is a visual street dictionary and site-specific glossary based on graffiti. Up to now the public art project was carried out three times by Parrhesia
, a group of Jewish and Palestinian educators, artists and activists from Israel.
Primarily the project was developed in 2006 in two neighbourhoods in Tel Aviv/Jaffa and Jerusalem in Israel - in Arabic language with translation and phonetics in Hebrew. Though almost all over Israel bilingual streetsigns in Hebrew and Arabic exist, this is not true for Tel Aviv/Jaffa (where they are bilingual Hebrew/English mostly). Moreover, extremists started to erase, strikethrough and overwrite Arab lettering in existing signs (using stickers or spray paint) during and after 2006 Lebanon War. Parrhesia regards this act of various individuals or groups as corresponding with Israeli state practice of excluding Arabic language and Palestinian culture from the public sphere. Twenty percent of the Israeli state's citizens are Palestinians, being daily delegitimized. As a response to the erasure of Arabic language and culture from public sphere in Israel, within the framework of Through Language project in Jerusalem (German Colony) and a former Arabic neighbourhood in Tel Aviv/Jaffa, common every day objects - like doors, windows or walls - were lettered in Arabic with Hebrew translation and Hebrew phonetics. In this way passersby were invited to learn Arabic in the street, to enjoy the beauty of the words and to reflect the possibility of a real living together.
On the occasion of the exhibition „Overlapping Voices. Israeli and Palestinian Artists“ in the Essl Museum in Klosterneuburg (16.05.08– 26.10.2008)
the street dictionary was carried forward (and transponed) to Vienna, with German translation and phonetics added.
Through Language in Vienna questions the current tendency of the Western world to perceive the Arabic and Hebrew languages and cultures as a threat. The particular place chosen by the artists for this project is a neighbourhood in Vienna´s 20th district - around the Augarten. In close touch with local small business people and local citizens' committees, graffiti on sidewalks and shopwindows were planned and carried out.
- "AugartenCity", as people living around call their neighbourhood and their fictitious state - was not chosen by chance: the "verlorene Insel (lost island)" was a Jewish residential before Holocaust. It was the main scene of Jewish displacement in 1938 – and as a site of new migration, it is the space of current conflicts between populism, antisemitism, xenophobia and Muslim self-assertion. In Vienna, neither Arabic nor Hebrew is neutral. In light of Nazi past and islamophobic, antisemite tendencies in present, these languages in Viennese public sphere seem to be a danger, a threat to the public order. Vienna municipality was worried about this experiment, they feared of violent reactions. Until now these reactions did not occur, so the project can be visited until October 26th in Viennese Jägerstrasse. Beyond the fear of apparently "alien" conflicts, maybe the particular combination of Arabic, Hebrew and German can clarify that the history of the Shoah and the Nakba in Germany and Austria, in Vienna is always also "our own" history.
Through Language in Vienna is a collaboration between Parrhesia
and Zochrot [Remembering]
, a group of Jewish and Palestinian citizens from Israel working to raise awareness of the Nakba, the Palestinian catastrophe of 1948, and the Viennese artist and architect Ursula Hofbauer
, a local cultural institution, was very helpful during the process of planning and carrying out the project in Vienna. So were many shopkeepers
in Jägerstrasse and Radio Orange
(also situated in the area). The discussion about the project and the questions raised by the exhibition in Essl Museum is ongoing at the blog of ritesinstitute
, run by two of the curators.
Most of the stencils used for the graffiti in Jägerstrasse and for a part of the exhibition in Essl Museum stayed in Vienna. Currently at the Pakistani restaurant Der Wiener Deewan
, where they shall help to make the place even nicer than it already is. Parrhesia wants to give the stencils as a gift to the local community, to Viennese artists, graffiti artists and activists. Ursula Hofbauer gladly(!) gets the stencils across
to interested people!! With handling instructions by request.
Ursula Hofbauer also offers T-Shirts with trilingual print to buy.