Tamar Tembeck


Tamar Tembeck’s stay at Künstlerhaus Büchsenhausen was spent designing and preparing of the exhibition project Auto/Pathographies.

Tamar Tembeck writes: “With the growing visibility of cancer and AIDS in the last quarter of a century, a number of artists have begun to document their experiences of sickness and to construct a new idiom for the representation of illness in art: autopathography. With the predominance of negative myths and value judgments towards the characters of diseased subjects in art history, many of these artists have chosen to critically respond to the stigma with which diseased bodies are typically depicted and received. Influenced by AIDS and breast cancer activism in recent years and by the growing disability arts movements, increased attention has been paid to the politics of publicly representing diseased bodies. These practices also engage the viewer in facing fundamental questions pertaining to existence in a vulnerable and finite body. In visual practices of autothanatography in particular, being is confronted with non-being. Sophisticated aesthetic techniques are used in these works to bring the failures of self-representation to the fore; the limitations of life and of subjecthood or agency are also reflected in the process.

The Auto/Pathographies project examined the forms and functions of representing illness firsthand in a variety of disciplines. It brought together visual, performative and time-based works from international artists who address the subject matters of physical illness in (self-) representation. The exhibition was shown at the Kunstpavillon in Innsbruck in July-August 2009 and centered on the themes of autopathography and autothanatography, each of which involved artists’ performative representations of physical illness and/or mortality.”

Tamar Tembeck is publishing a book on this subject as a follow-up to the exhibition project, forthcoming in 2014.

During her fellowship, Tamar Tembeck held presentations at the Department of Canadian Studies and the Department of Art History, University of Innsbruck, in the summer semester of 2009. She also presented her work as a clown doctor in Montreal to students at the Gymnasium der Franziskaner in Tyrol and the Real-Gymnasium J. Ph. Fallmerayer in Brixen.

Tamar TEMBECK is an art historian, writer and performer based in Montreal. She completed her PhD in art history at the McGill University in Montreal with the dissertation Performative Autopathographies: Self-Representations of Physical Illness in Contemporary Art. Since 2003, Tamar Tembeck has also been working as a therapeutic artist with Dr. Clown in Montreal hospitals, long-term care facilities and rehabilitation centers.