Röslein Sprach…

A perfor­mance video (D)
52 minutes, Analogue Beta SP, PAL 4:3

2005 Trailer 3.30 Minutes

Insur­ance value DVD: 200 €uro

Close-up video images show Ury’s right-hand stitching the word Boss” into the palm of her left-hand; the thin sewing needle, threaded with fine black cotton, does not incur any bleeding.

Röslein Sprach… the video title (trans.: The little rose spoke…) refers to a line from the second verse of Heiden­röslein”, a poem by Goethe 1799, that Schu­bert set to music in 1815 and that can also be heard in the video. The song tells of a red rose, whose only defence against the attacks of a wild boy are the inef­fec­tive pricks of her thorns.

Your Rules 2004 is an artwork that incor­po­rates a photo­graphic image of the artist’s hand embroi­dered with the word Boss’ and a poster for Hugo Boss men’s fragrances, in which a young man displays his hand inscribed with the hand­written logo your rules’.

Coded within the video are allu­sions to the fascist activ­i­ties of the fashion house Hugo Boss AG during the Third Reich era, when an élite work­force of seam­sters and seam­stresses was specially assem­bled from all over Nazi-occu­pied areas of Europe, to work as poorly paid forced labour, making uniforms in the Boss Metzingen work­shop, in Germany.

The general public was only first made aware of this scandal in 1997, when the name Hugo Ferdi­nand Boss appeared in Swiss bank account lists from the Nazi period. Hugo Boss has since only paid the absolute minimum required compen­sa­tion into a fund set up by the German govern­ment but it is unlikely that the few surviving victims will ever receive reim­burse­ment, given the late deci­sion to under­take anything and the slow machines of bureaucracy.

The Boss credo of re-writing the rule­book to suit one’s personal needs, is reflected in their current German tele­vi­sion adver­tising campaign 2004, for Hugo Boss eau de toilette: accom­pa­nying the voice-over: your fragrance, your rules”, a tattooed youth holds up the palm of his hand close to the camera, where one can read the hand­written state­ment: your rules”. Tanya Ury paro­dies this with her hand-sewn testi­mony Boss”.

The video imagery also refers to the photog­raphy of Daniel Buetti, where a variety of fashion logos appear to be sewn into the fashion model´s skin; Buetti’s working process does not in fact, involve any kind of injury to the model: his photo­graphic images, having had holes punched through from the back, are then re-photographed.

The glori­fi­ca­tion or belit­tle­ment of violence towards women in liter­a­ture starts early on, with the Heiden­röslein1, for example. You might think that the symbolic repre­sen­ta­tion of a brutal rape, set to music or not, wouldn’t be a suit­able subject for school educa­tion, least of all placed on the same level with actual love songs. Goethe and Schu­bert aside, the last verse is only a lightly disguised terror scene: And the rough boy picked the rose,
little red rose on the heath,
and the red rose fought and pricked,
yet she cried and sighed in vain,
and had to let it happen.2

The belit­tle­ment arises because the rapist, a fully-fledged, or at least sexu­ally mature man, comes across as a wilder Knabe”, a wild boy”, who has symbol­i­cally carried out the act on a flower, although distinctly bruiser and weak girl are inferred and the fact that the terror is washed over in the trilled away refrain Röslein, Röslein, Röslein rot /​Röslein auf der Heiden“ (Little rose, little rose, little rose red,
Little rose of the field.3)

The song is false, because it presents a crime as some­thing unavoid­able and as a love scene, more­over. In Helke Sander’s contro­ver­sial docu­men­tary film BeFreier und Befreite (Liber­a­tors take Liber­ties), a male choir is deployed to sing the Heiden­röslein“ unam­bigu­ously and without comment in the context of the mass rapes of the Second World War. For a girl or woman to find such a song pretty, she would have to suppress more of her human self-aware­ness than it is worth, not to mention her erotic needs.4

1 Heiden­röslein” or Heideröslein” (“Rose on the Heath” or Little Rose of the Field”) is a poem by Johann Wolf­gang von Goethe, published in 1799. It was written in 1771 during Goethe’s stay in Stras­bourg when he was in love with Friederike Brion, to whom the poem is addressed. en​.wikipedia​.org/​wiki/… (ed. Tanya Ury)
2 Ibid 1.
3 en​.wikipedia​.org/​wiki/…
4 Source: Ruth Klüger, Frauen lesen anders (Women Read Differ­ently, in: Die Zeit, No. 48, 25.11.1994 www​.stark​-verlag​.de/up…


Concept and perfor­mance: Tanya Ury

Camera: Katja Butt

AVID Edit: Rainer Nelissen

Music: Heiden­röslein”, Schu­bert 1815, verse by Goethe 1779, contralto Janet Baker, Piano accom­pa­ni­ment Geof­frey Parsons, recorded in 1981.

Who’s Boss — a collec­tion of works:

This video extract is the last three and a half minutes of the DVD.


2005 Always glad to be of service …”, ifa Galerie, Berlin (D)

2005 (26.3. – 23.4 Opening 24th March 7 pm), slide reading 20th April 150 m³ Largus, Ausstel­lungs- und Projek­traum (exhi­bi­tion and project room) Mozart­strasse 9, Cologne (D)

2005 Stets gern für Sie beschäftigt…” (”Always glad to be of service…”), Prora Doku­men­ta­tion­szen­trum, Rügen (D)

2005 Stets gern für Sie beschäftigt…” (“Always glad to be of service…”), Kunstverein Rosen­heim (D) (Art Centre), Opening 9th November 2005, 19 hours. The exhi­bi­tion is from 9th November till 6th January 2006

2005 (7.12.) Trailer, Confer­ence: Jüdische Frauen in Geschichte und Gegen­wart (Jewish Women in the Past and Present), Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, Wesseling nr. Bonn (D)

2006 (27.2.) Peer Critique, trailer, Ben Uri Gallery, The London Jewish Museum (GB)

2006 (5.4.) Profes­sional Prac­tice Seminar with trailer, Fine Art Depart­ment, Sheffield Hallam Univer­sity (GB)

2006 (6.4.) Trailer, presented in Seminar within Cathy Gelbin’s PhD. Confer­ence course: Gender and Visual Arts, Holo­caust Studies, Royal Holloway, London (D)

2006 (26.7. – 9.8.) Solo exhi­bi­tion, Seminar in the exhi­bi­tion, Tüzraktér Inde­pen­dent Cultural Centre, Budapest (HU)

2006 (28.8. – 3.9.) Who’s Boss as Seminar presen­ta­tion, c.sides Festival, Jerusalem ICC (Inter­na­tional Conven­tion Center)(IL)

2006 (3.11. – 24.11.) Solo exhi­bi­tion, 9 – 12 hours work­shop with pupils from the Anne-Frank-Realschule (secondary modern). Opening 20 Uhr 3.11., Bochumer Kulturrat, (D)

2007 (23.3.) On the online Femi­nist Art Base: www​.brook​lyn​mu​seum​.org: video trailer, The Eliz­a­beth A. Sackler Center for Femi­nist Art, The Brooklyn Museum, New York (USA)

2007 (4. – 7.4) Who’s Boss power point presen­ta­tion Saturday, April 7th, 8:00 – 9:30 a.m., Salon K , Fashion, Appear­ance and Consumer Iden­tity, Popular Culture Asso­ci­a­tion, Thirty-seventh Annual Meeting, Boston Marriott, Boston (USA) www​.popu​lar​cul​ture​.org

2008 (25.4. – 15.5) Röslein Sprach… (DVD), group exhi­bi­tion, Open Space at the World-Ex-Posi­tion 08, Zentrum für Kunst­pro­jekte Vienna www​.open​space​-zkp​.org (AT)

2008 (16. – 18.5) Who’s Boss power point presen­ta­tion in German, Limmud-Festival Werbellinsee (Jugen­der­hol­ungs- und Begeg­nungsstätte) www​.limmud​.de (D)

Publi­ca­tions & Press

2005 (1.2.) Article: Grauen — nicht auf den ersten Blick — ifa-Galerie thema­tisiert Zusam­men­hänge zwis­chen Firmen und Naziver­brechen (Horror — not at first sight — ifa Gallery’s theme is the link between compa­nies and Nazi crimes) by Robert Meyer, Neues Deutsch­land, Berlin (D) more

2005 (18.2.) Article: Haut­naht — ifa-Galerie: auf den Spuren des Holo­caust (Skin Deep — ifa Gallery: In Search of Traces of the Holo­caust), by Jens Hinrichsen, Tagesspiegel, Berlin (D) more

2005 (25.2.) Review with photo still Röslein sprach…, Hugo’s dunklere Seite” (Hugo’s dark side) article by Martin Conrads, Netzeitung​.de, Voice of Germany (D) more


2005 (7.3.) Article (unpub­lished) Röslein sprach…, Geld stinkt eben doch — Voll waren die Auftrags­bücher zu Nazizeiten: Eine Ausstel­lung in der ifa-Galerie Berlin erin­nert an Prof­i­teure des Massen­mords (Money stinks after all – the order books were full during the Nazi times: an exhi­bi­tion in the ifa Gallery remem­bers those who prof­ited from mass murder) by Matthias Reichelt, Berlin (D) more

2008 (11) Röslein Sprach… discussed in article on Tanya Ury (in German) by Hartmut Bomhoff,Jüdische Zeitung (monthly), Berlin (D) article as PDF www.j‑zeit.de

2019 (12) Tanya Ury’s artworks are discussed, as well as those of several other German artists, by Peter Chametzky, with images of lesser is me more or less, Who’s Boss: Röslein Sprach…, Who’s Boss: Art Prize Nr.4, and Who’s Boss: Hair Shirt Army (photo docu­men­ta­tion, at the exhi­bi­tion opening in EL-DE-Haus 2014, Cologne, by Peter Chametzky), in “’Turks, Jews, and Other Germans in Contem­po­rary Art’: An Intro­duc­tion,” The Mass­a­chu­setts Review (60th Anniver­sary Issue), vol. 604 (Winter 2019): p. 655 – 681. mass​re​view​.org/​s​i​tes/d… (USA)

Artist’s Writ­ings & Publications

2005 (1.4.) Who’s Boss project presented in Anti-Flick-Collec­tion Edition

of Texte zur Kunst, in the TAZ news­paper, Berlin (D)

2005 Stets gern für Sie beschäftigt…” (”Always glad to be of service…”) cata­logue, ifa Galerie, Berlin (D)

2006 (1418.6) Who’s Boss as archival mate­rial, Performing Rights Library a four-day confer­ence and accom­pa­nying programme of live events Perfor­mance Studies inter­na­tional (PSi) #12: Performing Rights, Queen Mary, Univer­sity of London (GB)

2007 (7) Publi­ca­tion of Who’s Boss article in Translate/​Narrate issue, volume 20, n.paradoxa, Inter­na­tional Femi­nist Art Journal, London (GB)


2008 (26.4. – 15.5) Röslein Sprach… (DVD), Open Space at the World Expo, Vienna www​.open​space​-zkp​.org/… (AT)

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