Zuzanna Hertzberg lives and works in Warsaw, PL

 

As I write these words, the war in Ukraine is unfolding, exposing the masculine and gendered nature of this conflict and many others. One aspect of Zuzanna Hertzberg’s practice is to recover the herstories of Jewish activism since the early twentieth century. For a decade, the artist has meticulously constructed an affective archive of women Jewish resistance fighters. Hertzberg’s thorough research is based on her own Polish-Jewish identity; her intersectional anarchafeminist political engagement; her interest in performance, artivism, omitted narratives and minority perspectives; and her concern with the flaws and blind spots of collective memory. She has compiled a collection of herstories of those who resisted but have not been remembered.

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Zuzanna Hertzberg, Mechitza. Individual and Organized Resistance of Women During the Holocaust, 2019–22, 5 large-scale textiles with photo prints, regularly activated through spoken word performances, overall dimensions approx. 200 × 750 cm, installation view, POLIN Museum, Warsaw, 2019, photo: Magda Starowieyska © Zuzanna Hertzberg

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Zuzanna Hertzberg, Mechitza. Women Fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprisings, 2019–22, textile banner with photo prints, created as an element of the artivist action on the anniversary of the outbreak of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, April 19, 2020, 92 × 134 cm © Zuzanna Hertzberg

For the 12th Berlin Biennale, she presents the heroines of ghettos and Nazi concentration and extermination camps in Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania—women that she introduced to the historical narrative in Poland, whose strategies could still be used today. We see their ID cards and articles they wrote, along with their young faces on photographs from collective meetings. The documentation is printed on large-format textiles that vaguely resemble banners, flags, or curtains. This is a reference to a mechitza, a partition between women and men in orthodox synagogues, and to the many lines of partition that run through families, systems of education, politics, or the constructions of shared histories. The textile backs feature printed maps of the sites of these women’s resistance. In her installations and self-initiated commemorative ceremonies in public space, often staged in former synagogues or deportation sites, Hertzberg pleas for more radical empathy and equality in the past, present, and future for all peoples regardless of how they identify themselves.

 

Joanna Warsza

Exhibitions

In the beginning was the deed!, 2021, Arsenal Gallery, Białystok (PL)

Difficult Pasts. Connected Worlds, 2020, Latvian National Museum of Art, Riga (LV)

Individual and Organized Resistance of Women during the Holocaust, POLIN – Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw (PL)

Touch the Art, Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art, Warsaw (PL)

Niepodległe: Women, Independence and National Discourse, 2018, Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw (PL)