Joe

He was born in South Africa, in Johannesburg, in 1934; May 5th — but even about this I only have a memory. His father was Afrikaans; his mother Turkish — or at least came from or via Turkey. Again I know little, so the following errors show only the limits of this. His name was Joseph Swanepoel. He left South Africa in the ’60s, maybe earlier, and whether directly or other found his way to Toronto, Canada where he spent the rest of his life.

He was a mechanic. Truck driver. Ran a waste paper recycling factory in Scarborough. Smoked and had a mustache. Answered the ‘phone, “Y’ello?”. Once he cut the knuckle of his thumb and a ball of dark blood oozed out. He would read in bed with his knees up and I would hide or play under the tent beneath his legs.

He gave me a Turkish middle name. Though I only found out much later about the Turkish part. He would sit up late watching TV and I would sometimes sneak down to join him. Once, when I was sick, I threw up on his shoulder. Once, when driving his truck back from the factory we stopped for donuts. He bought two boxes, one for everyone when we got home, and one for us alone as we drove, our secret. He cut the rear axel off the truck with a gas axe in the alley behind Eaton Ave. He tried to teach me to drive a forklift when I was maybe four; I almost crashed it into the pit where the new automated conveyer system was to be installed.

He changed his name to Stanton. He wanted to forget South Africa, or at least this is what I remember. A name that I was told had no significance. I remember him more from the voice on the phone and letters with his scrawling handwriting than any image of him, his face or himself as a whole.

Before I was born he had an operation on his back; a bone spur. A fifty percent chance of surviving. He did, but with this came his belief they’d implanted a transistor in his back to monitor him. Or again, this is the story I remember, or remember being told. He said we had to leave because the Italians who worked for him were trying to take over his factory and were planning on… something… so he got us out of the country. This in a letter much later.

With the more incredible stories, so too did his handwriting deteriorate. More paranoia, or perhaps not, perhaps it was true. But no way of knowing and I didn’t want to get too close to this aspect of the family for my own sake; I could feel my own self slipping before this.

We left, for New Zealand. A place I felt nothing for. I wanted to stay with him. I asked him to shave off his mustache before we left. A stranger came into the kitchen. Joe without hair above his lip.

He gave up smoking. I had a photo of him, much later, a passport photo. thick greying hair with a high temple swept up and back. A big nose. He might look like an older middle-aged taxi driver in Berlin. I think I lost this photo. Another one; him on a Skidoo in winter. Snow. I lost this also.

I went to see him, in 2003. From Guangzhou. I wrote to him saying I was coming, to the address he’d had for years — he’d lost the house and business after us. He said he wished he’d travelled more, wished he’d seen Hong Kong. I flew from Beijing in winter, darkness but not quite snow, to a street not far from where I’d once lived, near of Pape and Danforth. I walked to that house, unsure if I could recognise it, unclearly remembering the address. But from there to school, down the street, through the parks up and around the corner, it was all without question. I felt nothing though. Someone else’s memories, or as if I was watching a film I should respond to but … feel nothing.

Winter came properly on Christmas day. Deep snow. I was there over a month, vacillating over going to see him before I took the train to Scarborough. The address was near the station, near a mall. It was cold; bright blue sky. I arrived at a post office. It was not his home. He had his mail sent and held here. I asked about him, said I’d come from Australia and he was my father. They relented to give him a call but on his post box information there was no address, no number, no way of finding him. I left a note.

I left too, shortly after, angry, crying in the taxi, dusk on the way to the airport.

Six months later in Vienna I found he’d been in hospital the whole time with a series of bad heart attacks. I found also he’d been in contact with the rest of my family, he’d always told me I was the only one he spoke with. I got drunk fast on cocktails in the Burgtheater at a reception for the mayor and others. I wanted to hurt someone.

I never wrote to him again until earlier this year. He was in hospital again in intensive care with shingles and another round of heart attacks. I called but didn’t speak with him, sent an email via the hospital. I heard he’d received it but was confused also. About me. He didn’t return to the boarding house or wherever he’d lived for those years since we’d left. They packed up what little he had, sold most, gave the rest to him, told him the nursing home was where he would live until he recovered more, then he could go home. I’d planned to ring him, even tried once.

He died last night. Another heart attack. I hadn’t spoken to him.

I was living in an old brothel in my late teens, above a sex shop in K’road, Auckland. He would ring me about once every six months and letters every couple of months, wherever I’d moved to next, sometimes with a cheque folded in the papers. I’d told him what was going on in my life then and that if he didn’t like it he could fuck off. He’d written that he didn’t know why I was so angry but he loved me and supported me if this is what would make me happy. I sat on the wooden stairs talking with him. I can remember his voice, saying, “y’ello”, saying my name.

Werner Bab

One of the first sites I did as a freelancer was porting imdialog-ev.org from a dead cms into WordPress for photographer and documentary maker (and philosopher) Christian Ender. Imdialog! is a documentary project on Werner Bab, a Berliner Jew who was sent to Auschwitz in 1942. He survived there, as well as Mauthausen and Ebensee, to return to Berlin after the war.

Christian documented Werner’s journey through the camps in Zeitabschnitte des Werner Bab, which has been shown across Germany in schools and around the world accompanied by Werner, who would speak on his experiences.

Werner died on 31st July, aged 86.

DEUTSCH

In den Abendstunden des 31. Juli 2010 ist Werner Bab plötzlich und unerwartet friedlich eingeschlafen, wenige Wochen vor seinem 86. Geburtstag.

Die letzten fünf Jahren engagierte sich Werner Bab unermüdlich und warb für Demokratie, Toleranz und Völkerverständigung.

Mit seiner lebensbejahenden und positiven Einstellung stand er in über 150 Gesprächen vor über 20.000 Schülern als Zeitzeuge zur Verfügung.

Offen beantwortete Werner Bab die gestellten Fragen zu seinen Erlebnissen als Häftling in den Konzentrationslagern Auschwitz, Mauthausen und Ebensee, um vor den Folgen totalitärer Regime zu warnen.

Um dieses Engagement zu unterstützen wurde der Verein „imdialog!e.V.“ gegründet, welcher nun aufgelöst wird.

Diese Internetseite, das hier bereitgestellte Gäste- und Gedenkbuch sowie die in 19 Sprachen untertitelte Dokumentation „Zeitabschnitte des Werner Bab“ werden in Erinnerung an Werner Babs Wirken weiter aufrechterhalten.

In stiller Trauer,

Christian Ender

Im August 2010

ENGLISH

On the evening of July 31, 2010, Werner Bab passed away peacefully. His death was sudden and unexpected, just a few weeks before his 86th birthday.

During the past five years, Werner Bab worked tirelessly toward democracy, tolerance and international understanding.

With his optimistic and positive attitude to life, he shared his experiences of the concentration camps of Auschwitz, Mauthausen and Ebensee, answering questions from more than 20,000 students in over 150 discussions. His aim was to warn people of the consequences of a totalitarian regime.

In order to support this endeavour, the “imdialog!e.V.” association was founded, which has now been dissolved.

The Internet site www.imdialog-ev.org as well as the guest and remembrance book will continue to be maintained to honour the memory of Werner Bab and his achievements.

On this site, one may also request free of charge the complete documentary “Zeitabschnitte des Werner Bab” (“Time Intervals of Werner Bab”). This documentary has been subtitled in 19 languages.

In deepest sympathy,

Christian Ender

August, 2010

Quote

“…and when terror strikes just take a deep breat…

“…and when terror strikes just take a deep breath and remember that life is just one long learning experience. Nothing, no mistakes, disasters or oppositions lasts forever. I am now old enough to know this. Wish I had understood it when I was a young artist.”

email to me, 18 May, 2007, Hilary

Gallery

jan dunning

When the Liberals won the elections in 2004, my only consolation was that shortly after I departed for a few months to Taiwan, and thence Guangzhou and Zürich, and avoided somewhat living here. I was looking at these photos of Jan Dunning in a post on one of my favourite for so many reasons (art, porn, performance, short monographs on wonderful, unheard of people) blog, DC’S, and I was reminded immediately of the deeply asinine, parochial, immature Bill Henson incident.

In uttering the two words, “absolutely revolting” in commenting on the photographs, Kevin Rudd managed to convince me my daydream fancies of happy arts under a Labor government were mostly delusional, and lucky I’m leaving the country in three weeks because nothing much has changed.

I’ve also been reading Julian Burnside’s Watching Brief, a sometimes polemical and repetitive but nonetheless profound cataloguing of the previous government’s abuse of human rights, justice, asylum seekers, and the craven society that voted for their own mortgages ahead of alleviating the misery of others unable to defend themselves. In this reading of recent history, I wondered often just how much of this deliberate erosion of law the Labor government will undo, or whether it is rather content with wielding monarchic powers.

In the Henson case (well-documented at by Alison Croggon at Theatre Notes and Chris Boyd at The Morning After) I had this feeling of a return, an encroaching smallness, a nasty, uneducated, mean knee-jerk reaction to the bleatings of vapid, self-important and irresponsible ‘moral guardians’ that in no way does a service to either the arts, or the intellectual and critical sophistication of Australia. Furthermore, it is an imprudent and dangerous use of policing at the behest of political whim that undermines whatever due process yet remains in this country.

I find it sad also that in all this Henson remains a somewhat single and easy target in Australia, as he’s not part of a diversity of artists in various fields exploring particular confronting and dark issues because largely Australian art is comfortable, suburban and safe.

So I was reading DC’s, looking at Jan Dunning’s photography and grateful there are so many artists who are an antidote to parochialism in Australia.

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chingiz aitmatov

I only recently discovered him, and was looking forward to reading The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years, when yesterday read at neweurasia.net that Kyrgyzstan writer Chingiz Aitmatov has died.

Famous Kyrgyz Writer Died

Chingiz Aitmatov died today in a clinic in German city Nuremberg today. He was 79. German news agency DPA wrote that the cause of the dead became pneumonia. Aitmatov was delivered to the clinic “Clinicum Nuremberg Zud” on 19 may with the diagnosis “renal failure”.

German doctors said that pneumonia was the source of the renal and pulmonary failure.

Chingiz Aitmatov was born in 1928 in Kyrgyzstan. He graduated agricultural institute in Frunze (now Bishkek) and Supreme literary courses in Moscow. First he published his prose on Kyrgyz, than began to write on Russian language.

“Jamila” story (1958) brought all-union fame and popularity to him. Than was stories “First Teacher” and “My small poplar in a red scarf” (1961).

Aitmatov published his most famous books in 70-s. “White steamer”, “Piebald dog running on the sea edge”, “Day last longer century”. The novel “Plaha” in 1980-s became one of the most important book in the reconstruction period. In 90 he published the novel “Cassandra’s Brand”. His last big book “When mountains are falling down” was published in 2006.

Aitmatov was the laureate of Lenin and three State prizes of USSR. After reconstruction Chingiz Aitmatov was appointed the ambassador of USSR in Luxemburg. After break-up of USSR he became the diplomatic representative of Kirgizia in Benelux countries and the permanent representative of the republic in NATO and UNESCO.

2008 year was announced as a year of Chingiz Aitmatov in Kyrgyzstan.

— kyrgyzstan.neweurasia.net

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michelangelo antonioni

Blowup was one of those films that changed how I look at cinema, and then how I imagined performance. Early in my life in Melbourne after discovering him through a flatmate who adored L’Avventura, I spent a week in the library watching as many of his films as I could find. I bought and read books on him and when I was in China, to discover his films on DVD was a special treat. I still have yet to see his documentary on China during the Cultural Revolution, Chung Kuo – Cina. It seems to be a year of deaths of people who have deeply affected me.