Encountering Pseudo-Territory
Yiddishland (4/4)

Encountering Pseudo-Territory

Yiddish anarchism meets augmented reality, Lettriste painting and Parisian squats, molten tanks and iron flags, and the praxis of hospitality.

The Yiddishland Pavilion debuted at the 59th Venice Biennale in April of 2022. Maria Veits and Yevgeniy Fiks, curators of the pavilion, edited this series for ArtsEverywhere. The Yiddishland Pavilion is the first independent transnational pavilion bringing together artists and scholars from more than 15 countries who activate Yiddish and diasporic Jewish discourse in contemporary artistic practice.

Still image of “Pseudo-Territory” hovering above Lake Michigan on the
South Side of Chicago. Photo: AE Torres.

A “Pseudo-Territory” among the nations: introducing B. Rivkin’s ideas

The Yiddishland Pavilion sought to disrupt the statist organization of contemporary art at the 2022 Venice Biennale.[1] Curated by Yevgeniy Fiks and Maria Veits, this diffuse installation claimed for its name a term with a radical genealogy in Ashkenazi thought and cultural organizing. The word “Yiddishland” was coined by the anarchist Yiddish literary critic and editor B. Rivkin (Borukh Avrom Weinrebe, 1883–1945).[2] An iconoclastic theorist, Rivkin understood imagination and creativity as spiritual processes prefiguring another world. For Rivkin, the term “Yiddishland” summoned a vision of a multilingual, anti-militarist, cooperative place beyond this world.[3]

In collaboration[4] with the Berlin-based artist Ella Ponizovsky Bergelson,[5] I contributed an augmented-reality piece titled “Pseudo-Territory” to the Yiddishland Pavilion.

Our work was inspired by another theory of Rivkin’s: pseudo-territory, or kmoy-teritorye (כּמו-טעריטאָריע). While imagined “Yiddishlands” have circulated beyond Rivkin’s context, his term “pseudo-territory” remained arcane.[6] This summer, I considered the resonance of “pseudo-territory” not only for our work at the Biennale, but as a lens for encountering the spaces claimed by displaced artists and activists.

The phrase kmoy-teritorye juxtaposes two linguistic components within Yiddish: kmoy is from loshn-koydesh (the “holy tongue”), its Hebraic/Aramaic etymology, and teritorye is germanic. Its hyphen spans linguistic diasporism: religious and secular, European and Semitic. There is also a homophonic pun in my translation of kmoy-teritorye as pseudo-territory: the English prefix ‘pseudo’ echoes sude, the loshn-koydesh word for a feast or celebratory meal. Sonically, then, its homonym evokes ‘feast territory’: a virtual land of abundance, a place consumable by all! Homophonic translation salutes the Yiddish-speaking poet Louis Zukofsky and his collaborator, Celia Zukofsky, whose ludic translations of Catullus carry the sounds of Latin to English through immigrant ears, mimicking its sonic textures.[7]

Rivkin’s stream of anarchism is inflected by his fascinations with Jewish mysticism and post-traumatic psychology. He wrote a series of articles interpreting the dreams of readers and reckoning with the memories of war survivors, which Sam Glauber-Zimra[8] has brought to new scholarly attention.[9] Rivkin originated the idea of kmoy-teritorye in his 1937 essay, “A Pseudo-Territory in Place of Religion.” Unlike contemporaneous Jewish land movements, such as those advocating for Soviet Birobidzhan, Zionism, and Bundist territorialism, Rivkin looked to literature rather than geography as a “Jewish space.”[10] He posits religiosity as the first Jewish “pseudo-territory,” a kind of amulet against the perils of exile and dispossession.[11] Out from this religious “pseudo-territory,” Rivkin theorizes the emergence of a new literary pseudo-territory which counters Marxist materialism:

Thus it was befallen: the ghetto walls exploded, both visible and invisible walls. The spiritual pseudo-territory [kmoy-teritorye] was suddenly vulnerable to the windstorms of free thought, the Haskalah[Jewish Enlightenment], which relished consuming the core of every ineffable name, every incantation, every magical deed…Ancient Jewish religion was not enough; it lost its power to hold up the realm of spiritual pseudo-territory. […]

Jews remained exposed and naked, without religion or protection, in stark mortal danger. Those who carried the sabbath-spirit within themselves took courage to transgress the Commandment: lo t’asey lekha pesl.[12] They sought to shape Jewish literature to serve as the most suitable tool, like religion, to establish a relationship with civilization. This is built on the principle that humans are not dependent on God, but free agents and creators. Literature has the merit that it both communicates with civilization and nourishes the folk’s soul, as religion does. Both these functions are crucial. From religious pseudo-territory, literature takes upon itself the Jews’ responsibility—their role in the future, a higher justification and purpose for existence—and translates it into modern worldliness. This is what I identify as pseudo-territory within literature.

Rivkin’s genealogy of a “pseudo-territory within literature” articulates a Jewish alternative to both atheist utopianism and Marxist materialism. By re-narrating diaspora, Rivkin retells Jewish history as a poetic voyage from dispossession into a levitating borderfree future. Diaspora, he posits, might be an ethically generative condition.

Our digital “pseudo-territory” visualizes Rivkin’s term as a trilingual hybrid of Yiddish, English, and Proto-Canaanite (Proto-Sinaitic script), representing alphabetic ancestors. The words in these three languages revolve, bound to one other, appearing within any geographic space they’re summoned: a new visualization of Rivkin’s hovering, fluid kmoy-teritorye. Its digital form offers both lens and summoning. When I shared our augmented reality project with the scholar Sam Glauber-Zimra, whose work focuses on Rivkin’s occult side, I was gratified by his reply: “I know that Rivkin would heartily approve (this is definitely stimulating my ‘psychic energy,’ as he would put it).”

Ella Ponizovsky Bergelson’s handwritten letters are animated by digital artists at ARhead studio. She lyrically describes the letters as hovering beyond gravity. To my eyes, Ponizovsky Bergelson’s lines recall the style of the Parisian Lettristes, whose alphabetic forms evoke hebraic genealogies as they writhe and vibrate in color fields.[13] The Lettristes were led by the painter Isidor Isou, a Romanian Jew who survived the Nazi genocide, and the poet Gabriel Pomerand, whose mother was murdered by Nazis. Arriving in Paris after the war, Isou became a “theoretician of utopia.”[14] Like Rivkin, the Lettrists’ political imaginations were charged with messianic-utopian impulses to remake the landscape of post-war trauma.

Gabriel Pomerand, Le voyage de la danse (1951).

In Gabriel Pomerand’s 1951 painting “Le voyage de la danse,” figures with bodies like lightning rays seem captured within a white form, evoking the shape of a Hebrew letter beys. The compositional form is surrounded by darkened text, as though a page of Talmudic commentary encircles the beys, the first letter opens the Torah. Isou’s alphabetic forms merge and morph with human silhouettes, their bodies as over-jointed as the faux serifs of his invented letters. Though Ponizovsky Bergelson had not seen Isou’s paintings before this project, she later recognized a kinship in their graphic approach.

Even as the Pompidou displayed the paintings of the Lettristes, the museum’s curatorial strategy concealed their Jewishness. I encounter these works near a Chagall painting, “Le Marchand de journaux,” its composition of red and black as diagonal as a flag:

The curator has written: “The only legible word among the press titles is ‘ogon,’ meaning ‘fire.’ This modern version of the Jewish hawker is painted before a red sky. He becomes an allegory for the misfortunes of war.”

Marc Chagall, Le Marchand de journaux (1914). Image source.

The “only legible” writing to the curators, however, is not the only legible writing to Chagall’s Yiddish viewers. To the right of ogon appears another word: MAMENYU— O dear mama! Or if the final “T” of the newspaper’s banner is obscured around the folded newspaper, then its title must be MOMENT. Look closely: on a third folded newspaper, Chagall has written a single red reysh (“R”). Like the erased letter on the golem’s forehead, news of war appears under the dual banner MOTHER//MOMENT.

And his face, so naturalistic and distinctive with its multicoloured beard: where is the line between portrait and allegory?

In the deep greens of Chagall’s painted Vitebsk landscape, I recognize the traces of green and blue paint among the rubble of the Vitebsk synagogue. Sift your hands through the fallen plaster, and among the grass and stones, you’ll find its painted greens and blues. Stand in the right spot, and the landscape lines up perfectly.

I think of the scrim of our digital “Pseudo-Territory” a bit like this interaction between recognition and erasure. These plainly-written “illegible” letters and colourful painted traces: we project them in three dimensions, back into the middle of the gallery or the street or the field.

Run A.R. on your phone at
HTTPS://APP.ARHEAD.IO/OVP_TQFM

CREDITS: MY RESTING PLACE / מײַן רוע פּלאַץ / A JOURNEY / אַ נסיעה

Soundtrack design by Ella Ponizovsky Bergelson. Background sound source: “Mayn Rue Platz / My Resting Place” (1911) by Morris Rosenfeld, performed by The Pennywhistlers. Voiceover by Arnd Beck: “A Nesia / A Journey” (2012) by Rivka Basman Ben-Hayim.

Our utopian impulses are tempered by the confines of digital spheres, as our work is hosted by Meta, a platform which surveils user data, among other practices that we cannot negotiate or compromise.[15] Thus, even as our project draws from an archive of radical histories and dreams beyond the present, it necessarily remains determined by the digital world as it exists. Perhaps its aesthetics offer some critique of the anti-democratic usages of the same technology which enables it, even though it cannot escape such entanglement.

Augmented reality’s interactive function invites play, allowing viewers to make their own video or stills of the kmoy-teritorye they summon and project within their own spaces. No two images will be the same; its speed or glitches unfold through the particularity of users’ phones. I am interested in the interstitial space and time of heightened attention as you experience the project: the moments when it’s loading, when you’re adjusting the volume on your phone to make it audible, the possibility of glitches: time is reshaped a little bit through anticipation, as well as through the visual lens of AR. Its elasticity resonates with cyberfeminist approaches such as Legacy Russell’s ‘Glitch Feminism,’ a theory of how gender appears, interrupts, and transforms through the ‘glitch’ between IRL and online identities.[16] I have chosen to remain anonymous with other cyberart and activism projects. When users know who the artists are, it changes what they expect it to look and feel like, based on previous (signed!) work.

The concept of “Yiddishland” has travelled widely, through multiple cultural and political currents, as kmoy-teritorye remained still, unreclaimed. The word yiddishland itself is immediately readable to English speakers, whereas the kmoy– prefix retains Aramaic and –teritorye is harder to pronounce: an overstuffed linguistic valise with souvenirs spilling out. There have been many Yiddishlands and will be many more; it is a capacious term, legible to English speakers and readers, its components recognizable. Kmoy-teritorye linguistically resists reification; it stays hovering on the horizons of Yiddish anarchist imagination.

My aim is not to merely recuperate an ‘original’ term, but to trace the resonances between Rivkin’s spiritual anarchist thought and contemporary arts. ARhead’s augmented reality projects struck me as capable of visualizing repair. In one piece by Ivan Puzyrev, a fallen Ukrainian tower is projected into space, again and again, hypnotically:

Coverage of our “Pseudo-Territory” piece has largely situated it within contemporary Jewish art or as a response to the national division of contemporary arts.[17] Does Rivkin’s idea and its visualization resonate outwards too? Yiddish anarchism is the theory and praxis elaborated by refugees; it centres the migrant, not the citizen, as political actor and philosopher. Rather than modelling kmoy-teritorye as passively existing beyond borders, inhabiting some happenstance digital internationalism, its critique is explicitly against borders.

What might Rivkin’s baroquely-Jewish “pseudo-territory” concept offer today? How does this idea encounter contemporary refugee arts and stateless forms? Will his imagination of ‘pseudo-territory’ travel and translate? Where might Rivkin’s call to repair exile echo? I think of Rivkin as a travel companion: he doesn’t offer a map, but he’s a vivid conversationalist for the long road.

Black banners, molten tanks: material Ukrainian flags

When I met Roma Bantik in the studios of L’atelier des artistes en exil (Atelier of Artists in Exile),[18] a small green LED sign flashed the word HUMAN from his chest, beaming like a neon lighthouse through his Sex Pistols shirt. I had come to view their exhibits and share ‘Pseudo-Territory’ with artists at the Atelier, an NGO with studios in Paris and Marseille.

Or at least I tried to: my phone cannot connect to wifi robustly, so we had to view the piece on their phone. Sharing a digital piece then entails exchanging numbers and Instagram handles to send the link to AR. This gesture both slows the experience of exhibiting the piece and creates a new link between artist and viewer, as numbers are exchanged.

Speaking and gesturing with Anja and Roma, our Russian and English overlapped in patches. Finally, proto-Canaanite letters pulse and expand in the Atelier, filling the room like hieroglyphic helium or crawling across the floor like a slow animal. On Anja’s screen, Roma walks through the hovering letters “like a ghost.” He reaches to grasp the letters, and we watch his hands emerge through the scrim of letters. “It’s like a game,” Anja laughs with pleasure.

Roma, through Anja, seemed struck by how the letters glow like molten metal. His own work melts down Russian materials of war. I was moved that he felt a resonance between the digital work and his own metal material.

As Roma describes the molten letters, I recalled how we spoke with the animator in Dubai, describing how we wanted them to pulse and glow and rotate. Though rendering texture is difficult, he explained, the animators will try to make its movement less oozy, more molten.

“Pseudo-Territory” makes us interact differently: we look at each other through this lens, changing our movements to the tempo of the animation, standing closer to share a screen, tempering the space of the studio.

Letters and language are not the same; one is the body and one is the sound. Defamiliarizing the union of sound and letter is one aspect of the process.

As always when travelling, at the point when shared language becomes exhausted, I resort to sharing snacks. A traveller must learn to be hospitable.

Roma’s explosively material work contrasts against our ephemeral, digital pseudo-territory.

Curator Raphaël Koenig, Head of Visual Arts at the Atelier of Artists in Exile, stands by Collectif No, the installation of a participatory artwork by Maryam Samaan (“No,” 2012-2014).[19] Koenig explains, “Samaan encouraged netizens to contribute images of themselves forming the Arabic letters ‘La,’ or ‘No,’ as a direct protest against the Assad regime in Syria; these images are then displayed serially in the exhibition space.” Reproduced with permission of the artist and aa-e. 

Roma has been travelling with his metal pieces, as he explained in a note on August 25th, 2022, the six-month mark of Russia’s war, written in stylized text:

А190.36.09
apяil. uяal.
afteя a febяuary seяies A11AT 4062
made fяom a melted-down tank engine B-2,
i staяted a seяies from waяship gun A-190.

when the war in ukraine stops,
i will return to the melting of peacetime equipment:
auto engines, levers, housings, pistons.
while a war continues,
objects are being created from military equipment.

i walk every day and take them everywhere with me.
they make a ringing sound.
lesnoy, pervouralsk, ekaterinburg, vladimir,
moscow, milan, paris.

people ask: “what it is. you carry this weight with you. why.”
i document the dialogues between us. it’s veяy impoяtant to me.
i remind myself, this going on right now.

supermarket. tram. taxi. cafe. construction site.
people are starting to talk about the touch of war.

my grandmother from lesnoy city has a sister in kherson.

a taxi dяiver fяom ekaterinbuяg had a motheя in maяiupol.

the head of the foundяy in pervouяalsk,
was talking about a guy. he woяking in the foundяy.
he was sent to ukяaine as a soldieя in the fiяst weeks of the waя.

passenger train ekb-msk
looked in disbelief as he recognized the material
of the objects, which I take with me to the airport.

three girls in the paris metro,
when asked where they were from,
answered, — “we are from kiev.“

exactly half a year of life.
daily walks with metal objects and dialog documentation
with people on city streets.

while the main line of creativity
about overcoming physical boundaries continues.
this line is always moving through reality.
locations and geopoints, created by people
become the names of compositions,
their words, comments and pictures becoming traces
in the digital space are for me information fields for upcycling.
it is impossible to refuse pure ideas,
as well as not to reflect the war in the works.

serial numbers engraved on the back compositions
are taken from the melted down military equipment.
these numbers are still in “pre-war times”
for me have always been elements of memory.
in the latest series, A11AT 4062 and A190.36.09,
along with a history about the past of military items,
they keep the memory of what cannot be allowed in the future.

if you see me without metal objects,
that means the war has stopped.

Bantik’s project marks time and space with molten metal. His presence insists on recognition, from his neon necklace to the cloud-shaped metal forms he carries and his peace-sign gestures for each photograph. His digital presence, too, confronts and reminds, as he writes:

locations and geopoints, created by people
become the names of compositions,
their words, comments and pictures becoming traces
in the digital space are for me information fields for upcycling.
it is impossible to refuse pure ideas,
as well as not to reflect the war in the works.

Like Bantik’s transient metal memorials, the Kyiv-based artist Nikita Kadan transforms historical materiality itself. On March 13, the eighteenth day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Kadan spoke from a bomb shelter in Kyiv, his face framed onscreen by a dark brimless cap and white cinderblock walls.[20] Kadan surveyed his oeuvre of sculpture, public installations, and large-scale drawings, which he characterized as working with “the poetry of material, thinking with material evidence—and what comes after the evidence.” Like the avant-garde anarchists whose ethical thought he extends, Kadan takes utopianism and its catastrophes seriously. In the installation “Anonymous. Tarred” (2021), Kadan responds to the sculptures produced in the communist VKHUTEMAS workshops in Moscow in 1920, recreating their monumental white forms, which he capped with black tar:

White was as much a shell as it was a utopian expression of ideals, while the gesture of covering the sculpture with black tar, on the other hand, is an act of desecration symbolic to how the politics of memory engages with history and heritage in Ukraine, which simultaneously declares the death of the Soviet utopia. However, through the act of placing it respectfully on a white marble plinth, the importance of that utopia is preserved as a memory in the face of an implied dystopian future. 

Kadan negotiates the distance between current geopolitical realities and persistent ideals, forcing a reckoning with the crises and collapses of the intervening hundred years.

Kadan’s “Gazelka” (2015) reworks the very material of war, “the experience of destroyed everyday life… denied subjectivity and voice,” into a black flag projected from a wall diagonally into gallery space. Kadan explains, “It is made of an iron sheet from a GAZ-3302 car (aka ‘Gazel’ or ‘Gazelka’), broken by shrapnel after it has been under fire. [I] found the car in spring 2015 in Severodonetsk. […] Is it possible to imagine a flag of victims who express their thoughts without being backed by force? Can destroyed buildings and broken things, animals and plants affected by the fighting, be a similar flag?”[21]  Kadan formed shrapnel into “a flag of all these people and animals and plants, surfaces injured by the war.” The riddled metal flag immediately called to mind the black and white Puerto Rican flags painted after Hurricane Maria, articulating a national camaraderie without aspiration to iterative state power.[22] “Gazelka” elaborates Kadan’s visual thought from the 2009 piece “Прапор/Flag,” in which a flag-shaped mirror is placed above most viewers’ eye level. To view one’s face, a visitor must extend their body to confront themself.

How can history be visually represented without perpetuating domination through its representation? Kadan thinks through, with, and against Eastern European genealogies of anarchism. He takes up the elegy as a radical form rendered in material rather than words, too suspicious of the manipulability and instability of language. Material itself is made to mourn. His tarred monuments and blackened flags subvert the epic forms of canonical art history. The digital veil of ‘pseudo-territory’ flickers where Kadan and Bantik’s metal melts, black and silver relics in memory of flags.

A guest at the Embassy of Immigrants

Walking one night in the 9th arrondissement, I halt at the sight of a hand-painted banner in French, English, and Arabic.[23]

Arrayed across the windows, a series of posters in several languages state residents’ demands:

Multilingual posters taped to windows. Embassy of Immigrants, 9th arrondissement, Paris.

Beside their demands, a manifesto concludes:

Because it’s gonna be equality or nothing!
This place is a weapon. This place is a tool.
It is an embassy of peace in a world at war.
This is the embassy of immigrants.
It is the embassy of those who are told they are foreigners, the one from which we prepare our collective victories, the one from which we will obtain equality for all.

A man walks through its glass doors, smiling over his shoulder to me.

I soon enter and am welcomed warmly. Young men set a chair down for me, and we relax at the entryway. I learn that this office building was taken over in early spring to house almost one hundred men.[24] The row of printers in a nondescript office room are now used for legal support. Upstairs, glass cubicle walls are curtained with blankets to become bedrooms. Hallway posters in several languages lay out guidelines for collective life. Walking up the stairwell, we meet a man who eagerly describes how his life improved by moving to the Embassy. He barely pauses for breath as my friend Salim translates from Arabic. We are welcomed again and again by each person we pass on the stairwells. Later, a young supporter named Teo with light hair and bright hands explains: residents demand not to be made “individualized,” to be removed individually with promises of higher status, but to be granted status collectively. They will negotiate together, inseparably, Teo says. A union of migrants, bargaining collectively.

Encounter the Embassy: a vast, banal office building lying fallow during covid, appropriated and refilled with sociality. Its presence intervenes in the leaden temporality of state bureaucracy, in the empty spaces of the city: the Embassy unmaps Paris, retimes it.

I think of a story about the anarchist poet Diane di Prima. In 1956, when the FBI came looking for a Yugoslavian dissident she was hosting, di Prima shouted at the agents: “The laws of hospitality are older than the laws of the United States of America!”[25] The laws of hospitality are older than the laws of France too.

Over the following weeks, I returned to the Embassy of Immigrants. I can only guess at the daily negotiations and frustrations of life there; organizing meetings are closed to those who cannot commit long-term or don’t speak useful languages. Instead I join for meals, for a group visit to the Institut du Monde Arabe, for chats in the back garden with residents and volunteers.

One bright summer night I walk to the Embassy with intentions of volunteering in the kitchen. But I am not permitted to be helpful. Instead, I am merrily seated in a tight circle, and an Ethiopian dinner is placed in the middle of the table. I eat from the vegan edges of injera, avoiding the meat at the centre. My communion is incomplete, so my hosts describe its spiciness with pleasure.

They ask: Where are you from? Do you believe in God? Immediately we begin comparing theologies. A young French volunteer wearing a soft cap affirms belief in human solidarity; her voice is ardent, her words are spacious.

My hosts describe the trajectory of their migrations across North Africa and the Middle East. Paris has nice architecture but no beaches, they lament.

We compare the most beautiful landscapes we have ever seen, the best food we’ve ever eaten.

I mention the pierogi shop down the street, where I had earlier bought fresh cherry-stuffed dumplings. Have they spoken with the young Ukrainian cooks, so recently arrived in Paris as well?

There are no Ukrainians here, residents tell me, faces suddenly tight. There is another path entirely for white people, for Europeans. Like The City and the City, China Miéville’s novel of a divided city, racialized trajectories of migration through Paris split apart.

Dinner was directed that night by an Italian woman, a performance artist who describes her artwork as a way of imagining justice. Embassy hosts describe how magnificent her singing voice is. She smiles, widely but modestly, and I try to project warmth from behind my n95 mask. Like the Atelier of Artists in Exile, the space is filled with music and movement. For what is an embassy without receiving guests?

Conjuring pseudo-territory today must summon new forms of asylum, upend office lounges into mutual aid kitchens, melt tanks into silver clouds, pin multilingual bursts of typography across city streets. Pseudo-territory hovers as a sign of shelter, hobo hieroglyphs over the doors of banquet halls for host and guest and host and guest.

As di Prima, poet of hospitality, writes in Revolutionary Letter #29”:[26]

            nowhere we can go but they are waiting for us

            no exile where we will not hear welcome home

. . .

The French prefecture has evicted all residents of the Embassy and sealed its entrance in concrete. I awoke to voice messages from a comrade of the collective; her morning voice described the violent nighttime expulsion with disbelief.

Organizing continues.


Acknowledgments

I am grateful to my dear collaborator Ella Ponizovsky Bergelson and to eliui damm and Sam Glauber-Zimra for their research on Rivkin. For their hospitality, I thank Raphaël Koenig, former Head of Visual Arts at L’atelier des artistes en exil, and Théofile Cordier, Marie Livebardon, Salim, M., D., and Y. at the Embassy of Immigrants. I am grateful for conversations with Nikita Kadan; and for reading di Prima together, I thank Demer.


Endnotes

[1] https://yiddishlandpavilion.art/projects/

[2] Link: https://www.yiddishbookcenter.org/collections/oral-histories/excerpts/woh-ex-0001588/baruch-rivkin-s-ideas-about-yiddish-sensibility

[3] While many have surely dreamed of such a place as “a Yiddish land,” I have found no historical usage of the compound term “Yiddishland” before Rivkin. From the later twentieth century to today, in popular and academic terms, “Yiddishland” has come to signify various communities of Yiddish speakers, not necessarily structured by Rivkin’s anti-hierarchical politics. Linguistic genealogy is fluid, and the origin of an idea or word does not fix its cultural destiny. Yet it is worth noting the absence—or even erasure—of Yiddish anarchist thought within most discussions of Yiddishland. Various and rich studies of cultural and literary “Yiddishlands” include Jeffrey Shandler’s Adventures in Yiddishland: Postvernacular Language and Culture (2008); Merle Bachman’s Recovering ‘Yiddishland’: Threshold Moments in American Literature (2008); Saul Zaritt’s recent Jewish American Writing and World Literature: Maybe to Millions, Maybe to Nobody (2020); and Alain Brossat and Sylvia Klingberg’s Revolutionary Yiddishland (English translation, 2017).  None of their citations of Yiddishland, however, cite Rivkin’s coinage or lineages of Jewish anarchism.

[4] https://ingeveb.org/blog/montage-murals

[5] http://www.ellaponi.com/

[6] Shandler’s recent talk [https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/jeffrey-shandler-imagining-yiddishland-tickets-400002336757] claims a genealogy of “Yiddishland” from the cultural diasporist Chaim Zhitlowski’s reference to “a yidish land” and “a yidishe medine” through Birobidzhan to contemporary Yiddish projects in the Catskills and Poland. Shandler offers a close reading of the significance of this term to Zhitlowski, noting that the dual meaning of “Yiddish” to signify both Jewishness and the Yiddish language “epitomizes the ability of language to reify Jewish sovereignty.” (Lecture for the Yiddishland Pavilion, August 24, 2022).

[7] https://ingeveb.org/articles/louis-zukofsky-building-a-poetics-of-translation

[8] https://bgu.academia.edu/SamGlauberZimra

[9] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oaZEonxi320

[10] B. Rivkin, Grunt-tendentsn fun der yidisher literatur in amerike (IKUF: New York City, 1948), pp. 145-148. https://www.yiddishbookcenter.org/collections/yiddish-books/spb-nybc200986/rivkin-b-rivkin-minnie-grunt-tendentsn-fun-der-yidisher-literatur-in-amerike Translation by eliui damm, edited by the author. See also damm’s essay on Rivkin in With Freedom in Our Ears: Histories of Jewish Anarchism (eds. Torres and Kenyon Zimmer, University of Illinois Press, 2023).

[11] Rivkin writes: “Jews didn’t have economic terrain beneath their feet; no special function vindicated their existence, according to Marxist terms. But Jewish religion declared war on Jewish terrain-lessness [bodnlozikeyt], levitating itself above the ground entirely, creating a spiritual territory [shel mayle, ‘of above’] held together in its center by God. Everything that shattered the soil beneath their feet, all that is solid, strengthened this ‘territory shel mayle,’ the territory above. This territory was established in Babel, where the land-born were businessmen. This was a territory shel mala, because nothing else existed for the present: everything was the future: God’s Shvues and promises of the covenant between God and Abraham until the Messianic era, the prophecy of redemption, foretold a great Jewish triumph, one that will redeem themselves and the world. Jews of the lowest classes have the highest Shvues […].  Magical deeds and incantations, ceremonies, rituals—all charged with the ineffable names of God—are enough to reify this territory-above as substantially and materially valid. It was strong enough that an entire nation could know its attributes without attachment to any physical nation itself. From this territory-above, an invisible protective barrier was lowered to safely contain the Jewish soul, even when their bodies writhed in bare danger.”

[12]  Exodus 20:4:  You shall not make for yourself a sculptured image, or any likeness of what is in the heavens above, or on the earth below, or in the waters under the earth. .”לֹא תַעֲשֶׂה לְךָ פֶסֶל וְכָל תְּמוּנָה אֲשֶׁר בַּשָּׁמַיִם מִמַּעַל וַאֲשֶׁר בָּאָרֶץ מִתַָּחַת וַאֲשֶׁר בַּמַּיִם מִתַּחַת לָאָרֶץ.” 

[13] https://www.mauricelemaitre.org/fr/introduction-au-lettrisme/

[14] https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/books/2022/02/how-isidore-isou-ignited-an-age-of-youth-rebellion

[15] See the recent case in Nebraska: https://www.npr.org/2022/08/12/1117092169/nebraska-cops-used-facebook-messages-to-investigate-an-alleged-illegal-abortion

[16] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6ccyXBYjhk&t=1s
https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/646946/glitch-feminism-by-legacy-russell/

[17] https://hyperallergic.com/746238/venice-biennale-yiddishland-pavilion/
https://www.stirworld.com/see-features-stirring-dreams-pseudo-territory-brings-a-literary-theory-to-life-via-augmented-reality

[18] https://aa-e.org/en/category/atelier-2/

[19] https://aa-e.org/en/artiste/samaan-maryam/

[20] Kadan, “Stone Hits Stone,” March 13, 2022. Event hosted by the author. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nl6lSh0tb_g

[21] Nikita Kadan, “Gazelka” (2015). Artist’s statement. http://nikitakadan.com/works/gazelka/

[22] See also Jorell Meléndez-Badillo on the black Puerto Rican flag, Mother Jones https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2020/01/puerto-rico-flag-gag-law-resistance-flag-colonialism/

[23] https://www.okpal.com/solidarite-avec-l-ambassade-des-immigres-expulsa/#/

[24] https://www.francetvinfo.fr/monde/europe/migrants/paris-un-batiment-inoccupe-de-paris-investi-par-des-sans-papiers_5088961.html
See also Leslie Carretero, “Paris: des exilés occupent un centre d’hébergement réservé aux Ukrainiens pour dénoncer la différence de traitement” at Info Migrants: http://www.infomigrants.net/fr/post/41991/paris–des-exiles-occupent-un-centre-dhebergement-reserve-aux-ukrainiens-pour-denoncer-la-difference-de-traitement

[25] https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v44/n05/andrea-brady/stay-home-stay-stoned

[26] https://citylights.com/beat-literature-poetry-history/revolutionary-letters-50th-anniver/

Filed Under: Multimedia & Performance

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Anna Elena Torres is an Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Chicago. Torres is the author of Horizons Blossom, Borders Vanish: Anarchism and Yiddish Literature (Yale University Press) and co-editor of With Freedom in Our Ears: Histories of Jewish Anarchism (Illinois University Press).

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