Röslein Sprach...



A performance video (D)
52 minutes, Analogue Beta SP, PAL 4:3

2005 Trailer 3.30 Minutes


Insurance value DVD: 200 €uro

Since 2010, Tanya Ury has been working on the research project Who’s Boss – Empire’s New Clothes, as PhD. in Humanities candidate at Leiden University, Institute for Cultural Disciplines (NL)



Close-up video images show Ury's right-hand stitching the word "Boss" into the palm of her left-hand; the thin sewing needle, threaded with fine black cotton, does not incur any bleeding.

Röslein Sprach… the video title (trans.: The little rose spoke…) refers to a line from the second verse of "Heidenröslein", a poem by Goethe 1799, that Schubert set to music in 1815 and that can also be heard in the video. The song tells of a red rose, whose only defence against the attacks of a wild boy are the ineffective pricks of her thorns.


Your Rules 2004 is an artwork that incorporates a photographic image of the artist's hand embroidered with the word 'Boss' and a poster for Hugo Boss men's fragrances, in which a young man displays his hand inscribed with the handwritten logo 'your rules'.

Coded within the video are allusions to the fascist activities of the fashion house Hugo Boss AG during the Third Reich era, when an elite workforce of seamsters and seamstresses was specially assembled from all over Nazi-occupied areas of Europe, to work as poorly paid forced labour, making uniforms in the Boss Metzingen workshop, in Germany.

The general public was only first made aware of this scandal in 1997, when the name Hugo Ferdinand Boss appeared in Swiss bank account lists from the Nazi period. Hugo Boss has since only paid the absolute minimum required compensation into a fund set up by the German government but it is unlikely that the few surviving victims will ever receive reimbursement, given the late decision to undertake anything and the slow machines of bureaucracy.

The Boss credo of re-writing the rulebook to suit one's personal needs, is reflected in their current German television advertising campaign 2004, for Hugo Boss eau de toilette: accompanying the voice-over: "your fragrance, your rules", a tattooed youth holds up the palm of his hand close to the camera, where one can read the handwritten statement: "your rules". Tanya Ury parodies this with her hand-sewn testimony "Boss".

The video imagery also refers to the photography of Daniel Buetti, where a variety of fashion logos appear to be sewn into the fashion model´s skin; Buetti's working process does not in fact, involve any kind of injury to the model: his photographic images, having had holes punched through from the back, are then re-photographed.

The glorification or belittlement of violence towards women in literature starts early on, with the Heidenröslein1, for example. You might think that the symbolic representation of a brutal rape, set to music or not, wouldn’t be a suitable subject for school education, least of all placed on the same level with actual love songs. Goethe and Schubert aside, the last verse is only a lightly disguised terror scene: “And the rough boy picked the rose,
little red rose on the heath,
and the red rose fought and pricked,
yet she cried and sighed in vain,
and had to let it happen.2

The belittlement arises because the rapist, a fully-fledged, or at least sexually mature man, comes across as a “wilder Knabe”, a “wild boy”, who has symbolically carried out the act on a flower, although distinctly bruiser and weak girl are inferred and the fact that the terror is washed over in the trilled away refrain “Röslein, Röslein, Röslein rot / Röslein auf der Heiden“ (Little rose, little rose, little rose red,
Little rose of the field.3)

The song is false, because it presents a crime as something unavoidable and as a love scene, moreover. In Helke Sander’s controversial documentary film BeFreier und Befreite (Liberators take Liberties), a male choir is deployed to sing the “Heidenröslein“ unambiguously and without comment in the context of the mass rapes of the Second World War. For a girl or woman to find such a song pretty, she would have to suppress more of her human self-awareness than it is worth, not to mention her erotic needs.4

1 "Heidenröslein" or "Heideröslein" ("Rose on the Heath" or "Little Rose of the Field") is a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, published in 1799. It was written in 1771 during Goethe's stay in Strasbourg when he was in love with Friederike Brion, to whom the poem is addressed. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heidenröslein (ed. Tanya Ury)
2 Ibid 1.
3 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heidenröslein
4 Source: Ruth Klüger, Frauen lesen anders (Women Read Differently, in: Die Zeit, No. 48, 25.11.1994 https://www.stark-verlag.de/upload_file/Muster/1045401m1.pdf


Concept and performance: Tanya Ury
Camera: Katja Butt
AVID Edit: Rainer Nelissen
Music: "Heidenröslein", Schubert 1815, verse by Goethe 1779, contralto Janet Baker, Piano accompaniment Geoffrey Parsons, recorded in 1981.

This video extract is the last three and a half minutes of the DVD.