ERIAC Program

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Robert Gabris, Emília Rigová:


An exhibition on the narratability of Roma Trauma


Opening: August 1, 2018. 18.00

Opening speech: Timea Junghaus, art historian followed by a guided tour of the artists



The exhibition of ERIAC for the International Roma Holocaust Memorial Day presenting the artworks of Robert Gabris and Emília Rigová considers the transmitted trauma of the Roma Holocaust, and exposes the artists` own wounds to contemplate the impact of the victimizing and paralyzing stories about the Holocaust, about violence, oppression and discrimination inherited through the life stories of family, community-members and ancestors by the younger generations. The central notion of the exhibition – Roma resistance – this transformative phenomenon of Roma agency – has the potential to enable the writing of the testimony of trauma, pain, the haunting unassimilable experience of loss, dislocation, silence…into a new and actual „discourse”.


The artists explore the important aspect of narratability: In their artworks passivity and trauma, are interrelated. They express that the more passive we are and the more traumatic the experience is, the less we (want to) remember. They take action for the „writing” of the narrative, sharing their subjective stories, and testifying. To “testify”, as  Shoshana Felman writes is  “not merely to narrate but to commit oneself, and to commit the narrative, to others”[1]  – becomes extended to the victims of present day anti-gypsyism and racism: Roma survival, resistance and resilience is encoded into the numerous cultural and political events that have taken place around Europe in the form of political interventions, protests, negotiations with major political bodies, demonstrations, marches, speeches and other public assemblies.


Drawing on Judith Butler feminist philosopher’s view and applying it to the chart of Roma assemblies of the past, we recognize the expressive dimension that the very fact of Roma people gathering “says” even without relying on speech. These actions, as ways of coming together, in long-distance solidarity, imply a new understanding of the public space of appearance essential to contemporary Roma politics. By enacting a form of radical solidarity in opposition to oppressive political and economic forces, and performing its embodiments in conferences, cultural events, negotiations and alliances a new sense of “Roma people” emerges. As Butler envisions: “Such an impasse can become the paradoxical condition of a form of social solidarity both mournful and joyful, a gathering enacted by bodies under duress, where the gathering itself signifies persistence and resistance.”[2]


The artists Robert Gabris and Emília Rigová endeavor for a productive narratability of Roma trauma and provide the pedagogy of Roma art: It is possible to capture the transformative moment when pain becomes a source of power, when the deepest hatred and violence calls for mutual healing, and when Roma transgress their own victimized, paralyzed and traumatized self…


The exhibition is on view until November 3, 2018.




Robert Gabris


drypoint scratching on plexiglass, interactive installation with luminescent light and shadows

1 plate 100×50 cm

12 plates 50 x50 cm

Vienna/Udine 2017


[1] Shoshana Felman, Dori Laub: Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis and History, Routledge, 2013. p. 204.

[2] Judith Butler: Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly, Harvard University Press, 2015. p.23.



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