or else 2007

A photo­graph sealed under plex­i­glass and mounted, height 64 cm x width 85 cm (edition of 7)
(Edition of 7: height 32 cm x width 42,5 cm)

Insur­ance value 2,000 Euros 

Concept Tanya Ury
Camera David Janecek
Digital image processing Claudia Stasch

Double Portraits — a collec­tion of works:

or else features the artist Tanya Ury to the left of the picture, sitting in three-quarter view. Digi­tally incor­po­rated into the photo­graph and facing her to the right, is the German-Jewish author Else Sara Ury (18771943). Tanya dresses and poses simi­larly to Else and mimics her facial expres­sion. Else and Tanya share the same surname. Tanya Ury’s grand­mother Hedwig Ury (neé Ullmann), like Else Ury, also perished in Auschwitz, but a year later in 1944. 

or else is the conse­quence of lesser is me more or less 2003, Tanya Ury’s photo­graphic portrait of herself and the early 20th Century German painter Lesser Ury.


Else Ury was a best-seller author of German children’s books including Nesthäkchen” (baby of the family — Germans call a spoiled child or family pet a Nesthäkchen), a series of 10, which follow the Chris­tian protag­o­nist Annemarie Braun’s life from infancy to old age and grand­chil­dren. Her books are still avail­able in German book­shops, albeit in short­ened and modern-language form; they were directed at a female read­er­ship, expounding a tradi­tional view of the bour­geois family and the woman’s role.

Her book Nästhäkchen und der Weltkrieg” (Nästhäckchen and the World War) was however prob­lem­atic in that it glori­fied war. To Jugend voraus!” (Youth advance!) Else Ury’s last published book of 1933, Mari­anne Brentzel more­over states:

Else Ury was an apolit­ical, conser­v­a­tive, bour­geois, German woman, who observed the massive suffering of the unem­ployed with great human interest but with the slip­stream of mass enthrall­ment for Hitler, saw a possible solu­tion for the country’s deep crisis. In 1933 she shut her eyes to the polit­ical reality, as she had done all her life, regarding all matters in the public eye. She once again tried to conse­crate the status of the idealised, German family.”
Mari­anne Brentzel: Nesthäkchen kommt ins KZ, S. 154
(Trans­la­tion from German T.U.)

Although half of all German women have read her stories (over 7 million copies were sold alto­gether), the fact of her murder was only publi­cised in Germany 50 years later; even the TV Xmas series of 1983 that was often repeated in Germany, suppressed this information.


Post Script 2008

While researching for this work I discov­ered the German Wikipedia site; the first line read:

Else Ury (* 1. November 1877 in Berlin; † 13. Januar 1943 im Konzen­tra­tionslager Auschwitz)“

I contacted Wikipedia to say how inap­pro­priate the cross symbol as an appendage to Else Ury’s death date was — to employ the cross, a Chris­tian symbol, in the case of a murdered Jewish women is a double faux pas. I suggested the expres­sion date of death” would be more suit­able in this case.

Wikipedia replied that a debate regarding which symbol to utilise when denoting a person’s death had taken place online a couple of years previ­ously; a consensus had been found and it was agreed that the cross glyph would be employed as a format on all Wikipedia web pages. The matter was now closed.

In the light of their deci­sion I was surprised to discover the following expla­na­tion on the English-speaking Wikipedia: 

Since it (the cross typo­graph­ical symbol) also repre­sents the Chris­tian cross, in certain predom­i­nantly Chris­tian regions, the mark is used in a text before or after the name of a deceased person or the date of death, as in Chris­tian grave head­stones. For this reason, it should not be used as a foot­note mark next to the name of a living person. The reli­gious conno­ta­tions of the symbol can also make this usage inap­pro­priate for persons from non-Chris­tian cultures.”

On German Wikipedia, descrip­tions of the use of the symbol are not augmented with the state­ment vis-à-vis reli­gious sensibilities.
(See: de​.wikipedia​.org/​wiki/…)


Ury has also created other artworks that might be consid­ered visual poetry. Moving Message 1992, incor­po­rates an LED sign displaying the words: you are why; Sonata in Sea 1999 – 2000 is a photo series combined with poetry and wrestle­with­y­ourangel 2001, is a neon sign produced together with the neon sign neonazi 2001; the title of a double photo portrait lesser is me more or less 2003 plays on the name of the German Post-Impres­sionist Lesser Ury, as does the title of a further double portrait or else 2007, which refers to the German writer Else Ury. The title of a third photo-portrait Beelze­bu­larin 2005 (in the Promised Land series) reveals itself to be an anagram of the biblical Bezalel Ben Uri. half dimen­sional — semi detached 2010, combines the first of the half dimen­sional poems with the photo­graph semi detached.

concrete – a collec­tion of works (including poetry series)


2007 (11.3. – 9.4.) Connected, Group exhi­bi­tion, opening 12 am, Jewish Cultural Days, Altes Museum im BIS-Zentrum (Old Museum in the BIS Centre), Moenchenglad­bach (D)
2007 (15.7. – 26.8.) Kunstverein Rosen­heim Jahre­sausstel­lung (yearly exhi­bi­tion of the Rosen­heim Art Centre), opening 14th July, Städtische Galerie (City Gallery), Rosen­heim (D)


The Power of Femi­ninity – Hubertus Wunschik has assem­bled an enor­mous range of art for a group exhi­bi­tion of inter­na­tional artists in the Alten Museum (Old Museum). The exhi­bi­tion Connected” combines the works of Jewish and non-Jewish provenance.

By Dirk Richerdt – Saturday 10th March 2007 RHEINISCHE POST

A glance directly inside the entrance to the bour­geois town house falls on the photo montages of Tanya Ury. The 55 year-old Jewish artist, born in London and living in Cologne since 1993, has created a series of dialogic self-portraits: one sees Ury together with antecedents, including the German impres­sionist painter Lesser Ury and the German Jewish writer Else Sara Ury. And then Albert Einstein turns up. Although she is not related to the scien­tist, Tanya Ury’s picture of the pipe-smoking researcher together with the artist, holding a (pipe) in the same manner, has a bizarre aura.

A humorous edge flashes up directly with the seri­ously intended repre­sen­ta­tion of personal history. Tanya Ury’s photos sealed under plex­i­glass there­fore lend the exhi­bi­tion a certain relief from earnest themes…” 


Or Else

…Tanya Ury’s photographs Du bist Einstein“ and or else“ insis­tently but at the same time with humour concern them­selves with ques­tions of iden­tity. With these, she posi­tions recre­ated photographs next to the originals…”

A persua­sive yes to art – A tour in the Städtis­chen Galerie (City Gallery) through the Jahre­sausstel­lung des Kunstvereins Rosen­heim (Rosen­heim Art Centre’s Yearly Exhi­bi­tion), by Raimund Feichtner (with an image of Du bist Einstein“, 23.4.2007 Kultur in der Region (Culture in the Region), Verlagshaus (Publishing House) Rosen­heim (D)

(Trans­la­tion from German T.U.)

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