Designed to run for 18 months, TABUROPA is an international research and theatre project on the topic of taboos that will be conducted in four selected countries: Portugal, Poland, Belgium and Germany. Based on their respective historical and cultural traditions, these four countries each stand for a different set of experiences in dealing with taboos and thus exemplify the diversity of Europe.

Artist Diary: TABUROPA – LAUNCHING PHASE notes & thoughts



0] Introduction:

– taboo’s functions
– taboo’s mechanisms
– What are my taboos? NO ANSWER
– Arco Renz: Taboos are invisible. We don’t see the taboos. What we see is the result of the taboos’ existence.
(by Rita Morais)

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1] Dead bodies – a lecture by the pathologist Mark Benecke

IDEAS: Circle of Life, Real, We are all inter-connected in a energetical, biological, chemical and cultural way.
– He says that for Christianity, dead is a bad thing. (I disagree) References:
La Violencia (Colombia, Bogotá)
Rest in Peace (India)? (Filippines)

Taburopa First Meeting

Les Amants Trepassés
Corps Bride (Tim Burton)
Rosalia (Palermo, Italy)
– He says he doesn’t have taboos. I DON’T BELIEVE HIM.
case study: Lenine in Moscow: to burn or not to burn?
IDEA: We are a super bacteria – i.e. we have more bacteria than “human” components in our organism. Comment: the way he changed from disgusting pictures into cute photos, instead of making the cute photos relaxing, they turned terrible and unnatural, and the disgusting ones turned normal.
(by Rita Morais)

“From the age of 24, we start to die”.
The human body is called a “human bacteria super-organism”.
There is some comfort in the thought that everything left over from our body after death is put back into the universe. Life is a circle, and decomposition just a natural process in this “rule of life”.
(by Anja Jazeschann)

2] Body Workshop with Arco Renz:

Great to move after talking so much. (by Anja Jazeschann)

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3] Eisa Jocson: „Death of a pole dancer“ Performance and „Macho Dance“ Video Talk at artheater

I have to say that I was much more impressed by the video of her macho dance performance. The transformation of this small, beautiful and sexy woman into a macho dancer was great. I totally forgot that she is a woman. She looked really masculine.
(by Anja Jazeschann)

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4] Eisa Jocson Macho Dance workshop:

One of the biggest challenges of the Cologne launching phase was learning how can to be macho when you are nine months pregnant, when your belly is just reminding you with every little movement that you cannot properly move around anymore. Even more exciting was watching the others try to become macho dancers, and learning why people like to attend such macho dance events. The whole workshop was so much fun and really challenging. Loved it!!!!!
(by Anja Jazeschann)

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5] The Rautenstrauch Joest Museum: Guided tour to taboo objects

It is not a museum. It is not a museum as we know it. It is rather a map of our thoughts and consciousness than a place of archives. Objects, images and words are here to question and provoke, not to allow us being passive.
Most of the exhibition’s elements seem almost as “ready- made products” for Taburopa. What else can we add and not to repeat, not to be banal?
The map of taboos has been placed in front of us. And I want to be back.

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Short impressions of the few outstanding, in my opinion, parts of the exhibition:
– The white cube, a symbol of a white man’s mind, representing the racist approach and stereotypical perception of black people. A white man’s mind which chooses to be ignorant towards the past and colonialism. One can go in to “a white man’s mind”. And one can experience. (Be ready to see yourself in the mirror…)
– “The room of death” and interviews with funeral workers who fight against taboos surrounding the subject of death. One of them mentioning a workshop with children during which the kids can paint co ffins however they desire. With colours. Rainbows. Flowers.
– The exhibition of objects from other continents which at first seems similar to any other exhibition in any other ethnographical museum in Europe. But when one gets closer to a glass cube with an object in it, one can notice people behind it. A reminder, simple strong reminder – there are people behind it.
(How many objects did we, Europeans, steal by the way? Has anybody ever counted it? Or is it simply too much?)
– Clothes on mannequins; clothes which define us. And projections of the clothes which define us on naked mannequins.
(It is all just projections. Think about it.)
– Curtains which signify passing time and transition from life to death. “Room of death” is surrounded by white curtains. “Room of religions” is surrounded by black curtains.
(by Agnieszka Blonska)

It was interesting, especially the part concerning burials and associated local customs. (by Anja Jazeschann)

6] Meeting with Dr. Hartmut Kraft – psychoanalyst, modern art collector, writer, etc.

– How to talk to people about a thing they don’t want to talk about?
– You break a taboo outside so you can break the taboos inside.
– Taboos are commandments or orders to avoid special actions, special persons, special words, etc.
– A taboo is not the things we don’t do, but the things we avoid doing. And if someone doesn’t avoid something, he/she is excluded of the community.
– Doing things that are not right is different from doing things that are taboos.
– A community is defined by their taboos. If you don’t have the same taboos you are excluded.
– Taboos define who we are. (ex: eating rats or dogs is a taboo for us, but it is normal in other places in the world)
– There are more taboos for specific groups than for the whole world. Ex of world taboos: Incest, Cannibalism.
– Taboos and groups change together.
– If you want to change a group or a society you must change their taboos.
– Taboos of touching: in church, in the gynecologist (If a doctor forgets to examine a woman’s breast, he can’t do it in the elevator, as soon as he remembers, because it is not socially allowed anymore.)
– Taboos of pictures: dead peoples in September, 11: coffins
– Taboos of speaking: Saying someone smells bad, church wine-blood bread-body –

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Taboos are not something we don’t talk about (for example: Hitler in Germany is taboo, and people talk about it, the taboo is not being allowed to tell jokes about it);

– Single persons, sexual abuse, alcoholism (family don’t talk about it)
– Taboos are conscious and unconscious (after 100 sessions, a patient reminds something that had been hidden in her soul, that she had been raped – very common case.
– HOW DO WE ESTABLISH A TABOO? With a MANA. (ex. the chef of a tribe has a always a great mana) MANA (power) + TABOO (if you have a taboo, you can always ask: where’s the mana?)
– HOW TO BREAK A TABOO? It’s dangerous, It’s a fight. If you don’t have enough mana, don’t break a taboo.

1st PHASE: Recognizing a taboo (ex: completely clear that incest is a taboo). When a taboo is not good enough, do we create a rule? Rule, Law, Sin, etc…

– Taboos are bad and good (they are necessary for the identity of a group).
– HIDDEN WISHES???? sexual abuse, etc. > that’s why we need a a taboo AND a law – It’s a never ending fight – when the wish IS BIGGER than the taboo (there even existed a green party, to legalize sexual abuse with children, etc – and people don’t talk about this!)
– Taboos through education and learning: if you do this, you don’t belong to us > like a kid: mum, can I eat the dog? > punishment: go to your room and don’t see us. >>> WE DON’T WANT TO BE EXCLUDED. -being naked > SHAME!
– Teenagers break taboos as well
– Politically right (…) Berlusconi has a great mana -cannibalism is so strong that we don’t need a law against it.
(by Rita Morais)

– Taboos define who we are! They are part of our identity. If we change our identity the taboos will change and reverse. But to make a change you have to break the taboo.
– Mana and Taboo are a system, they belong together.
– Laws, rules, taboos, sins, morals are all very close together.
– To be politically correct is one of the new taboos of the last 2 years!
(by Anja Jazeschann)

7] Meeting with Mr. STEIN – former EU Polititian

– Mr. Stein gave us an idea of how difficult and complex the whole system of the EU is. For example: As a member of the European Commission you should not have any national interests. But in the European Council where laws are passed this is always the big thing. In fact, no EU politician wants to disadvantage their own countrymen which leads to partisan behaviour by politicians. The question remains how this partisan thinking will affect future decision-making in the EU. (by Anja Jazeschann)

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8] Movie „Tabu“ by F.W. Murnau at Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum

I really liked the film. But I just wondered afterwards if the “actresses and actors” in the film had been paid properly? Big topic of the film was, from my point of view, the exploitation of the two main characters when they leave their paradise. But what about real life?
(by Anja Jazeschann)

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9] Expedition to the NS-ORDENSBURG VOGELSANG

– Reflection on the madness / absurdity of National Socialism – Despite finding the building complex repulsive, I admit to being fascinated by how the Nazis actually expressed their agenda in their architecture and ideology.
(by Anja Jazeschann)
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10] Taboos in Music– talking and listening, at artheater
– My baby was making it clear to me which kind of music represents a taboo for him: I had to leave the room at some point in the second part!
(by Anja Jazeschann)
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11] A meeting/debate with Siegfried Seaberg – a curator and teacher of Disability Studies – on the topic of Transability and BiiD – body integrity identity disorder

A breakdown of varying forms of BiiD:
‘Wannabe’ – a person who wants to be disabled
‘Pretender’ – a person who pretends to be disabled
‘Devotee’ – a person who actively seeks out contact (sexual or otherwise) with disabled people.

A state in which the subject appears
mentally/physically/sociologically ‘able’ , but insists otherwise. A Transabled individual or BiiD case is a human who despite their socially acknowledged complete ‘ableness’ wants to or desires to live a ‘dis-abled life’. This is done by imposing a dis-ability on oneself (e.g. confining themselves to a wheelchair/not using a limb to its full extent), handicapping oneself (disfigurement, deformation), or the extreme version is legal disfiguration (asking a medical professional for assistance with the removal of a limb, sense or other ability).
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Definition quibbles:
‘Trans’ means “across, through and beyond“ ( though in this case is a prefix appropriated from transgender theory to signify able bodied individuals who wish to be disabled. This has sparked aggressive discourse in ‘trans’ communities on whether ‘transable’ is legitimate as a term.
This is an excerpt from a discussion on the blog ‘The view from my brain’:
“If BIID is a legitimate thing (which in that case would be a disability) then the term ‘transabled’ wouldn’t apply to something that has BIID because they would be legitimately disabled anyway. All the term ‘transabled’ means to me is that you don’t have a disorder but feel that you should have one, which is entirely different than having BIID (if it can actually be diagnosed) in which case your mind has incorrectly mapped your body.
If it’s an actual disorder and you have it, why the fuck do you need the trans* prefix if you’re actually disabled? Isn’t putting the trans* in there kind of sort of admitting that it’s something you have no legitimate claim to?”
questions brought up in the debate:
a, is this a psychological sickness?
a,1, is it curable?
b, if not, does that mean these people are born with a ‘real’ dis-ability?
b,1, what could this be?
b,2, Are they born not being able to fully use their fully functioning biomechanical equipment? b,3, Are they born with a physiological cranial dis-ability which guides then toward a disabled life?
If so why are they not just called disabled? why the ‘trans’?
c, Who are these people Sociologically?
c,1, are they a category of human unrecognized by contemporary society?
c,2, Do we need a new sub-group in the species ‘homo sapien debilis’?
c,3, As civilization has developed and the treatment of those born with defects has become more focused on integration rather than separation, more social sub-groups have appeared. Most notably within gender studies and the inclusion of trans-gender, but also within the categorization of disabilities – severe, mild etc. Does Transablism and BiiD have authethentic places in disability studies?
d, In the case of Wannabes; if these people are ’sick’ yet ‘incurable’ and deemed ‘sane’ should they be allowed to go through with the ‘cure’ and be granted Limb or sense removal?
d,1, if so, who should pay for it? tax payers? the suffering party?
d,2, Assuming a process could be reversed, What would happen if they wish to revert the process? again who should pay?
d,2,i assuming the process cannot be replaced will surgeons be held accountable for disfiguring
d,3, If a person is granted an operation to alter their physiology, from able to disabled, should they also change their social status? if so would they be viable for social care? should an able bodied person be intentionally ‘handicapped’ and then be supported for the rest of their life in the same way a person born with a physical/mental defect is supported by society?
d,4, could it be possible that these affected by Biid are suffering a psychosomatic disorder and are convinced they are disabled yet are truly only self-propagating the symptoms which convince them of their illness? Is there a morbid curiosity in the unknown, the un-able or the need for support?
could this be linked to fetishism?
synopsis of the debate:
the debate was long, drawn out and difficult for the group to engage with because of the form which Seigfreid had chosen. A chatroom dialogue between BiiD sufferers, disabled users and doctors had been split into fragments and handed out to all of those assembled. We were supposed to identify the author of the fragment and read it aloud when another fragment seemed to lead into it.
There were some problems to get the dialogue moving… The fragments of chatroom dialogue were written in a specific medical term heavy vocabulary which made conversation on the topic slow. There was a feeling of forcing dialogue, but perhaps because we were all pretty tired after the barrage of information coming our way over the intensive weekend of talks, visits, performances and workshops. By the end the topic was circling the question of rights, financial support and the legitimacy of BiiD suffers desire to be recognized as an authentic disability.
nearer the end there was a move in the direction of implants and prostheses. There was also the mention of ‘ultra-able’ specifically in relation to Pistorius.
(by Sean Palmer)

from the conversation “wanted to be a disabled…..”
1967 – Jorgen Leth premiere the movie “The Perfect Human”.
2003 – Lars Von Trier e Jorgen Leth premiere the movie “The Five Obstructions”. 2013 – Nuno Leão meet’s again with this films in TABUROPA.
Taboo topics / Taboo memoirs
In the controversial conversation about “people who want to be disabled…”, i found myself again with two movies that marked me deeply: “The Perfect Human” de Jorgen Leth e “The Five Obstructions” de Lars Von Trier e Jorgen Leth. And this films become, to me, pieces from a new personal category I created since I’m involved in TABUROPA: taboo movies. And at this crossing of the films I mentioned above with the talk about “people who want to be disabled…”, the notions of “Human” and “Perfect” were again called into question. Before they had been called into question by Leth and Von Trier, and now I question them in my work. What is Man? How is it defined? What attributes make it (im)perfect? What is (im)perfection? There are endless questions… There are questions that give us collision… And put those questions may well be an act of questioning the institutionalized, thereofe that want to perpetuate the already made instead of seeking the unknown, infinitely.
Taboo dreams / Taboo questions
Doctor, i have a dream. I wanna be a disabled quadriplegic. I dont feel good in the body that i have. Looks like I’m missing something or I have something else. And that’s not healthy for me. I feel sick. I do not feel myself. I’m not. I’m not. There are more like me. I am not alone. We are not the majority. Maybe we are in another part. Also we are not the minority, neither the margin. We are the margin margin margin. The last scrap about to emerge. But it is even so we want to be. Our body is not a sacred scripture. It’s another body. But also a body. Doctor what are the general principles of medicine? By Hippocrates, which oath said? And by the men? What the law says about my body? Is my body a taboo for the law that men do? Why is my body taboo for men when I am a man like them?
When you put your hand on the Hippocratic Oath, you swore (among other things): ” I will not permit that considerations of religion, nationality, race, political party, or social position come between my duty and my patient”. Doctor here I am, now, in front of you, your patient. Would you help me?
Last questions / First Questions
What are my limits? How my limits are influenced by social and cultural environment in which i live? What do I authorize? What I forbid me to do? Or should rather ask: what is allowing me to do and that prohibit me from doing? What is a body? What’s sacred and profane in a body?
(by Nuno Leão)
This afternoon was unexpectedly hard. The discussion, or should I say role play we did, has shown the whole complexity of the topic of taboos in the context of society. There are always so many opinions and points of view and cultural differences that are revealed when you talk about a topic like disability, especially if you discuss the phenomenon of ‘wannabes’. Do we have the right to harm ourselves? Should a doctor be punished if he helps someone to lose an arm or leg? What about the human right of self-determination? We didn’t reach a conclusion after we talked and discussed. In fact the conclusion was that sometimes we have to accept that there is no right or wrong, no solution or conclusion.
(by Anja Jazeschann)

12] Jörg Buttgereit: Nekromantik – movie at Filmhaus Köln

Obsession with dead bodies. Bits of bodies in jars. Blood, dirt and more bits of bodies . Sex with dead bodies. And all of these filmed in the cheapest VHR way, with a dodgy edit and post-production.
I left half way through. (I’m sure I missed something, but frankly I’m not bothered what it was.)
2 main thoughts after: 1. How easily we can be manipulated into the idea of what art is or should be, and that maybe it’s us who are just a bit too stupid to understand it. (Not that this
was a case, but it did provoke that thought, especially the
discussion after)
2. The experience which confirms, in practice, almost sensually, that some taboos are needed. (by Agnieszka Blonska)
Disgusting!!!! I hated it. I realized here what my own taboos are. The days previously I kind of connected the topic of taboos with something negative, but after this film I was happy that some things are taboo for me: taboos can protect you, or a society, a small group. From this point of view the film was helpful, but only from this point of view. There is no art for me in this film. And after we talked to Jörg Buttgereit, the director, I thought even he is not thinking that his film is art. I liked him.
(by Anja Jazeschann)