Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Spitting image

As it happened we were discussing the recovery of divers suffering from the bends with a German search and rescue expert and had just remarked that we hoped the decompression chamber we were looking at wasn’t used too often when he tapped the table and said, “toi, toi, toi.” That sounded familiar.

It was in fact the title of a contemporary New Zealand art exhibition that travelled to the Museum Fridericianum in Kassel back in 1999. That’s the same museum that features the keystone exhibition at the current Documenta and also where Tobias Berger came from in 2003 to direct Artspace. As art people know Toi is a Maori word for art and Toi Toi Toi was particularly smart as the title of an exhibition because it was also German for good luck. Nice word play. And true.

But toi is also a Yiddische inflection of the German word for the Devil, Teufel. Theatre performers say it three times usually at the same time as spitting three times (or for the more refined making the sound of spitting) to ask for protection from bad luck. It’s a German variation of ‘break a leg’.

Google, can’t live with it, can’t live without it.

Image: Ludwig Leo’s Centre for the German Life Saving Association opened in 1971