Personal Affects – Going into the Archive



Lecture/paper (in English)


With the destruction of the Cologne Archive, a thousand years of German history was projected into the rain and mud; but it also included the legacy of my Jewish family that had previously already been marked by exclusion, during the Nazi regime – for in spite of having lived through persecution and exile, my family had been fortunate enough to possess archived material, over and above our oral history.


Although much of my written and artistic work, before and after the Cologne Archive incident in Germany had been related or dedicated to family history, I started to develop a series entitled Archive, in 2009, directly after the collapse of the Cologne Historical Archive. Personal Affects – Going into the Archive is a lecture/paper on some of this work but in particular about the history of the bequest that my siblings and I entrusted to the Archive in 1998, following the death of our mother in London.


Eberhard Illner, who until 2008 had been responsible for the departments Collections, Photography and Estates at the Historical Archives in Cologne, had expressed an interest in collecting our legacy because my British-German-Jewish family had been culturally active in Germany before and after the Second World War. I quote Illner, who since 2008 has been the Director of the Historical Centre in Wuppertal, speaking about our legacy in a German radio interview broadcast in January 2015:

You have to be aware that in Germany, not much has survived from this era, so that the deceased, suppressed cultural life in Germany was, or is actually only reconstructable by those creative artists in exile, who have emigrated - you will only find authentic material there.1

And here a quotation from Kölnisch Wasser (Eau de Cologne), a video-performance of mine from 1993:

How came it to pass
that I lost you?
Once lost
will I ever find you again?
the unconscious?



1 Working on the Archive – The Artist Tanya Ury By Astrid Nettling Broadcast: DEUTSCHLANDFUNK Radio - Cologne, Friday, 23rd Januar 2015, 8.10 - 9. pm (Translation from German Tanya Ury)