About the exhibition

Yiddishland Pavilion is the first independent transnational pavilion bringing together artists and scholars who activate Yiddish and the diasporic Jewish discourse in contemporary artistic practice. The Pavilion’s activities — performances, discussions, presentations of new artworks, physical and digital interventions — will unfold in Venice and online between April and November 2022.

The Yiddishland Pavilion takes place in a dialogue and collaboration with national pavilions of countries with histories of Yiddish-speaking Jewish migration. Being a fluid and nomadic project that is dispersed between Venice and the virtual world, the Yiddishland Pavilion represents Yiddishland ( ייִדישלאַנד or אידישלאַנד)—an imaginary country/land/space/territory and a stateless network connected through the Yiddish language and culture.

By placing the Yiddishland Pavilion into the framework of the Venice Biennale and the system of the national pavilions, the project challenges the principle of national division within the biennale. It forces the questions of national representation, selection, and inclusion in the art world into the political domain while also making connections between different art scenes through shared Jewish and Yiddish history.

May Events:

May 12th, 2pm EDT. Register here.

Online Talk: Mapping the impossible in the capital of modern Yiddish culture: A very brief, personal look at the geographies of Yiddish culture in New York over the last three decades.

Commentators have been announcing the death of Yiddish for hundreds of years. And in the post-war era, the number of American Yiddish speakers has dropped precipitously outside the Hasidic world. So how is it that a golden age of new Yiddish culture has been unfolding in New York over the last thirty years, with no sign of slowing down? For the answer, we must look to the magic of urban spaces: population density and the physical presence of cultural institutions on the landscape. Journalist Rokhl Kafrissen will give a brief overview of the historical homes of Yiddish in New York, and a personal and highly selective look at the various locations which have nurtured this new golden age of radical Yiddish culture.

May 26th, 2pm EDT. Register here.

Jenny Romaine, Vu Bistu Geven?/Where Have You Been?

Vu Bistu Geven?/Where Have You Been? is an adventure parable that asks urgent and timely questions about diasporic Jewish Montrealers’ relationships to land and colonialism.

Earlier iterations of the project include a film premiered at Klezkanada’s 2020 online summer retreat for which the team conducted interviews with Indigenous cultural leaders and historians, a local Québécois farmer, and staff from the beloved summer utopia, Camp B’Nai Brith. They pursued historical and archival research, and built relationships with Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) collaborators. Vu Bistu Geven? weaves together original music and songs in Yiddish, English, French, and Kanien’kehá:ka; characters penned by Yiddish Montreal writers; colourful, original narrative film sequences; and a collage of documentary and pop-culture material. With humour and loving curiosity, we walk the audience through realms of Jewish and Kanien’kehá:ka storytelling. Our playful aesthetic opens up to self-reflexive inquiry about Jewish participation in Canadian settler-colonialism and leaves us with the refrain: “Ikh hob nisht gevist, nor ze ikh itst! I didn’t know, but now I see”!.

In her online performance Jenny Romaine will present Vu Bistu Geven?/Where Have You Been? and its playful aesthetic that opens up to self-reflexive inquiry about Jewish participation in Canadian settler-colonialism and leaves us with the refrain: “Ikh hob nisht gevist, nor ze ikh itst! I didn’t know, but now I see”!.

Artistic team: Geoff Berner, Sadie Gold-Shapiro, Rachel Lemisch, Simone Lucas, Jenny Romaine, Trina Stacey and Don Patrick Martin, Ira Temple

Content providers:
Eric Pouliot-Thisdale: Band Council of Kanehsatà:ke
Janice Rosen: Canadian Jewish Archives
Irving Massey: son of Ida Maze
Yiddish Montreal writer
Bonnie Rubenstein: Nurse at CBB for 40 years
Mike Benchimol Lambersky: Camp Director
Trina Stacey: educator at Kanien’kehá:ka Onkwawén:na Raotitióhkwa Center working to preserve and enrich the language /culture in Kahnawá:ke
Montreal Yiddish writers Sholem Shtern, Chava Rosenfarb, Mordachai Richler and more.