Poker Poems 2003

(in 34 time)
15 A4 sheets of English verse (unpub­lished), hand­written in mirror form, framed in light wooden frames. (Hand mirror is provided.) Insur­ance price 1000 Euros

The Poker Poems are by and large about an imag­ined inter­ac­tion between the dictator Adolf Hitler and the philoso­pher Ludwig Wittgen­stein. It is possible that they knew each other in forma­tive years. Hitler and Wittgen­stein were born within 5 days of each other, the former 20.4.1889 the latter 26.4.1889; they also both attended the same school as 14 year-olds in Austrian Linz and were literary contem­po­raries: Wittgenstein’s Trac­tatus Logico-Philo­soph­icus” published in 1921, was written in the German trenches of World War I, Hitler’s Mein Kampf” in 1924. Kimberley Cornish bases his book The Jew from Linz” 1998, on the premise that the anony­mous Jew of Mein Kampf” may have been Wittgen­stein. Tanya Ury has adopted the name Hermè in many of her texts. In the Poker Poems, Hermes refers to her and me, two opposing poles. Alter­na­tive refer­ences to other unholy twins are: Ludwig Wittgen­stein and the philoso­pher Karl Popper, Alice (of Alice in Wonder­land by Lewis Carroll 1832 – 98) and Paulinchen (of Struwelpeter, the German cautionary tales, by Hein­rich Hoff­mann 1809 – 94); paral­lels are also drawn between the biblical twins Jacob and Esau, Jacob and the angel, Jeckyll and Hyde, etc. In Ury’s Poker Poems Wittgen­stein is referred to as a she. The form of the work is also inverted — these are through the looking glass poems, written in mirror form, like Jabber­wocky of Alice Through the Looking Glass”. The callig­raphy of the Poker Poems when seen in a mirror appears clumsy and child-like. Often the sense of Wittgenstein’s Trac­tatus” is anal­o­gous with the nonsen­sical nature of Alice’s universe; Lewis Carroll published several logical puzzles for chil­dren that were consid­ered signif­i­cant by logicians.
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)

The ladder referred to in the final lines of Wittgenstein’s Trac­tatus” is in the Poker Poems, a Jacob’s ladder, or a quick­silver ther­mometer: 6.54 My propo­si­tions serve as eluci­da­tions in the following way: anyone who under­stands me even­tu­ally recog­nizes them as nonsen­sical, when he has used them – as steps – to climb up beyond them. (He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it.) He must tran­scend these propo­si­tions, and then he will see the world aright.” Extract from Wittgenstein’s Trac­tatus Logico-Philosophicus”

Wittgen­stein, who had been awarded a medal for bravery in the First World War, was forced to buy his family out by the Second; they were consid­ered Jewish by the Nurem­berg Laws. In Ury’s poem Adolf Hitler substi­tutes Karl Popper, contender for the philosopher’s crown, in a noto­rious poker game of words with Wittgen­stein that took place during a Moral Science Club Seminar 1946, in Cambridge, England. It was the only time that the two emigrant Austrian Jews were to meet. Their views were diverging; where Wittgen­stein aspired to deci­pher puzzles, Popper aimed to solve prob­lems. This was for him more than the mere untan­gling of linguistic equa­tions; Popper believed that philos­ophy should be prac­tical, that a philosopher’s moral duty was to assist in the real­i­sa­tion of demo­c­ratic rule. He felt that Wittgenstein’s theory of language was dangerous in its abstrac­tion and disin­terest of polit­ical actu­al­i­ties. The war was only just over; England was still living under rationing. It was cold and the only source of heat in H3, the room where the dispute took place, was from a small open fire­place. A fierce vocal exchange, which quickly devel­oped into a serious duelling of words, occurred within moments of the debate opening. Wittgen­stein seeking to illus­trate a point seized the poker, hot from the fire and appeared to threaten Popper with it. While wishing to demon­strate their supremacy in the field of philos­ophy, Wittgen­stein and Popper will nonethe­less have reminded each other, of philosophy’s failure in the face of Hitler’s brute power. Was this the true cause of their conflict? In Jewish terms, he (Wittgen­stein) could be seen as a tradi­tional wilder­ness-wandering tsaddik, a holy man.” (P.18: Wittgenstein’s Poker, Edmonds and Eidinow, 2001 Faber and Faber UK). Wittgen­stein, who was prob­ably a latent homo­sexual, embodied every­thing anathema to the prin­ciple in Hitler’s National Socialist civi­liza­tion. Like the Alien Hand Syndrome, which is an afflic­tion arising from a split in the cortex of the brain, whereby a domi­nant’ upper limb is likely to act against the will of its owner (the right hand liter­ally does not know what the left hand is doing), these twins of fate, Hitler and Wittgen­stein, dema­gogue and visionary, came to symbolise the polarised sides of a society that destroyed itself.

Tanya Ury

poems as PDF


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) 2006 (29.3.) Slide reading of short stories with menu for the new moon, Zagreus Project, Koch/​Kunst/​Galerie (Cookery/​Art/​Gallery), Berlin (D) 2010 (21.1212.6.2011) Poker Poems presented in an online exhi­bi­tion, The Weight of the Words”, curated by Pedro Torres (ES) www​.stuf​fin​ablank​.com/…

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