Alfred Ullrich, Pearls before Swine, 2000, photo (with thanks to Barbara Scotch)
Alfred Ullrich, Dachau, Landfahrerplatz kein Gewerbe, 2011, traffic sign, photographic documentation, courtesy the artist
Artist Alfred Ullrich’s series of photographs are exhibited as documents of an older performance entitled Pearls before Swine. The original performance took place on 13 May 2000 in the Czech Republic in front of the former Roma concentration camp Lety, which was run solely by Czechs during WWII; since the 1970s, the site has housed a swine farm. The artist threw pearls from a necklace belonging to his sister onto the ground through the farm’s locked gate and in front of the memorial stone in homage to his relatives and other Roma who were interned in various concentration camps. Ullrich’s action and the title of the work point to the absurd and disturbing attempt by the Czech government to overwrite the history and existence of the Lety site, and to erase any public memory related to the concentration camp and the horrors that took place by simply covering it up with a different kind of “dirt,” thus desecrating the memory of Roma who suffered there. Another work by Ullrich, Dachau, Landfahrerplatz kein Gewerbe (2011), consists of a street sign warning that itinerants are not allowed to trade or peddle in the area, but in the work the inscription is crossed out. This simple action highlights how seemingly neutral regulations in fact enforce the segregation of Roma travelers from others. Thus discrimination on the basis of ethnicity is preserved through language and visual public memory, something that gives way to reinforcing the already existing stereotype of Roma people as “exotic” creatures full of wanderlust. (Suzana Milevska)
ALFRED ULLRICH (born 1948) is an artist who makes use of several media including photography, video, and material objects to communicate issues surrounding the position of the Roma and Sinti in society. Recent exhibitions include: Gadschi, Roma, Sinti, Manouches…Positionen zwischen Ausgrenzung und Akzeptanz [Gadschi, Roma, Sinti, Manouches…Positions between Exclusion and Acceptance], KVD Galerie, Dachau, 2011; Love and Friendship in the Nuclear Age, Galerie Dana Charkasi, Vienna, 2010; roll-on · roll off, A41 Galerie im Hof, Vienna, 2009; and Transidentities, exil, zentrum für interkulturelle kunst und antirassismusarbeit [Center for Intercultural Art and Antiracism], Vienna. Ullrich lives and works in Röhrmoos.
Alfred Ullrich, artist statement, Call the Witness, Roma Pavilion, 03.06.2011, Venice