Boris Lurie (1924 – 2008) was a visual artist, concentration camp survivor, NO!art founder, New Yorker from Riga - and author: his volume ►Geschriebigtes, Gedichtigtes fuses unadorned narrative, poetry, and wicked lightness like few other works dealing with survival in and after the Holocaust. "I acquired the foundations of my artistic education in concentration camps like Buchenwald," Lurie wrote. He collages images of ►mounds of corpses with pin-ups, attacking fascism, racism, and the sexism of consumer society. Raw storytelling, bold, unbridled fluency, and playful poetry infused with music.
Lurie's Lyrics is an experimental stage production that makes Lurie's writings resonate. The evening pays tribute to a great nonconformist who did not want superficial meaning, but - according to Volkhard Knigge of the Buchenwald Concentration Camp Memorial - "outcry and confrontation."
Our thanks go to B.O.A. Videofilmkunst, Reinhild Dettmer-Finke, Eckhart Gillen, Thomas Herget, Eckhart Holzboog, Reiner Kienemann, Volkhard Knigge, Felix Länge, ►Naomi Tereza Salmon, Rafael Vostell, ►Anthony Williams, Mirjam Zadoff.
Very special thanks go to Matthias Reichelt for his generous help. We thank ►Gertrude Stein of the Boris Lurie Art Foundation, New York, without whom this project could not have been realized, and Norman Kleeblatt for his helpful mediation.
Recommended by the Jewish Cultural Days Munich 2022
Excerpt: From the Digital Program Booklet "Lurie's Lyrics"
Boris Lurie: Our only master is the truth
by Eckhart Gillen, 2022
Born in Leningrad in 1924, the youngest child of Shaina and Ilya Lurie, Boris Lurie, at the age of 17, witnesses the brutal tearing apart of his family, which moved from the Soviet Union to independent Latvia in Riga in 1925. His mother Shaina, his grandmother and the younger of his two sisters, Jeanne, wait in the "Great Ghetto" of Latvian Riga for their "evacuation", which was in reality a deportation to the forest of Rumbula, eight kilometers from Riga, where they were forced to strip naked in the middle of winter on December 8, 1941 and were shot. Among them, Lyuba Treskunova, his childhood sweetheart, also met her death.
Boris Lurie Portrait | Photo: N.T. Salmon
Against all odds, Boris Lurie and his father Ilya manage to survive the next four years in German camps. Fourteen years after the end of the war, he is able to articulate these traumatic events for the first time in his painting Liberty or Lice. The painting's title represents the sarcastic rift between the lice as a deadly threat in the camps and the promised 'freedom' in the new, yet alien, homeland of America.
In this painting, the history of his past overlaps and blends with the shocking experiences of an aggressive consumer society. In this painting, undigested memory images materialized for the first time, such as the photograph of the Riga ghetto, a passport photo of the artist, a Jewish star among scraps of advertising, and high-heeled shoes between the dates of the mass shooting in December 1941 and his liberation in 1945, reopening access to his traumatic past.
Long before his first trip in 1975 to the scene of the crime in Riga, which also becomes the trigger for a literary reappraisal of the past in the form of his autobiography "In Riga," the initially 'unconscious' handling of images is the first step toward a 'conscious' understanding of one's own self in his later literary work, which also includes poems in Baltic German and an autobiographical role-playing novel ►Haus von Anita (Göttingen 2022). Boris Lurie professes a serious, honest art directed toward truth and knowledge against Dada irony and anti-art, which he strictly demarcated from a vain self-sufficient art market art with the NO!art movement he initiated between 1960 and 1964. For him, art literally became an art of survival.
Bories Lurie und Rudolf Herz in der Ausstellung „Mirroring Evil“
im Jewish Museum New York 2002
His art proves to be a unique medium for visualizing and processing trauma. The best way to restore the broken connection with the inner self is for the trauma victim to attempt to enter into a creative dialogue with his or her trauma. Artistic work counteracts the tendency toward inner disintegration and thus helps the trauma victim regain a sense of identity and self-worth. Painting as a somatic, artistic activity is not so much a reconstruction of the past as a search movement, a revival, a rediscovery, then a review, a rejection, a search for traces in order to observe what emerges and in the end a construction as a speculative assemblage with an open outcome.
Boris Lurie worked in the midst of the New York art scenes of Abstract Expressionism, Neo-Dadaism, New Figuration, and Pop art around 1960, in which, as many testimonies attest, he moved on an equal footing with renowned colleagues such as Rothko, Rauschenberg, and Warhol and cultivated diverse contacts. Although he worked with the most advanced art forms, his only concern was always to achieve something with his art, and above all to be able to better understand his own situation. As a survivor of the Holocaust, he irrevocably lived in a different world, on a different planet, in a different value system. Worse than the experienced crimes, the experienced violence of the perpetrators, it was for Boris Lurie and his fellow sufferers to endure the indifference of his contemporaries. Parallel to the famous exhibition "The Art of Assemblage" (MoMA, Oct. 2-12, 1961), for which Alfred Barr, Jr. and his curator William Seitz had already selected works by Lurie that were not shown after all, the most disturbing work by Boris Lurie was probably created: ►Flatcar, Assemblage, 1945, by Adolf Hitler. Lurie uses an anonymous photograph and produces an offset print from it with the caption identifying Adolf Hitler as the author of a macabre scene of crisscrossed naked corpses thrown on top of each other in the open bed of a trailer. What a provocation for the New York avatar scene: Boris Lurie declares Adolf Hitler the greatest action artist. For, if art is to be transferred into life, then Hitler has been the greatest, most powerful and effective artist, the artist with the most far-reaching consequences. Unlike the political action artists of the 1960s, who sought to short-circuit art and life with deliberate rule-breaking and a mixture of Dadaist provocation and political manifestation, Lurie wants to make art out of the raw material of life, out of the pain that life has inflicted on him.
Art helps him to understand, process, transform and endure his past life, which was so improbable and absurd. Lurie was always and exclusively concerned with uncovering the truth about life, about the persistence of violent relationships and the indifference of the public in the face of these facts.
Eckhart Gillen, who holds a doctorate in art history, lives as a freelance curator in Berlin. Since the mid-1970s, exhibitions and publications on 20th century art, for which he has received several awards.
German – Culture 17. Nov 2022
Munich Kammerspiele present
Performance on two evenings.
Tomorrow, Friday, and Saturday, the Münchner Kammerspiele will present the multi-media performance "Lurie's Lyrics," which brings texts by the great nonconformist and Holocaust survivor Boris Lurie to life. The evening pays tribute to the artist (1924-2008), who did not seek superficial meaning, but rather, according to Volkhard Knigge of the Buchenwald Concentration Camp Memorial: "outcry and confrontation" (link). Lurie was born in Leningrad in 1924, but grew up in Riga. He was 16 years old at the time of the German invasion. The Germans murdered most of his family and Lurie's first girlfriend. Only he and his father survived and were able to emigrate to the United States in 1946. But he had already begun to process his experiences of suffering artistically at the end of the war. Even though he was soon to expand the media and formal language of his work, the linking of his own ►Vita with consumer culture and thus the transformation of people, bodies, and art into commodities and consumer goods remained Lurie's central project as an artist.—Andreas Mink