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11/06/07 01:51:39 pm
'Judensau'


Tamy Ben-Tor, Judensau, 2007. Photo courtesy of the artist and Riccardo Crespi Gallery.

Tamy Ben-Tor Judensau at Salon 94, Nov 5.

The first of Tamy Ben-Tor??s four incarnations as part of her performance Judensau at Salon 94 was as a Gepetto-like character with a blonde wig and moustache, pressed shorts and slippers. She??d made her skin pale with powder so that her eyes looked all the more watery and red, adding to the measured despair of the character??s monologue given in German. For me, without an idea of what was being said, Ben-Tor??s physical expressions, her head mechanically shaking from side to side, her tongue sticking out in disgust and her slight rhythmical movements to the folk music soundtrack convinced you of some kind of detachment, a tangible gap between what the audience was expecting and what Ben-Tor had to say.

The three subsequent characters she assumed the roles of gave slightly more away. Changing personas at the side of the stage from the blond man into a raven haired, buck toothed, starchy school teacher figure, the artist read out the title of the second vignette in English ?? ???How does a Jew look??? Some German-speaking members of the audience giggled at a few early sections of her spiel; I imagined the front row were being sprayed with spittle throughout her comically delivered rant, but as she progressed I picked up on a few words here and there, ???homosexual?? and ???holocaust?? (again, she poked out her tongue). I began to realise there was something much darker going on ?? was she actually stating a case for holocaust denial?

The third of Ben-Tor??s characters was a physically stunted figure in dark clothing and a skull cap. Readying herself for the performance she kneeled down, drew her arms into her sleeves and craned her neck. Squinting, she mouthed along faultlessly to a soundtrack of what sounded like a clip from a Quentin Tarentino film talking about the Sabbath. When the voiceover ended the artist proceeded to pine after the life of a gentile - I want to eat the pork chop and the bacon!?? ???I want to die like a gentile! I want to be consumed by the gentiles!?? The fourth character, an older woman dressed in gaudy jewellery, a tracksuit top and sneakers, was proud of her assimilation into American society, proclaiming in a broad American accent that other Jews would bring another holocaust on themselves if they didn??t follow her example.

The title of the performance, Judensau is an anti-Semitic term from the Middle Ages meaning Jew??s sow, or Jews who suckle from a pig. Despite the language barrier, Ben-Tor??s performance functioned impeccably to unpack racism and inverted racism against Jews. From the plush environs of Salon 94, an exclusively accessible repository for contemporary art, the audience was confronted by underlying prejudice in the society that surrounds them and the threat to civil society this might carry.

Shama Khanna

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