Kölnisch Wasser



Video/performance 30 min German/English,
3 cameramen, 4 monitors (slides with English translation)

Concept, text, performance, edit: Tanya Ury
Tattoo Artist: Andy Wolf
Camera (in Tattoo documentation): Gesa Marten
Assistant (in Tattoo documentation): Ralph Plachetka
Voice over (man): Richard Layzell
Voice over (woman): Tanya Ury
Documentation Feminale Women’s Film Festival, Cologne (D) 1994: Claudia Wissmann

A split-screen video (33 mins) of 7 filmed, live performances with English subtitles, edited by Rainer Nellisen was produced in 2003.

Trailer 5 minutes

Price DVD: 200 Euros

The manuscript to Kölnisch Wasser including camera directions was compiled in 2007



Kölnisch Wasser – split screen projection 33 mins 2003
Concept: Tanya Ury
Avid edit: Rainer Nellisen
Avid edit, sound: Sigrid Hombach


Kölnisch Wasser – tattoo documentation 6.2.1993
Concept & performance: Tanya Ury
Tattoo Artist: Andy Wolf
Camera, tattoo documentation: Gesa Marten
Assistant, tattoo documentation: Ralph Plachetka
Second soundtrack:
Verse (English/German) written by Tanya Ury
Voice over, man: Richard Layzell
Voice over, woman: Tanya Ury
English folk song: Waley Waley
German Loreleylied, Heinrich Heine: Ich weiß nicht was soll es bedeuten
German Carnival Song: Es war ein mal ein treuer Husar
German popular song: Oh mein Papa…
From Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’: Full Fathom Five


Filmed performances:


Sheffield Media Show
Department of Art & Media
Sheffield Hallam University (GB)
Camera 1 Nick Stewart
Camera 2 Marcus Bastel
Camera 3 (documentation) Emma Hedditch


National Review of Live Art (selection)
The Green Room, Manchester (GB)
Camera 1 Nick Stewart
Camera 2 Marcus Bastel


120 Tage Einsamkeit
68Elf Galerie, Cologne (D)
Camera 1 Ralf Burau
Camera 2 Farhad Farhadi
Camera 3 (spectators) Christoph Lieck


Don’t Call me Erotic
London Film Maker’s Co-op, (GB)
Camera 1 John Jordan
Camera 2 Marcus Bastel
Camera 3 (spectators) Nick Stewart


Don’t Call me Erotic
Blacks of Soho, London (GB)
Camera 1 John Jordan
Camera 2 Jon Thompson
Camera 3 Mark Jay


Don’t Call me Erotic
Feminale Film Festival, Cologne (D)
Camera 1 Nick Stewart
Camera 2 Harald Busch
Camera 3 (spectators) Stefan Öehl


Cuba Cultur, Münster (D)
Camera 1 Michael Kolberg
Camera 2 Lutz Saure
Camera 3 (spectators) Bernd Conrad



The tattoo documentation was filmed in 1993. In the complete video/performance the live action occurs elsewhere – in another room or another building - the video images were relayed to the spectators by cable. The split screen version of Kölnisch Wasser, while sometimes recreating the original 4-monitor format, allows extracts from seven documented performances (1993-97) to be seen.




A tattoo is a religious taboo; a tattooed person would not be allowed a burial in a Jewish cemetery.

“You shall not gash yourselves in mourning for the dead; you shall not tattoo yourselves. I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19,28.

On 6th February 1993, in a small tattoo shop in Cologne, Germany, Tanya Ury had the number 4711, tattooed onto her right thigh. 4711 is the number of the famous Eau de Cologne, 'Kölnisch Wasser'. Many members of Ury's Jewish family, who had been citizens of Cologne, were deported from there to concentration camps.

The video/performance Kölnisch Wasser is dedicated to victims of sexual exploitation, violence, of racism and genocide. Pornography is cultural colonisation of (women's) bodies. As a Western world currency it swiftly swept into the East at the end of the cold war. Genocide is pornography carried to its natural conclusion. A camera lens may convey media images from Auschwitz, Bosnia and the degradation of women in pornography but the separation of time and location restrains our sense of moral responsibility.




“The day after getting the tattoo, I travelled from Cologne back to England where I was living. That evening I watched a television documentary about Milena Jesenská, recorded during my absence; she was the first translator of Kafka’s work (from German into Czechoslovakian). I wanted to know more about her, having only read Kafka’s letters to Milena, written during their two-year love affair from 1920 on; Max Brod published these posthumously and against Kafka’s will, although he burnt Milena’s letters.

I discovered that Milena had later become an ardent socialist and editor of her own newspaper Nàrodnì Listy; because of her resistance activities, the writing and publishing of outspoken, anti-fascist articles and the fact that she assisted many to escape Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia, Jesenská was eventually deported to the Ravensbrück concentration camp for women. Her number there was 4714 but her friends called her 4711, after the famous Eau de Cologne.

This video is dedicated to my grandmother Hedwig Ury, my two great-aunts Ella Unger and Grete Schiemann (both came from Cologne), to my father’s cousin Ruth, who at 15 was used as a concentration camp whore, before also being murdered and to Milena Jesenská who died in Ravensbrück, 1944.”

Tanya Ury




Hungarian translation Kristóf Szabó

The video extract is from the start of the video.