Miriam Cahn at Meyer Riegger


Artist: Miriam Cahn

Exhibition title: MARE NOSTRUM

Venue: Meyer Riegger, Berlin, Germany

Date: March 29 – May 28, 2016

Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Meyer Riegger, Berlin

MARE NOSTRUM – in and beyond late antiquity, this term with its manifold political origins described the totality of all people included within, and at the same time the claim to power asserted by the Imperium Romanum, which has left its mark on European life right down to our day. In the autumn of last year, the Italian naval operation of the same name – which had been called into life in 2013 in the wake of the Lampedusa tragedy to rescue refugees in the Mediterranean – was terminated. It comes as no surprise that the Swiss artist Miriam Cahn has chosen this title both for her group of works and for her overall exhibition, in which new, large-format works and smaller drawings created from the 1980s on are put on display. Topics such as war, violence and people fleeing from conflict have found expression in her work from the very beginning and reveal both her precise observation of the world around her and her ongoing concern for her own history.

The exhibition, however, is not to be seen solely as an autobiographic retrospect: the forthright inclusion of current-day societal circumstances reveals Miriam Cahn’s work to be also a testimony to political developments, which are broached directly in her paintings from a personal perspective and are submitted for discussion and debate in the exhibition environment.

by Miriam Cahn

I would not be

I would not be had I not not I I too but not even at all if.
I would not be only not I I too I would not be. I am because.
I am I too I because if.

I would not be if my mother had not met my father I naturally by the nature of things would not be I would not be.

my mother from Paris take flight flee must my mother refugee. my mother daughter sister and her younger sister brother from Paris to the south must flee. my mother put by her parents my grandparents in panic on a child refugee transport on a child train in panic from Paris to south of france in panic at the german enemies their own children alone on a child refugee transport to the south to an uncle in panic. my mother eldest daughter alone for her sister brother must care my mother with her sister brother swiss refugees in child refugee transport. my mother born grew up in Paris panic at the enemies germans my mother foreigner swiss girl. in panic my grandparents put their children in panic their own foreign children only children on the child train to south of france in panic.

I would not be if my grandparents had not in panic sent their children in panic to the south panic. I would not be if my mother not been my mother. if she daughter sister niece had not been sent to south of france panic sent freighted transported to an uncle to a farmer to southern france I would not be.

my mother takes high school diploma teaches child refugees earns a little money draws paints makes music swims in the sea happy the young woman in war in southern france at her uncle‘s. but but I would not be if my mother had not should had to go back to Switzerland for family reunion as Swiss girl back must as daughter sister must ought as foreign swiss girl from France back to Switzerland so-called home suddenly. live in Basel as refugees or suchlike or how or so as swiss refugees in Switzerland in Basel in mid-war not much money my mother daughter sister has to work so that her only son can should must study in Switzerland. my mother becomes a secretary in my father‘s business.

I would not be.

I would not be if my grandmother my father‘s mother had not said in 1933:

—either Hitler or me!—
and has to take flight flee with her sons from Germany to Switzerland not to the USA my father son much prefer flee to the USA want much much more to the USA but no surety so Switzerland so flee must should to Switzerland and transfer the firm in tiny little bits etc or so or howsoever to Switzerland. to have should let be assigned in Switzerland as stateless german with J passport to that city that still has no antiques dealer. Basel then here in Basel friends of my father‘s friends found a firm so that my grandmother + her sons here in Basel fled here can stay here with their firm here during the war here in Basel precarious due to refugee status precarious but all the same. very precarious above all in 1941 but to be able to be here able to live here in Basel able to do even a little business modest but all the same.

I would not be if my father boss of the firm not had my mother employed I would not be. I would not be if my father, boss, married, had not fallen in love with my mother, secretary. he courted her for a very long time a very very long long time. there was someone else, he was married. she my mother was not a jewess, he my father a jew had a Jewish wife. she my mother young woman wanted to become an artist a musician, he wanted to start a family children without fail I would not be.

I would not be.

after the war my grandparents back to Paris my mother daughter artist in Paris want to be after the war maybe artist maybe musician in Paris want to be but but but my mother my father now love now want to have now want to marry.

I would not be if my father not divorce and not want should marry his beloved my father my mother both now want start family have children in the nature of things naturally I am I too I and also not I because if.

Miriam Cahn, Palü, 2015

Translated from German by Christopher Jenkin-Jones












Miriam Cahn, HOERE! (denken), 2016


Miriam Cahn, hände hoch!, 2016


Miriam Cahn, das bedrückend schöne blau, 2015


Miriam Cahn, o.t., 2015


Miriam Cahn, NICHTS, 2015


Miriam Cahn, herumlaufen, 2016


Miriam Cahn, herumstehen, 2015


Miriam Cahn, könnteichseinmüssen (ZITAT), 2015


Miriam Cahn, MARE NOSTRUM, 2015


Miriam Cahn, könnteichseinmüssen, 2015


Miriam Cahn, o.t., 1981


Miriam Cahn, denkender soldat, 2015


Miriam Cahn, könnteichsein, 2015


Miriam Cahn, o.t., 2015


Miriam Cahn, o.t., 2015


Miriam Cahn, o.t., 2012


Miriam Cahn, traum + panzer, 1991-1992


Miriam Cahn, Sarajevo Arbeit/travail sarajevo, 1992


Miriam Cahn, herumsitzen (was ich malen wollte), 1996


Miriam Cahn, o.t., 2016


Miriam Cahn, o.t., 2012


Miriam Cahn, o.t., 2012


Miriam Cahn, F-H, 2004


Miriam Cahn, rennen müssen, 2015


Miriam Cahn, o.t., 2012


Miriam Cahn, o.t., 1992


Miriam Cahn, schönheit, 2014


Miriam Cahn, terrorostenkitsch, 2015


Miriam Cahn, o.t., 2015


Miriam Cahn, MARE NOSTRUM, 2015


Miriam Cahn, o.t., 2015