Who's Who in Central & East Europe - A Journey in the Text
CD, Tzadik #8157
"This is the long awaited release of one of Dreyblatt's most personal and major extended works. Created in 1991, it combined documentary photographs, films, texts and sound materials selected from archives and private collections with original music and was a landmark in multimedia opera production, touring a dozen cities and winning the Philip Morris Art Prize in 1992." - Tzadik, 2010
Concept, Text, Music by Arnold Dreyblatt
Executive Producer: John Zorn
Peter Gilbert Cotton
Voice Recordings: Choose, Berlin
Sound Design: Jörg Hiller with Joachim Schütz, Choose, Berlin
Mastering: Mastertone by Scott Hull, 2010
Musicians and Participants:
Pierre Berthet: Water Drip Drum Installation, Percussion, Shelley Hirsch: Voice, Joachim Schütz: Guitar; Robin Hayward: Tuba; Jan Schade: Tuba; Jörg Hiller: Electronics; Hans Peter Kuhn: Sound Environment for original opera performance; Arnold Dreyblatt: Piano, Electronics, Sound Composition
CD Layout PDF >>>
Who's Who Website produced at the University of Lüneburg (1995): >>>
Performance Installation, Felix Meritis Foundation, Amsterdam
With support from the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation Amsterdam
An Installation in the Felix Meritis Foundation, Amsterdam, November 8-29, 1998
"The Memory Project" linked electronic media with history and art. The visitor encounters a microcosm of information, presented in contrasting mediums and with interacting content within a precise ritualistic time frame without beginning or end. Fragments of historical and contemporary biographical data were framed within a discussion on the nature of archiving and collection: what do we search for in the past; how do we find it; what do we want to keep from it; and how are these fragments from the past related to us today. The processes and multiple pathways of information storage, whether in the form of a library, archive, or museum; as well as in the digital form of a database network, were made transparent to the public. By participating in and interacting within this information and retrieval storage network, the visitor experienced a confrontation with the forms in which the keys to our identity and memory are stored outside ourselves by institutions and hired professionals.
Presented as a three-week installation, in which digital data from The Reading Projects were displayed and presented alongside incoming biographical data from Amsterdam; and an Event Mode, in which the installation comes to life through the intervention of live readings of historical material. A staff maintained the installation with 18 persons during the performances. 550 invited personalities from Amsterdam participated in readings in which one to nine persons might be reading outloud at any given time. The setting consisted of a large central monumental structure supporting four black transparent projection screens and containing the archival storage area, surrounded by reading areas and additional digital display surfaces.
The Installation took place in two modes: an "Installation Mode", in which digital data from Arnold Dreyblatt's databases are displayed and presented alongside incoming data from the growing "People Network" in Amsterdam; and an "Event Mode", in which the installation comes to life through the intervention of live readings of historical material from "Who's Who in Central & East Europe1933 " on particular days. The "Memory Project Staff" maintained the "installation mode" with 7 persons, growing to 18 persons during the "Event mode".
The Reception Area
Under the central stairwell of the historic Felix Meritis Foundation was placed the Reception Area where the public was informed about upcoming events on a rear projection screen, and Memory Staff Personnel register and informed invited readers and general public. During "Event Mode", the Reception Area was part of the data network which is connected to the Memory Hall Registration Desk upstairs.
The User Terminals
As the guest ascended the stairway he or she found three computers with keyboards, that could be directly accessed by the public. Each computer displayed one of three different data base informations:
a. "Reading Texts" (files) from "Who's Who in Eastern and Central Europe 1933"
b. "Schedule" which shows "who-reads-which-text-at-which time."
c. "People Network" whose data is derived from questionnaires which have been filled out by the Readers either in paper form or directly into this computer. These three computers are connected to the computer network, and one can search specific information from the databases.
The Memory Hall
The core of the installation took place in the historic Library of Felix Meritis, re-named "The Memory Hall" during the installation period. The Memory Hall consisted of a large central monumental structure which was constructed by a black platform foundation, supporting 4 black transparent screens. This large rectangular structure represents the digital "Brain" of the installation, containing 15 computers and the central server of the computer network as well as forming the large rear display panels which forms a central focus to the hall.
During the Installation Mode, these panels dynamically and continually display live searches through the "Who's Who in Central & East Europe 1933" databases. The panels are constructed of a black plexiglass material, so that the projected scrolling texts float suspended in space. On three sides of the so-called "Brain", were nine flat-laying Plasma Data Displays. Here were shown animated texts chosen from "Who's Who", statements on Memory and the nature of Archiving, biographical fragments from the accumulating Amsterdam People Network, as well as "peeks" at Dreyblatt's new "T-Mail" Communication Database which will form a major part of the project in 1999. These texts were decomposed and transformed into one another continually during the opening hours, posing a counterpoint to the large rear projection walls above. The Memory Hall was illuminated by a diffuse blue dark light that will reflect on the black PVC floor. During Installation Mode, Guided Tours to the interior of the brain were held at appointed times that were announced beforehand.
During Event Mode the nine Plasma Displays became"Reading Tables", where, on eleven specified days the hundreds of invited personalities from Amsterdam and the thousands of preselected biographical and historical files meet for live readings of "Who's Who in Central & East Europe 1933". Each reading had a differing thematic reference and the texts were read aloud in a choreographed polyphonic chorus according the "Events Schedule" for that particular evening. One to nine persons were reading at any one time.
During a reading, the name, profession and the corresponding file text content scrolls in a data projection above the head of each reader as he reads his or her text. The nine reading tables illuminate with white light the clear transparent file-texts as well as the reader him or her-self.
The "Brain" supported additional important locations and services during Event Mode. The outside rim of the Brain is the "Great Archive", where all the reading texts are stored, maintained and accessed. Here fragments of individual memory remnants which are physically located in archival storage are "brought out into the open" within the vocalized collective forum.
The public was able to choose between experiencing the "collective space" of simultaneous readings or moving in closer to hear the "individual" reawakening of specific texts, creating their own "stories" and "interpretations" while simultaneously reading the scrolling texts on the walls of the central structure.
The Memory Hall Personnel coordinated the event among the readers, the public and the hierarchical staff of archivists and bureaucrats, making sure that that each individual (invited reader and visitor) and each archive file is at the correct place at the correct time and that the "Events Schedule" is followed.
During Event Mode, the Archive Director sat behind the Memory Hall Registration Desk. The Archive Director was responsible for all the organization of the reading files and the coordination of the archivists who service the readers with files from the Archive. The On-Site Reading Registration Advisor assigns reading positions to the public on site. These two members of the Staff are assisted by a third person in direct digital contact with the main Reception Area under the main stairwell. Additional Staff Personnel guide the Public and Invited Readers to their appointed locations within the installation.
Texts: Who's Who in Central & East Europe 1933
Design, Technical Direction: Luca Ruzza
Data Projection, Database: Alexandr Krestovskij
Produced by: Toni Cots
Black room, computer data projection, suspended wire mesh, sound equipment. Size variable. 2008
An automated writing and recitation machine is found in a darkened black space. One enters a three dimensional data architecture where the process of searching, sorting and locating words and the overlapping inter-textual linkages of information are simulated optically by metaphors of transparence and complexity. Projected onto a barely visible cylindrical screen are multiple transparent layers of continually flowing historical data, which appear to be suspended in the center of the space, and which delineate the room contours with textual landscapes.
Two computers randomly search and locate thousands of words within an endless virtual page of biographical information in real time. As each word is found, it is highlighted visually and spoken out loud by a male or female voice. The voices gradually cross each other in time, creating a dialog. The viewer participates in a deconstruction of history through a non-linear and associational reading of forgotten archival fragments.
Texts from: Who's Who in Central & East Europe 1933
Design & Software Development: Luca Ruzza Studio, Rome
Software Consultant: Alexandr Krestovskij
Sound: Tom Korr
Felix Meritis Foundation, Amsterdam, 1998
Hamburger Bahnhof Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin, 1999-2000
Jewish Museum, New York, 2001
Arte in Memoria, Ostia Antica, Rome. 2002
Stadtgalerie Saarbrücken, 2003
Kampnagel, Hamburg; 1995
Marstall, Munich; 1995
Arken Museum, Cultural Capital of Europe, Copenhagen; 1996
A Performance-Installation in which hundreds of readers, both invited and voluntary participate in a reading from the text of "Who's Who in Central & East Europe 1933" text within a very precise temporal and visual environment. Crowds are processed by bureaucrats through a labyrinth-like transit station, passing through numerous passageways, waiting and administration areas, and then to thematically related exhibitions. The focal point is the "Archive", from which files are checked out and transported to the "Arena" where they are read aloud in a polyphonic choreography.
Texts: Who's Who in Central & East Europe 1933
Production Direction, Design and Light: Fred Pommerehn
Data Projection: Alexandr Krestovskij
Database Programming: Jost Muxfeldt
Project Description 1995:
A three day interactive performance-installation utilizing the text materials assembled for the performance Opera "Who's Who in Central & East Europe 1933" within a completely new context. Memory Arena has been designed expressely as a “site-specific” installation of long duration.
Memory Arena guides us through a non-linear narrative of individuals and places, travels, migrations, wars, revolutions, and competing minority groups, world powers and philosophies. The events and ideologies of this period, abruptly brought to an end by the events leading to up to the Second World War; are uniquely contemporary in the post-cold war “new world order” of Central and East Europe.
The journey evokes the atmosphere of a lost yet relevant era, told through the accumulation and interaction of biographical details in a “cut-up” hypertext archive of collective and personal memory. The public participates in a "navigation" within the book in a continually transforming multi-layered text and light environment.
Memory Arena is a Performance-Installation in which the public participates by stepping into the great archive and the infinite data bank. Hundreds of readers, both invited and voluntary participate in a reading from the Who's Who text within a very precise temporal and visual environment. Crowds are processed through a labyrinth-like transit station, and can spend their time in a number of different spaces with varying functions.
The Main Hall or "Arena" consists of a three tiered platform that covers three sides of the space leaving the central area or rotunda for the viewer. The viewer, who has entered through a tunnel-like hallway (which connects the Check-in area and the Arena) is surrounded on three sides by the event. The Viewer is able to choose between seeing the entire space or moving in closer to observe specific occurences.
Each of the three levels of the platform (the Lower or Inner level for the readers, the middle level for the Scribes, and the upper or outer most level for the archivist) contains twelve stations. A combination of one reader station, one scribe station and one archivist station make up one Reading Block. Hence the viewer is surrounded by a beehive of activity taking place in 12 three-tiered reading blocks.
Access to all levels is through the centrally located reader recall station. It is here that the Head Administrator and his or her staff of Runners coordinate all Arena personel with the several hundred readers; making sure that each individual is in the correct place at the right time and that the events protocol is followed meticulously.
An ongoing public reading from Who’s Who in Central & East Europe 1933 represents the focal point of "Memory Arena". Artists, Writers, Politicians, Intellectuals, Foreign Residents, etc. from the performance locality, well-known and unknown; will be invited to read for a limited period of time within a fixed time structure. From one to twelve “invited guests” and "applicants from the public" read simultaneously in German and foreign languages. In reflecting the past in the present, a politician might be given a text to read which concerns revolutionary figures in the Austro-Hungarian empire; a theater critic may be given a list of theater pieces or newspapers from Central and East Europe between the wars, a worker at the zoo might read a text about a director of a zoological institute, and so on.
All invited readers are given full written instructions as to what is expected of them: how long and when they will read, Check-In time, etc. The Waiting Area staff is prepared for the Readers as they appear, and the RunnerS prepare the text files according to the protocol, and escort The Readers through the Arena to their positions. Members of the public can apply to read in the Check-In Area and are called up by the public announcement system (RECALL) as needed. Each reading station consists of a table, a chair and a lamp which goes on and off when the reader should start and stop reading.
Twelve scribes wait for their reading blocks to be activated. When a reader assigned to that reading block begins to read, the scribe (hearing the text simultaneously through stereo headphones) types the spoken text as it is read onto a computer keyboard at their station. This data is gathered into centralized computer servers and projected simultaneously onto the data wall (a projection screen situated above and behind the reader recall station and spanning the entire width of the area. Each scribe station consists of a table and chair, and a computer keyboard and monitor.
Each reading block is under the control of an archivist. The archivists follow the main protocol, signal their readers and scribes as to when to stop and start by turning on and off signal lights hung above each station, keep general order in their block and report difficulties to the head administrator. The archivist is responsible for coordinating the files which contain the text or text fragments which have been pre-chosen for each reader. Each archiving station consists of a table, a lamp, and one chair each for incoming and outgoing readers, and a chair for the archivist. All aspects of the installation are synchronized to a MASTER PROTOCOL, which functions as a score (partitur) for all events. All RunnerS, performers and other technical personell follow the same PROTOCOL, in Memory Arena time.
The only interruptions to the protocol allowed are the Musical Incisions. The Musical Incisions consist of three to five minute performances by Dreyblatt's ensemble, The Orchestra of Excited Strings, who are located behind the Data Wall. At the start of these breaks (signaled by a loud bell) all other activities of Memory Arena stop and remain inactive until the conclusion of the Incision (signaled again by a loud bell). At this point all activities continue at the same point at which they stoped. Memory Arena time is also suspended during the Musical Incision. The Orchestra is seen only during the break when lighting enables the viewer to see them through the data wall. During the Musical Incisions animated computer text fragments are projected on the Data Wall. The intrusions into the Memory Arena are scheduled on an average of 5 to 6 breaks every 4 hours.
Everything and everyone involved or visiting the Memory Arena is processed through the Check-In Hall. A burocratic labyrinth made up of a maze of passageways in which personel, at 10 to 15 stations, take tickets, issue instructions, keep and distribute records, inform other personel, and direct the visitors and guests through a people processing transit hall. Located in the Check-In Hall is also the Control Central, where all functions of the Memory Arena are administered including Video Projection, Lighting, Sound, etc. Control Central is also the operational base of the head administrator, who oversees all staff members and is who ultimately is in charge of the entire mechanism of the Memory Arena Complex. The Check-In Installation is not only an observation of the processing and recording of identity and memory in a burocratic society, it and its staff also serve to eliminate any disturbances and to insure that the Memory Arena Portocol is executed perfectly.
Because Memory Arena is designed to be an event of long duration, several smaller locations and activities have been added giving the visitor the oppurtunity to exit and continually re-enter the Arena performance at different stages in its development.
Live Hypermedia Navigator
A live “Hypertext Navigator” cuts possible paths through the computer data base of “Who’s Who in Central & East Europe 1933”. Thousands of fragments of individual lifelines are accessed, reconstructed and linked in a live "navigational reading” through this labyrinth of information, following various threads and cross-references that emerge out of deliberate or spontaneous associations.
Other Areas: Cafe & Reading Room; Bookstore; Personal Information Collection Center, etc. Access to and from the Arena, the outside world, the cafe and the exhibition (and all other locations) is always throught the Check-In maze." - 1995
A Project of the Department of Cultural Studies, University of Lüneburg (Now Leuphania University)
Dreyblatt's Performance Installations Memory Arena and Who's Who in Central & East Europe 1933 were both programmed as a hypertext interactive environment for a World Web Site on the Internet and as an installation within Dreyblatt's Memory Arena which took place in the Arken Museum of Modern Art in Copenhagen in 1996. Students travelled to Copenhagen to participate in the installation after collaborating on the development and execution of the website. The development of a website was accomplished in a two semester workshop in which we examined the navigation through a digital network of information. Students programmed, designed, edited and proofread documents and images in the realization of the final project.
Produced in collaboration with the Department of Cultural Studies of the University of Lüneburg, Germany; Martin Warnke, Director.
Who's Who in Central & East Europe 1933 programming by: Paul Siegert and Carmen Wedemeier
Memory Arena programming and web design by: Beatrix Brandes, Frank Derricks, Christian Hildebrandt, Eva Johach und Kristina Reichel
ISBN Number: 3-928942-11-5
Hypertext in Book Form by Arnold Dreyblatt
Published by Gerhard Wolf Janus Press Berlin, 1995 (In German), 230 pages, 130 photographs
With Essays by: Jan Faktor, Jeffrey Wallen, Heiko Idensen, Arnold Dreyblatt
Software Design, Database: Jost Muxfeldt
Publication supported by VG Bild Kunst, Bonn; Kunstfonds e.V. Bonn.
"One could speak perhaps of a rescuing of the ordinary and of the bureaucratic in Dreyblatt's work, even as these are taken to a further extreme through their own logic of fragmentation, listing, juxtaposition, and leveling. But "rescue" would be the wrong word, since there is no real recovery here, either of the individual, of a culture, or of Central and East Europe. What we are given, through these traces, is a far more haunting glimpse of an absence. But to only say this would be to ignore the fascination of all that we can now see in these fragments, as they are released from serving solely as the standard elements for constructing accounts of a life, and become the pieces of an exceptionally challenging new book." - Jeffrey Wallen, Hampshire College
Digital Paper Plot, 1992
Digital plot on paper, 91.5 cm. x 4.5 m.; mounted on wooden poles painted black, horizontally placed on floor
Texts: Who's Who in Central & East Europe 1933
Lists of fragmental details such as addresses and organizations which were sampled from the 'Who's Who in Central & East Europe' database and are printed on large endless text scrolls using an architectural plotter and are mounted on wooden poles. These scrolls represent both an archaic form of writing, seemingly without a beginning and an end, as well as a sacred object with biblical overtones.
Galerie Ozwei, Berlin, 1992
Kulturfabrik Kampnagel, Hamburg, 1995
In Medias Res, Istanbul, 1996
Wood, Inscribed Plexiglass, illumination, 1992
A historical hypertext becomes a three-dimensional image. A black box is divided by four lateral sheets of glass inscribed from edge to edge with layers of finely printed texts. The text layers are illuminated from below. The texts are reconstructed from the tens of thousands of biographical fragments.
As one peers into this sea of information, it is as if one stares into a bottomless well filled with multiple levels of floating texts in depth. One focuses one's eyes on any given text fragment on a given level, as the other text levels defocus and blur, becoming illegible. One's attention might wander to a remote or nearby fragment, our eyes continually refocusing as we isolate and connect a related or unrelated name or phrase.
A grain of sand is propelled into our field of vision for a single moment, separating forground from background, only to vanish gradually into the collective ocean of memory. The intention is to realize, in three dimensions, a hypertext as a metaphorical space which contains in compressed form a database of all mankind.
Texts from: "Who's Who in Central & East Europe 1933"
Galerie Ozwei, Berlin, 1992
Kulturfabrik Kampnagel, Hamburg, 1995
Bayerisches Staatsschauspiel; Marstall, Munich, 1995
Arken Museum for Modern Art, Cultural Capital of Europe, Copenhagen, 1995
In Medias Res, Istanbul, 1996
Jewish Museum, Vienna, 1997
Veletrzni Palac, National Gallery, Prague, 1997
Jewish Museum, Frankfurt am Main, 2005
Kunsthochschule Braunschweig, 2006
Draiflesson Collection, Mettingen, 2015
Hypertext Multimedia Opera
WHO'S WHO IN CENTRAL & EAST EUROPE 1933 is a contemporary performance of collective and personal memory; based on a book containing over 10,000 biographies of individuals who were considered important at the time. The production was realized in 1991 as a commission from Inventionen '91, Berlin and the DAAD program; and later at the Gasteig, München; Secession Wien, (Wiener Fest Wochen); in Kulturpalast Dresden; in 1994 at the Berlin Festival in Prague (in Czech Language); in 1995 at Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg and the Goethe Institute Budapest (in Hungarian Language); and in 1997 at the Zurich Theater Spektakel, Stadtheater Ludwigshaven, and at Festspielhaus Hellerau-Dresden.
Winner of the Philip Morris Art Prize in 1992.
Materials: Computer synchronized slide projection system, eight channel sound environment, 16 mm film projection, Size of Production Team: 18 persons
Performers: three speakers of texts, composition performed by The Orchestra of Excited Strings; Vocalist: Shelley Hirsch
"Who's Who in Central & East Europe 1933" is a Biographical Dictionary containing about 10,000 authentic biographies of ecclesiastics, diplomats, civil servants, technicians, educators, military personnel, industrialists, journalists, painters, sculptors, authors, etc., from Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia , Danzig, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Turkey, and Yugoslavia..." In 1985, Arnold Dreyblatt found a copy of "Who's Who in Central & East Europe" in a used book store near the Galanta Tower in Istanbul. It was published in 1935 (current through 1934) in the English language along with an accompanying volume entitled, "Handbook of Central & East Europe".. A revised version (1935-36) with an additional one hundred biographies was published in 1937. These editions were the first and last biographical dictionaries to be published concerning this region exclusively until “Who's Who in the Socialist Countries of Europe" was published in 1989.
With a commission from the DAAD in Berlin in 1990; the 10,000 individual biographies were sorted and 765 were selected for further work. The selection process concentrated largely on the forgotten lives and the "no longer famous" representing the interrelationship of individual and collective identity, memory and fate. After selection, this mountain of information was entered into a computer data bank reflecting the traditional use of a computer in the administration of personal data. This data bank of "collective memory" is the corner stone on which many of the projects are built. Through the use of a hypertext program one can cut through this canonic or "given" text (a closed text to which nothing may be added) selecting text fragments, de- and reconstructing them in a simulation of a "guided tour" through chosen paths in an architecture of biographical information (putting together) as if a puzzle of thousands of individual stories, and revealing an image of a vanished world , captured at a critical point in time, which only a few years later would all but cease to exit.
The production was set in a Procenium Arch, in which a series of scrim material walls divide the stage space laterally into several light zones. Private (amateur) photographs and films, and documentary sound materials (language and music) representing the regions and the time period have been selected from archives and personal collections. Light and shadow integrate the performers within the projections. An opera libretto composed of textual historical fragments was sung and spoken by the performers.
"Thousands of these biographical fragments were selected and stored in a computer data base and are later recalled, reconstructed and reinterpreted in a live "navigation" through the original text material. This "guided tour" reveals temporal and spatial themes: names, dates, ancestors, place names, histories, migrations, etc. which form a structure through which the piece evolves. An ensemble of 6 instrumentalists, a singer, and 3 vocalists perform in a composition under the direction of the composer. Sung and spoken fragments of personal histories that have been selected from the "sea" of biographical material. Private (amateur) photographs and films, and documentary sound materials (language and music) representing the regions and the time period have been selected from archives and personal collections. The reconstructed images and fragments of computer text are projected in a live performance composition by Etta von Cramer. Light and shadow integrate the performers within the projections. The sound environment of documentary recordings, by Hans Peter Kuhn, emanate from point sources surrounding the audience in contrast to the music, text, and images originating from the procenium stage."
Who's Who Website (Produced at the University of Lüneburg) >>>
The performers include vocalist Shelley Hirsch, three speakers of texts, and the six musicians of the Orchestra of Excited Strings.
Texts: Who's Who in Central & East Europe 1933
Images: Horus Archive, Private Film Archive, Budapest
Image Composition: Etta Von Cramer
Sound Material: German Radio Archive
Sound Composition by Hans Peter Kuhn
Stage and Light Design, Co-Direction: Fred Pommerehn
Hypertext: Heiko Idensen
Inventionen '91, Kino Babylon, 1991
Wiener Fest Wochen, Vienna, 1991
Kulturpalast, Dresden (Production: Philip Morris), 1991
Gasteig, München (Production: Philip Morris), 1991
Berlin Hier und Jetzt Festival (Dnes a Tady), in collaboration with the Goethe Institute, Prague, 1994
Kunstmuseum, Wolfsburg, 1995
Petrofi Czarnok, Budapest, in collaboration with the Goethe Institute, Prague, 1995
Theater Spektakel, Zurich, 1997
Festspielhaus Hellerau-Dresden, 1997
Theater im Pfalzbau, Ludwigshafen/Rhein, 1997