The Whole World in a Clover Leaf by Heinrich Bünting, Magdeburg, 1600, Woodcut © Jewish Museum Berlin Jens Ziehe
art, Berlin, history, Life in Berlin, Museum, politics, things to do

Welcome to Jerusalem at the Jewish Museum Berlin

The Jewish Museum Berlin is a disorientating place. It is made up of various buildings from different periods, most recently The Libeskind building.

Architect Daniel Libeskind created his design around a series of intersecting voids and straight and zigzagging lines. Corridors veer off at angles, and lights, mirrors and installations constantly make you aware of the strangeness of the space.

Shalekhet (Fallen Leaves) by Menashe Kadishman at the Jewish Museum Berlin
Shalekhet (Fallen Leaves) by Menashe Kadishman, Jewish Museum Berlin

One of my favourite installations in this are is Shalekhet (Fallen Leaves) by Menashe Kadishman. You hear it before you see it, a distinct clinking reminiscent of chains or shackles. The work consists of over 10,000 screaming faces cut from iron plates, which you walk over as you approach a dark void. It is a disturbing refection of victims of war.

Adding another layer to the confusion of space is the newly opened “Welcome to Jerusalem” exhibition in the old building. The exhibition transports you through the history, sights and sounds of the city in over 15 rooms. One room, dedicated to maps, displays The Whole World in a Clover Leaf by Heinrich Bünting, showing Jerusalem as the centre of the world. Disorientating again, from a geographical point of view, but accurate from a historical, religious and political point of view.

The Whole World in a Clover Leaf by Heinrich Bünting, Magdeburg, 1600, Woodcut © Jewish Museum Berlin Jens Ziehe
The Whole World in a Clover Leaf by Heinrich Bünting, Magdeburg, 1600, Woodcut © Jewish Museum Berlin, purchased with funds provided by Stiftung DKLB, photo: Jens Ziehe

 

The exhibition successfully shows the changing landscape of Jerusalem, from 5000 years ago to the present day, where old and new constantly overlap and collide. The exhibition is full of interesting insights and facts, for example, that the keys to one of the holiest sites in Christianity, The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, are held by two Muslim families, or that Muslims once faced towards Jerusalem to pray, before this was changed to Mecca, or that when the Jewish temple was destroyed, Judaism fundamentally changed to focus on the study of holy texts. In addition to all this, the exhibition provides you with a good understanding of the current conflicts that occupy the city today.

So, if you’re getting tired of the grey Berlin winter, take a trip to the Jewish Museum to be transported through time and space.

Welcome to Jerusalem is on at the Jewish Museum Berlin (Lindenstraße 9-14, 10969 Berlin) until 30 April 2019.

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art, Berlin, things to do

No Compromises! The Art of Boris Lurie at the Jewish Museum Berlin

It is rumoured that Boris Lurie’s No!art movement got its name when a woman entered an exhibition on 10th street in New York, looked his Railroad to America collage (below), and ran out screaming “No! No! No!”

Boris Lurie, Railroad to America, 1963
Boris Lurie, Railroad to America, 1963, © Boris Lurie Art Foundation, New York

Whether or not that story is apocryphal, the art of Boris Lurie is indeed provocative. Interestingly, he was very much against Warhol and the pop art movement, which also sought to be political and provocative. Perhaps this is because pop art lacks the harrowing depth of Lurie’s work.

This fresh, visceral quality is probably due to the fact that Boris Lurie, who grew up in Riga, was interned by the Nazis at Buchenwald and other concentration camps. His art is particularly Jewish – a visual and textual attempt to express a European Jewish experience. It seems apt, therefore, that the largest exhibition of his work – including pieces that have never been shown before – is now on at the Jewish Museum Berlin.

The retrospective presents an over-arching view of Lurie’s œuvre, consisting of over 200 collages, drawings, paintings, texts and sculptures, as well as documentary videos about the artist.  His vast body of work grapples with a number of subjects, from modern American society and politics, to concentration camps and depictions of women. Most impactful are his collages, combining photos of the Holocaust with pin-up photos from American magazines.

Perhaps the best sum up of the exhibition is the welcoming text at its entrance, by Lurie himself: If your eyes and mind serve you well, you will see something new. You will find no secret languages here, no fancy escapes, no hushed, muted silences, no messages beamed at exclusive audiences. Art is a tool of influence and urging. We want to talk, to shout, so that everybody can understand. Our only master is truth.

No Compromises! The Art of Boris Lurie is on at the Jewish Museum Berlin (Lindenstr. 9-14, 10969 Berlin) until 31st July 2016.

 

art, Berlin, Literature

Exhibition: There’s no place like time

There’s no place like time is an art exhibition with a twist. It’s a retrospective of the work of video artist Alana Olsen, curated by her daughter Aila, who lives in Berlin. So far, so good. It’s only when you look at the exhibition brochure, dated December 2018, that you realise something is awry.

3 s jetty colorPrinting error? No. The video artist Alana Olsen and her daughter Alia are actually characters out of Lance Olsen’s novel Theories of Forgetting. We are looking at the work of a fictive artist, curated by her fictive daughter. Olsen’s book has spiraled out of its binding and into our reality, or perhaps we have circled into its fictionality, becoming characters ourselves.

The exhibition is, in reality, a collaboration between author Lance Olsen and video artist Andi Olsen. Between them, they have brought the spirit of the fictive artist alive as well as her daughter’s attempt to put the pieces of her mother’s life together to try to grasp her and stop her spiraling away into oblivion.

The themes of time, place, deterioration and winding down run through the exhibition – themes which are also important to the novel. Lance Olsen’s creation can be seen as a spiral itself – first inspired by Robert Smithson’s famous earthwork The Spiral Jetty (above), the novel has unconventional page-layouts and two back covers so you can start from either end, it has now spun back out into a physical space and collaboration with a visual artist once more.

An immersive, multi-dimensional and unique approach to art, which people can delve into in many different ways.

There’s no place like time is on until Sunday 15th November at the Greenhouse Berlin (8th floor, Gottlieb-Dunkel Str. 43/44, 12099 Berlin).

art, Berlin, Life in Berlin

Exhibition: Obedience at the Jewish Museum Berlin

God said, ‘Take your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains.’

Caravaggio, The Sacrifice of Isaac
Caravaggio, The Sacrifice of Isaac, ca. 1603. Videomapping auf Repro © bpk | Scala

The story of Abraham is one of the oldest and most intriguing in the Bible: God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, and Abraham obeys, although ultimately a ram is killed in Isaac’s place.

The text, handed down in Judaism as the “Binding of Isaac”, is also significant in Christianity and Islam. All three religions interpret the episode, and the questions it raises, differently. In Islamic texts for example, Abraham’s son Ismail, not Isaac, is sacrificed, and there is no binding at the altar.

Multimedia artist Saskia Boddeke and British film director Peter Greenaway have revived this old text into an immersive installation. Their new exhibition Obedience, at the Jewish Museum, takes you on a journey through 15 rooms, focusing on the different episodes and characters of the story.

It is heavy subject matter, and the rooms are loaded – with video installations, music, objects, modern images and old manuscripts. Every room has different floors, lighting, smells, sounds and visual stimuli, resulting in a heightened sensual experience.

However, subtle aspects carry through, binding the narrative together. For example, the pebbles on the floor of The Devil’s Room, that glow like hot coals in the dark, red light, take on new significance when we read about Hajj pilgrims stoning the devil, like Abraham, in The Islam Room. The sacrificed ram of Judaism becomes the Lamb of God in Christianity; the firewood that Isaac gathers becomes the wood of the cross.

What becomes a constant, ever louder echo reverberating through all the rooms is a focus on Isaac / Ismail, the child Abraham was willing to sacrifice. Boddeke and Greenaway have interpreted the story as a human drama, in a modern context. Images of children and their parents make us question Abraham’s obedience, for which he was praised and rewarded.

A video of children from all over the world repeating the lines “I am Isaac” or “I am Ismail”, allusions to child refugees, and contemporary images of suffering children make us question whether we, like Abraham, are sacrificing children in obedience to wealth. Provocative.

Obedience: An installation in 15 rooms by Saskia Boddeke and Peter Greenaway opens at the Jewish Museum today and runs till 13 September 2015.

art, Berlin, Germany, history, Life in Berlin, News, politics

The Bode Museum marks the 70th Anniversary of End of World War Two

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two. To celebrate, Russia staged its biggest military parade, involving thousands of troops marching across the Red Square in Moscow, displays of ballistic missiles and over 100 war planes.

Here’s a clip of what it looked like:

While such scenes of nationalistic machismo, mirroring those that led up to the second world war in the first place, are clichéd and shallow, here, in a quiet corner of Berlin’s Bode Museum, a much smaller display makes for a deeper impact.

The Lost Museum Exhibition is about the hundreds of art works from the Berlin collections that went missing, were stolen or destroyed, due to the second world war. It consists of partly destroyed works, reconstructed pieces, photographic reproductions and information about the lost works.

The partly charred or smashed statues are devastating to see, but worse are the black and white photographic reproductions of paintings, like this Rubens:

photographic reproduction of lost Rubens at Bode Museum, BerlinA masterwork like this, drained of the colour and brushstrokes that bring Rubens’ paintings to life with fleshy sensuality, makes one feel the absence of the original even more.

IMG_20150510_140410Other stand out pieces, like this plaster cast of Donatello’s John the Baptist – the original has disappeared – demonstrate the value of such a restitution project as it reintroduces the piece to the narrative of art history.

The exhibition also raises interesting questions about itself. For example, should the few remaining fragments of works that survived the Friedrichshain Bunker fire be reconstructed, taking the artists’ original visions and intentions into mind? Or should, according to the standards of historic preservation, any change in the state of a work of art be respected? In short, is it more important to show the original idea of a work of art, or its history?

The exhibition is insightful and questioning and, on a positive note, is possible due to the ongoing and ever-strengthening collaboration between German and Russian museum professionals.

What remains though is the feeling of loss for all those hundreds of works that have vanished. It is a loss to civilisation. A fissure in art history. The visions and spirits of the people that lived in those works, forever lost.

The Lost Museum: The Berlin Sculpture and Paintings Collections 70 Years After World War II is on at the Bode-Museum until 27th September 2015.

art, Berlin, Life in Berlin

Creative in Berlin: Laura Fong Prosper

Visual artist Laura Fong Prosper has been living in Berlin since 2007. Her solo video exhibition Gēn opens tonight at the Vesselroom Project.

Here’s your chance to meet her and find out about her work and relationship to the city.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Laura Fong Prosper. I am an artist and film editor from Panama. I love yoga, cats, nature, music and good food. I am a melting pot with legs. I am Chinese, Native American, black and white.

screen-shot-2013-04-03-at-6-30-35-pmWhy did you, like so many artists, choose to live in Berlin?

Since I came in 2004, I knew I wanted to live here. Freedom and creativity breathe in Berlin’s air. Since then, of course I’ve seen some dramatic changes; everything is more organized, controlled and less anarchic than it used to be, but I think change also brings other possibilities. More opportunities for artists, more spaces, more global exchanges and local community work. Let’s hope Berlin grows for the better.

What’s your favorite place in Berlin?

I can’t have one favorite place in this city. That’s why I love it so much. Some places are, Treptower Park, Richardplatz, Tempelhof Airport, Prinzessinnengarten, the Thai Park, Teufelsberg and anything in the outskirts of the city all the way to beautiful Brandenburg. I usually spend my weekends outside the city in the countryside of Brandenburg.

Tell us about your work.

I mix VJ (video jockey) techniques and film editing techniques into my work. I also like to use analog formats, and mix it in with newer media. I love color saturations, over impositions and glitch. I am into experimental film making, video installations and visual essays. My VJ work is more about video painting on a canvas and live video art projections than syncing video bits to music beats.

What themes are you conscreen-shot-2013-04-09-at-1-10-56-amcerned with?

Identity, the expat life, being a foreigner since 2001 in different places all over the world gave me a constant nostalgia or homesickness of missing family on a daily basis. But also, being a walking melting pot, I can’t relate only to one culture. And that’s how I feel every time I go back home. I feel I don’t belong there anymore. So I like to deal with that space in between. That identity limbo and its consequences.

Describe your process.

Trial and error and free play. There’s no other way for me. I came from film school where everything is very strict, pre-planned and hierarchic (especially fiction filmmaking). With my art I like to break from all those conventions and just play. I like unexpected – accidental – results the most.

Editing is on one hand intuitive/dreamlike and on the other about story-telling and construction – your video art seems to rely more on the former than the latter – or do story-telling principles still apply?

screen-shot-2013-04-03-at-5-57-42-pmYou’re completely right. When I work as a film editor, even though I bring my intuitive abstractions once in a while I have to rely on telling a story, thinking about the spectator… is it clear enough? Is it boring? How can we make it shorter? My art work is the complete opposite. Its more about feelings than rationality. Sometimes, I like to leave the interpretation open to the spectator. It’s more about telling fragmented stories than a linear one. I pay a lot of attention to trying to show moments of my life, seen through my eyes. It’s about creating an ephemeral experience.

What are you working on now?

An experimental film about Berlin. After all these years here, I haven’t done any project on the city yet. It’s about time. You might be interested. I’ll keep you posted…

Laura Fong Prosper’s solo video exhibition Gēn opens at 7 p.m tonight at the Vesselroom Project, near Kottbusser Tor and runs until 12th December 2014.

If you are being creative in Berlin and would like to chat about it, contact me.

art, Berlin, Life in Berlin

Erich Kissing at Galerie Schwind

Last night was the opening of an Erich Kissing exhibition at Galerie Schwind on Auguststrasse in Berlin Mitte. The artist, as well as gallery owner Herr Schwind, attended.

Erich Kissing exhibition, Galerie Schwind, 2014

Erich Kissing, painter of the Leipzig school and former student of Werner Tübke paints fantastical tableaux in a precise, realist style. He is known for his high-precision glazing technique which consists of several layers and takes months to complete. This fine technique in combination with images of flying, centaurs and dream-like landscapes creates a stunning effect. You can see his work on his website.

The Erich Kissing Exhibition is on at Galerie Schwind, Auguststrasse 19, 10117 Berlin until 8 November 2014.