About the exhibition

Yiddishland Pavilion is the first independent transnational pavilion bringing together artists and scholars who activate Yiddish and the diasporic Jewish discourse in contemporary artistic practice. The Pavilion’s activities — performances, discussions, presentations of new artworks, physical and digital interventions — will unfold in Venice and online between April and November 2022.

The Yiddishland Pavilion takes place in a dialogue and collaboration with national pavilions of countries with histories of Yiddish-speaking Jewish migration. Being a fluid and nomadic project that is dispersed between Venice and the virtual world, the Yiddishland Pavilion represents Yiddishland ( ייִדישלאַנד or אידישלאַנד)—an imaginary country/land/space/territory and a stateless network connected through the Yiddish language and culture.

By placing the Yiddishland Pavilion into the framework of the Venice Biennale and the system of the national pavilions, the project challenges the principle of national division within the biennale. It forces the questions of national representation, selection, and inclusion in the art world into the political domain while also making connections between different art scenes through shared Jewish and Yiddish history.

June Events:

June 15th, 2:00pm EDT, 20:00 CEST. More information here.

Alexandra Chiriac, Sonia Gollance, Sala-manca

TRADITIONAL, EXPERIMENTAL, DIGITAL. FROM MODERN YIDDISH THEATER TO CONTEMPORARY PERFORMANCE ART

Yiddish theater is a phenomenon of global Yiddish culture that largely contributed to development and preservation of the Yiddish world and enhanced its connections and dialogue with other cultures. Having originated in the Middle ages in the form of street musical performances and masquerades, later Yiddish performances started to include more elaborated forms of entertainment and education like plays performed during the religious holiday of Purim (known as Purimshpils). Urbanization and secularization as well as exposure to the theatre traditions of various European countries, and growth of the Jewish literary culture in the wake of the Haskalah led to professionalisation of Yiddish theater and broadening of the spectrum of the themes it had addressed including immigration, poverty, and integration. Modern Yiddish theater was founded by Abraham Goldfaden in 1876 in Romania, who started a theatrical tradition of Eastern European theater in Yiddish – this gave boost to appearance of multiple troupes, multiple playwrights, and Yiddish theatre critics and theoreticians in Russia, Poland, the UK and the Americas. Like the rest of Yiddish-language culture, Yiddish theatre was devastated by the Holocaust. Most of the world's Yiddish-speakers were killed and many theatres were destroyed. Yiddish-speaking performers and theater directors who managed to emigrate to the US and Canada, continued the traditions of Yiddish theater there, which allowed them to preserve both the language and the performing canon. Today Yiddish troupes also exist in Europe, Australia and Israel.
Invited speakers, that are both Yiddish theater researchers and practitioners, will look into different eras and aspects of Yiddish theater - from the sociopolitical and cultural contexts shaping theater productions in the 1920-s Romania to strategies of studying less known voices behind Yiddish dramaturgy and to multidisciplinary and multidimensional performances blending traditional Yiddish plays with contemporary artistic practices and new technologies.

Alexandra Chiriac focuses on Yiddish theatre in Romania in the first decades of the 20th century. In the 1920s and early 1930s, Bucharest was a thriving space of experimentation in Yiddish theatre. It was home not only to the world-famous Vilna Troupe (an international and mostly Yiddish-speaking theatrical ensemble formed in and named after the city of Vilnius/Vilna, and one of the prominent in the history of Yiddish theatre), but also to the avant-garde theatre director Iacob Sternberg (a native of Bessarabia and creator of the Bucharest Yiddish Theatre Studio). The productions they created were extremely popular, yet also boundary-pushing, relying on an expert blend of tradition and innovation. Chiriac has pieced together some of these experimental productions and the effects they created on stage and amongst the audience. In this talk, she discusses her search for the remnants of Yiddish theatre in Romania and reveals some of her most interesting research finds.

Sonia Gollance discusses how her work editing an online database of Yiddish play synopses for the Digital Yiddish Theatre Project inspired her to research women who wrote plays in Yiddish. This topic has not received much scholarly attention but has generated increased interest among translators and dramaturges in recent years. She will also speak about her current project translating Tea Arciszewska's "Miryeml", a play about the trauma experienced by children during the Holocaust that contains both modernist and folkloric elements.

Artist group Sala-manca (Lea Mauas and Diego Rotman) reviews and discuss some of the Yiddish performances we created during the last 20 years: "Albatros 2003", "Elephants in the nights of Metula" (2005), "West and East" (2008), "The Dybbuk 1937-2022"(2017, 2022), and "Yiddish Silence" (2021), "Escape" (2022) and "Between Two Worlds" (2022). Many oif these projects deal with poetics of translation (cultural, mediatic and social), with textual, urban and net contexts and with the tensions between low tech and high tech aesthetics, as well as social and political issues.

June 22nd, 2:00pm EDT, 20:00 CEST. Register here.

Cecile E. Kuznitz, Hagar Cygler, Natalia Romik

IMPRINT ON THE LANDSCAPE: LEGACY AND POLITICS OF YIDDISH AND JEWISH ARCHITECTURE


The concept of Yiddishland illuminates one strategy that a widely-dispersed people can use to maintain its identity while lacking a discrete territory: grounding its culture not in a physical space but in a shared language. Similarly, the idea of Yiddish architecture points to ways that Jews in the Diaspora, lacking political power and everywhere a minority, nonetheless left their imprint on the landscapes they inhabited. Paradoxically, it shows how Yiddish culture - defined by the intangible factor of language - may be enriched by the study of concrete architectural and urban forms. Yiddish speakers marked their environments aurally, as historically the language could be heard in any neighborhood where Ashkenazi Jews resided. Many residents (including non-Jews) referred to streets and landmarks there by their unofficial, distinctive Jewish names.

The language was also made visible on announcements and advertisements posted throughout Jewish neighborhoods. By the turn of the twentieth century as language choice became politicized, supporters of Yiddish encouraged shop owners to include the language in their displays as a symbol of Jewish national pride.


In the same period Jewish activists created a range of new political and cultural movements whose ideological innovations were reflected in the built environment. Groups such as Diaspora Nationalists (who wished to strengthen a Jewish national culture in the lands of their residence) created a network of new institutions that included trade unions and newspapers, schools and summer camps, libraries and theaters. Most activists lacked the resources to erect new facilities and so existing structures were adapted to Yiddish cultural functions. As they were shaped by new users committed to the Yiddish language, we may argue that these buildings became a kind of Yiddish architecture.

Director of Jewish Studies at Bard College Cecile E. Kuznitz discusses the main principles of Jewish architecture and speaks about cases when supporters of Yiddish culture did sponsor new construction purpose-built to house their activities. Examples Cecile touches upon span the geographic breadth of Yiddishland, from secular schools in Poland to cultural centers in Israel to housing co-operatives in New York. A close examination of their physical forms reveals points of commonality such as a shared commitment to the Diaspora Nationalist principle of doikeyt [hereness]. While diverse in their stylistic choices, their designs reflect the interplay of various cultural and political influences and thus shed light on the dynamics of Yiddish culture. While they may not present a definitive definition of Yiddish architecture, such examples can help us to extend the concept of Yiddishland and understand the impact of Yiddish on the built environment.

Architect, urban researcher and artist Natalia Romik speaks about post-Jewish architecture of memory within former eastern European shtetls with a specific focus on Poland. She discusses the processes of architectural disappearance, urban remembrance, and functional change in the context of dramatic social upheaval. She presents her extensive research of the former shtetls, i.e. Jewish towns that once spanned throughout central/eastern Europe before the Second World War.
After the war they were repopulated by people of other nationalities who started to live in and reuse previously Jewish properties. Today the traces of the former Jewish populations have all but disappeared, not only from urban reality, but also from public discourse and social memory. Natalia’s research work and artistic practice aims to formulate a design method, which reuses abandoned architecture, promotes social cohesion and stimulates urban regeneration, while facilitating processes of social remembrance and enables reconciliation with a tragic past.


Artist Hagar Cygler presents her work I Will Try to Draw a Sketch of the Property As Best As I Can, But Please Don't Laugh created from found photographs, mostly from Israel and Poland, and short texts, combined together in a double sided puzzle. The imagery and text reflect the entangled and conflicted history of Poland and Israel, through the story of a 150 years old apartment building in Lodz that Hagar recently inherited.The narrative she grew up in in Israel offered her a historical righteousness and with it - in the context of current matters of housing rights, gentrification and other socio-political issues - came a sense of discomfort when questions of ownership, power and guilt arose. The project was first shown in Łódź Poland and later adapted for online format to be a part of Yiddishland Pavilion. In the panel Hagar Cygler discusses her visual and textual research of this specific place, exploring the complexity initiated in personal and collective histories.



Past Events:

May 12th, 2pm EDT. More information here.

Online Talk: Mapping the impossible in the capital of modern Yiddish culture: A very brief, personal look at the geographies of Yiddish culture in New York over the last three decades.

Commentators have been announcing the death of Yiddish for hundreds of years. And in the post-war era, the number of American Yiddish speakers has dropped precipitously outside the Hasidic world. So how is it that a golden age of new Yiddish culture has been unfolding in New York over the last thirty years, with no sign of slowing down? For the answer, we must look to the magic of urban spaces: population density and the physical presence of cultural institutions on the landscape. Journalist Rokhl Kafrissen will give a brief overview of the historical homes of Yiddish in New York, and a personal and highly selective look at the various locations which have nurtured this new golden age of radical Yiddish culture.

May 26th, 2pm EDT. More information here.

Jenny Romaine, Vu Bistu Geven?/Where Have You Been?

Vu Bistu Geven?/Where Have You Been? is an adventure parable that asks urgent and timely questions about diasporic Jewish Montrealers’ relationships to land and colonialism.

Earlier iterations of the project include a film premiered at Klezkanada’s 2020 online summer retreat for which the team conducted interviews with Indigenous cultural leaders and historians, a local Québécois farmer, and staff from the beloved summer utopia, Camp B’Nai Brith. They pursued historical and archival research, and built relationships with Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) collaborators. Vu Bistu Geven? weaves together original music and songs in Yiddish, English, French, and Kanien’kehá:ka; characters penned by Yiddish Montreal writers; colourful, original narrative film sequences; and a collage of documentary and pop-culture material. With humour and loving curiosity, we walk the audience through realms of Jewish and Kanien’kehá:ka storytelling. Our playful aesthetic opens up to self-reflexive inquiry about Jewish participation in Canadian settler-colonialism and leaves us with the refrain: “Ikh hob nisht gevist, nor ze ikh itst! I didn’t know, but now I see”!.


In her online performance Jenny Romaine will present Vu Bistu Geven?/Where Have You Been? and its playful aesthetic that opens up to self-reflexive inquiry about Jewish participation in Canadian settler-colonialism and leaves us with the refrain: “Ikh hob nisht gevist, nor ze ikh itst! I didn’t know, but now I see”!.

Artistic team: Geoff Berner, Sadie Gold-Shapiro, Rachel Lemisch, Simone Lucas, Jenny Romaine, Trina Stacey and Don Patrick Martin, Ira Temple

Content providers:
Eric Pouliot-Thisdale: Band Council of Kanehsatà:ke
Janice Rosen: Canadian Jewish Archives
Irving Massey: son of Ida Maze
Yiddish Montreal writer
Bonnie Rubenstein: Nurse at CBB for 40 years
Mike Benchimol Lambersky: Camp Director
Trina Stacey: educator at Kanien’kehá:ka Onkwawén:na Raotitióhkwa Center working to preserve and enrich the language /culture in Kahnawá:ke
Montreal Yiddish writers Sholem Shtern, Chava Rosenfarb, Mordachai Richler and more.

Media

Participants