment of certain, no longer wished for facts of histor­ical knowl­edge, as in Soviet Russia of 1929, when Stalin removed images of Trotsky and other politi­cians from offi­cial photographs (they were consid­ered enemies of the people after ques­tioning Stalin’s dicta­to­rial rule); or as in Germany under the Nazis, when a great part of the cultural legacy was symbol­i­cally destroyed with the book burning, of so-called degen­erate writing, in 1933.

In all these cases, the signif­i­cance of a minority culture or aspects of a history that ruling powers seek to bury is under­mined — even in the case of Alexan­dria, a conquering army’s lack of aware­ness regarding the archive’s impor­tance will have been a justi­fi­ca­tion for allowing the library to be destroyed. By these ensnare­ments of exclu­sion or elim­i­na­tion, the voice of a minority may be subsumed and disap­pear. In effect not only genetic but also cultural survival may be ensured or denied by the body politic.

Wilhelm Unger, a Jewish writer, theatre critic and jour­nalist from Cologne was Tanya Ury’s great uncle. On his death in 1985, he bequeathed his personal library to the Salomon Ludwig Stein­heim — Insti­tute for German-Jewish History in Duis­burg. Unger’s personal archive was however, donated to the Histor­ical Archives of the City of Cologne, which trag­i­cally collapsed (along with Tanya Ury’s family archive, including the legacy of her father, Peter Ury’s composed music, and her grand­fa­ther Alfred Unger’s writ­ings). A video extract (5:30 minutes) from the docu­men­tary Verbannte und Verbrannte Kunst” (Banned and Burned Art), by Mari­anne Tralau, from 1983 (cour­tesy of Kaos Kunst & Video-Archiv e.V. Cologne) screened as part of the perfor­mance, also consists of a news­paper passage from 1933, about the book burning on 17th May, in the city of Cologne, conducted by students in the name of the National Social­ists, on the univer­sity premises, and an inter­view with Wilhelm Unger, who witnessed his own books being burned

With the collapse of the Histor­ical City Archives of Cologne, Germany in 2009, a care­less­ness regarding the collec­tion of a more compre­hen­sive histor­ical memory base, than that of a museum (for an archive also assem­bles the minu­tiae of past daily life) became apparent much later – the even­tual subsi­dence of the building was not only due to count­less corrupt local busi­ness prac­tices during the process of the construc­tion of a new tram­line in the vicinity — this archive, the largest munic­ipal collec­tion north of the Alps might have been salvaged, had warning signs of cracks in base­ment walls, which had been reported three months earlier, been taken heed of by the Archive’s own admin­is­tra­tors – there would have been enough time to under­take a salvage oper­a­tion before the fall.

The impli­ca­tions of neglect in this case become more prob­lem­atic when it is apparent that the archive included lega­cies of artists, archi­tects, composers, writers, chore­o­g­ra­phers, in effect free thinkers1 but also Jewish fami­lies (letter exchanges from the Nazi war years will also have gone down with the Archive).

Five years after the collapse of the Histor­ical City Archives, although much of the osten­sibly lost mate­rial has been salvaged, is being stored in museums all over Germany and is in the process of being cleaned – owners of personal archives, have not yet been permitted to view their legacy.

***

Following the death of her mother Sylvia, in London 1998, the artist Tanya Ury, together with other close rela­tives, decided to donate family docu­ments and papers to the Histor­ical Archives in Cologne, the archive collec­tion known at the time, as the largest this side of the Alps.

Due to negli­gence, both on the part of builders of a new tram­line tunnel in the vicinity but also Archive author­i­ties, who failed to take seri­ously warning cracks that had appeared in the building, the Histor­ical Archives collapsed on 3.3.2009, and some 900 indi­vidual depos­i­to­ries including mate­rial dating back a thou­sand years were folded together with rubble and ruins.

The Ury/​Unger family suffered the loss of a mass of corre­spon­dence, dating back from before WW2 until the late 1990’s, histor­ical docu­ments, super 8 films, photographs, orig­inal musical scores and many jour­nal­istic tape record­ings – these being the remaining traces of a family that had been closely involved in the devel­op­ment of German culture, before and after the Second World War. The family archive repre­sented memo­ra­bilia belonging to 4 gener­a­tions of a Jewish-German family of survivors, who had also expe­ri­enced exile or anni­hi­la­tion at the hands of the Nazis.

***

While Tanya Ury’s great uncle Wilhelm Unger bequeathed his library, including many books of partic­ular Jewish histor­ical interest, to the city of Duis­burg, his personal archive went missing with the Cologne Archive disaster in 2009. Unger, who died in 1984 was also, as co-founder of the Germania Judaica of the City Library in Cologne, an impor­tant voice in Cologne. Alfred Unger’s personal library, with its many German clas­sics and signed first editions, is now however, unac­counted for. Even if these books are situ­ated in a museum storage unit, some­where in Germany, in one of the 19 insti­tu­tions to where all salvaged archive mate­rial was sent, following the acci­dent – personal archive owners have been informed it will take some 30 years to sort through and clean every­thing.

The impli­ca­tions of the loss of such a family archive has been far fetching, given that much of this was the last remaining token of a family that was emotion­ally if not actu­ally destroyed by Nazi Germany. In the face of a sense of trust again having been betrayed in Germany, and a feeling of desper­a­tion after the events of the 3rd March 2009, Tanya Ury expe­ri­enced burn out.

She was not alone – many Archive workers, who were working on the premises the day of the collapse, and barely escaped with their lives, or those histo­rians, whose project studies were ended with the sudden loss of research mate­rial, also under­went psycho­log­ical break-down. The perfor­mance with its title archive burn out refers to emotional exhaus­tion, as much as to oblit­er­a­tion by fire.

***

A parallel to the book burning by Nazi Germans that Ury’s grand­fa­ther Alfred expe­ri­enced as an author in Berlin and his brother Wilhelm Unger witnessed as an inno­cent bystander, in Cologne is drawn by contem­po­rary artist and archive owner Tanya Ury, who has been left bereft of her family testi­mo­nial. archive burn out commem­o­rates their destruc­tion at the time and the contem­po­rary loss of the archive.

1 Including the artist Mary Baumeister, Peter Busmann, the archi­tect of Museum Ludwig and the Phil­har­monie in Cologne, Jewish composer Jacques Offen­bach and Hein­rich Böll, the Nobel prize winner for liter­a­ture.


Archive – a collec­tion of works


concrete – a collec­tion of works (including poetry series) 


Extract from archive burn out (rehearsal 5.4.2014) — Tanya Ury (voice/​text), Gernot Bogumil (trumpet), Kasander Nilist (double bass), Hans Salz (percus­sion), with a quota­tion from The Post Card – From Socrates to Freud and Beyond”, Jacques Derrida, 1987, Univer­sity of Chicago Press, ISBN 13: 9780226143224

Extract from archive burn out (rehearsal 5.4.2014) — Tanya Ury (voice/​text), Gernot Bogumil (trumpet), Kasander Nilist (double bass), Hans Salz (percus­sion)


Presen­ta­tion


Solo Exhi­bi­tions

2014 (13.2. – 21.4.) Tanya Ury’s Hair Shirt Army, an instal­la­tion, spon­sored by the Kulturamt (Art’s Council Cologne), will be presented for the first time in the crypt of EL-DE-Haus, the Nazi Docu­men­ta­tion Centre, Cologne (D), opening 7pm, 13th February, with an intro­duc­tion by Professor Dr. Ernst van Alphen, Leiden Univer­sity (NL). A programme of events includes a perfor­mance concert archive burn out on 10th April, with Suspended Beliefs”, poetry with impro­vised music: Tanya Ury (voice), Gernot Bogumil (trumpet), Kasander Nilist (double bass), Hans Salz (percus­sion)
2014 (2.12.) A video docu­men­ta­tion of the perfor­mance concert archive burn out, on 10th April in the Nazi Docu­men­ta­tion Centre, Cologne, with Suspended Beliefs”, impro­vised poetry with impro­vised music: Tanya Ury (voice), Gernot Bogumil (trumpet), Kasander Nilist (double bass), Hans Salz (percus­sion) can be seen on Vimeo under these links: Docu­men­ta­tion: vimeo​.com/​112831445 Trailer: vimeo​.com/​112828403 Encore: vimeo​.com/​112828985
2015 (29.4.) Tanya Ury’s power point presen­ta­tion Personal Affects – Going into the Archive, featuring extracts from the videos Fury and archive burn out with a discus­sion, is being held at 17:00 – 18.30 at the invi­ta­tion by Dr. Dora Osborne’s at Princess Dashkova Centre, 14 Buccleuch Place, Univer­sity of Edin­burgh EH8 9LN, Edin­burgh (GB)

Festi­vals Etc.  

2018 (14. – 16.1.) Tanya Ury presents a video docu­men­ta­tion of her perfor­mance concert archive burn out, filmed and edited by Freya Hatten­berger on 10th April 2014 in the Nazi Docu­men­ta­tion Centre, Cologne, with Suspended Beliefs”: poetry, text and impro­vised music: Tanya Ury (voice), Gernot Bogumil (trumpet), Kasander Nilist (double bass), Hans Salz (percus­sion), after a power point presen­ta­tion of Ury’s article Personal Affects – Going into the Archive (short version), 11.2012.40 pm on 16th January, at The Future of the Archive, Performing the Jewish Archive and Beyond, British Library, London (GB)


Publi­ca­tions & Press

2014 (3.5) Inter­view (22:18 minutes on 18th April) with Tanya Ury by Brigitte Lang and Rebecca Mann, on the instal­la­tion Who’s Boss: Hair Shirt Army in the Nazi Docu­men­ta­tion Centre, Cologne, including extracts of Ury’s concert perfor­mance archive burn out, with Suspended Beliefs: Tanya Ury (text/​voice), Gernot Bogumil (trumpet), Kasander Nilist (double bass), Hans Salz (percus­sion)), online on Allewel­tonair (D) (All the World on air) as podcast – can’t dance without my shadow”
www​.allewel​tonair​.de/t…
2014 (9) Inter­view with Tanya Ury by Verena Krippner, including extracts of Ury’s concert perfor­mance burn out, with Suspended Beliefs: Tanya Ury (text/​voice), Gernot Bogumil (trumpet), Kasander Nilist (double bass), Hans Salz (percus­sion), online at this link:
fish​ing​fore​mo​tions​.de/ (D)
2014 Osborne, D. (2014), ‘“Alas, alas. House, oh house!”: The collapse of the Cologne City Archive’, Journal of Urban Cultural Studies, 1: 3, pp. 395 – 416, doi: 10.1386/jucs.1.3.395_1, including a critique of Ury’s Archive — Fury and archive burn out

Scroll to Top