Women Fighters: An Affective Archive
Curators: Natalia Andrzejewska & Dorota Jarecka
This solo show by Zuzanna Hertzberg, an interdisciplinary artist, artivist and researcher, has been conceived as a visual narrative of the history of Jewish women’s activism in the 20th century. The project contributes to her building a new affective archive of women’s experience. What methods did they use? How did they respond to oppression? And how can we use this knowledge in our struggles today? Galeria Studio presents artworks on fabric, objects and paintings. The exhibition is accompanied by a series of spoken word performances by the artist. By recovering the voice of women, narrating their lives and transferring them to the present day, Hertzberg develops a herstory of Jewish women’s resistance.
The exhibition is made up of two parts. The first, in the lower gallery space, presents the project Mechitza. Individual and Collective Resistance of Women during the Shoah. The term mechitza refers to the barrier separating the men’s prayer section in a synagogue from the section designated for women. It is a metaphor for the segregationist mechanism of archival practices—the obliteration of the female voice in the story of the Shoah, the reduction of the importance of women fighters to the role of “assistants” (liaison officers, orderlies, partners). It can also be seen as a symbol of socio-political engineering designed to divide and marginalize. This project was conceived in 2016, with its initial development presented at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, followed by a presentation at the 12th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art in 2022. It is dedicated to the women who formed the Jewish resistance movement in ghettos and concentration camps. They formed a core of the Jewish armed struggle, unlike other formations based on an “ethnic” majority.
A work that is located in the same room and enters into a spatial dialogue with Mechitza is Shibboleth Ż (2019). The Hebrew word Shibboleth was used as a catchphrase to identify an enemy because it contains a language-specific voicing that a foreigner cannot pronounce. The letter Ż which follows Shibboleth is a symbol of uniqueness and the impossibility of articulating the experience of the Shoah, irreducible to the narratives circulated about it. It is a sign of belonging that defines the identity of women ghetto fighters, but also the risk of being recognized on the Aryan side.
The exhibition combines the abovementioned projects with works dedicated to the participation of Jewish women in anarchist and anti-fascist movements. The installation Volunteers for Freedom (2016–2020) is located in the upper gallery space. This consists of box-objects telling the story of women who fought to defend the Republic against General Franco’s military coup during the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939), accompanied by spoken word performances by the artist. Next to this we have a work about the Jewish-Ukrainian anarchist Olga Taratuta, which was first shown in 2021 at the exhibition “In the beginning was the deed” at the Galeria Arsenał in Bialystok.
Another installation, dedicated to the International Brigades was first prepared for the exhibition “Difficult Pasts. Connected Worlds” (presented in Riga and Vilnius in 2022), and refers to previous interventions by the artist in public spaces, beginning with an action in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw, carried out on March 1, 2016. Under the title “Dabrowskis – Disavowed among Disavowed” this action considered the volunteers fighting in Spain, whose memory has been erased in public discourse.
Zuzanna Hertzberg (b. 1981) studied at the Władysław Strzemiński Academy of Fine Arts in Lodz and the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw from where she received a PhD. She has participated in many exhibitions in Poland and abroad, including “Progress and Hygiene” at Zachęta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw in 2014, “After the Rally” at Galeria Studio in Warsaw (2016), “Niepodległe: Women, Independence and National Discourse” at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw (2018/2019), “Difficult Pasts. Connected Worlds” at the Latvian National Museum of Art in Riga (2020/2021), and most recently at the National Gallery of Art in Vilnius (2022), as well as in “Still Present!” at the 12th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art (2022). She presented Mechitza. Individual and Collective Resistance of Women during the Shoah at the Center for Jewish History in New York (2022/23). She is a co-founder of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Bloc, and a Board Member of the Association of The Jewish Historical Institute of Poland. Her works are included into several public and private art collections
WOMEN FIGHTERS. AN AFFECTIVE ARCHIVE
Curators: Natalia Andrzejewska & Dorota Jarecka
Production: Ewa Grzebyk
PR: Marta Sputowska, Majka Duczyńska
English copy-editing: Daniel Malone
Install: Realizacja Wystaw
March 27, 2023, 6 PM – exhibition opening
March 27, 2023, 6 PM – spoken word performance by Zuzanna Hertzberg Mechica. indywidualny i zbiorowy opór kobiet podczas Zagłady (in Polish)
April 18, 2023, 2 PM – spoken word performance by Zuzanna Hertzberg, Mechitza: Individual and Collective Resistance of Women during the Shoah (in English)
April 18 2023, 3.30 PM – spoken word performance by Zuzanna Hertzberg Mechica. Indywidualny i zbiorowy opór kobiet podczas Zagłady (język polski)
April 20, 2023, 5 PM – spoken word performance by Zuzanna Hertzberg, Mechitza: Individual and Collective Resistance of Women during the Shoah (in English)
April 20, 2023, 6 PM – spoken word performance by Zuzanna Hertzberg, Volunteers for Freedom (in English)
Further events www.teatrstudio.pl/galeria
Exhibition hours Tuesday to Sunday, 12 pm–7 pm
For Museums Night on May 13, 2023, the exhibition will be open until 12 pm
The exhibition will be closed between April 7 – April 10, 2023
Honorary Patronage: POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews
Partner: Czarne Publishing House