The Appeal of Playing with Limited Space

Since the end of August visitors to the permanent exhibition have been able to purchase small artworks from an ‘art vending machine.’ The artworks have been created by Jewish artists living and working in Berlin.

Paper mezuzah with pull-out comic strip

Paper mezuzah with pull-out comic strip by Zara Verity Morris
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe

Today we present one of the artists: Zara Verity Morris from London. Morris is currently studying for her Masters degree at the “Institute for Art in Context,” at the Berlin University of the Arts. For the art vending machine she has created a comic strip called “The Mezuzah” on a pull-out paper scroll. (A mezuzah is a small case, which is attached to the door posts of Jewish households. Inside is a handwritten parchment scroll with the Hebrew prayer “Shema Yisrael” (“Hear O Israel”).

Christiane Bauer: Zara, can you for starters briefly explain to me why you produced this particular object for the art vending machine?

Zara Verity Morris: I found it an interesting challenge to play with the limited space of the art vending machine, and wanted to make something that could be unfolded once it has been taken out. The long paper roll was inspired by the formal connection between the Torah and a mezuzah.
When I was a young child, I found a few mezuzot in a drawer in varying conditions. A few had open cases. I was surprised to discover a paper scroll lying inside one of them with Hebrew writing on it. I was excited, and thought it was like a toy Torah. As a child, one of my favourite parts of being at a service at synagogue was the heavy Torah being ‘undressed’ by two people; getting its velvet cover and decorations taken off to reveal the plain paper scroll underneath. I decided to turn these childhood memories into a comic.

How does “The Mezuzah” fit into your previous work?  continue reading

Shortly before Time Begins:

What We Won’t Be Showing, after All

In a few days, indeed in a matter of hours, our special exhibition “A Time for Everything” will open to the public: a display of both sacred and profane objects presented in the context of “Rituals Against Forgetting.” Almost all the objects kindly loaned us have arrived by now, walls have been painted, texts written, showcases installed, and the complete English version of the exhibition webpage will be launched in a few minutes.

Yet much looks very different now, from how it was conceived and planned initially. Up to the very last minute, we had to juggle decisions as to what should be done, and how, and to drop certain ideas that proved infeasible. We are currently shooting the exhibition trailer and already have some scenes ‘in the can,’ namely those which struck us as most interesting and promising. Yet doubtless also some of those will land on the cutting-room floor however — as did this statement from Cilly Kugelmann on the exhibition title and the meaning of time:

The theme of time, or, to be more precise, the Jewish perspective on times, is the primary focus of our forthcoming issue of the JMB Journal, too.  continue reading

Israeli Pop Culture in the Hessian Countryside

When German friends of mine choose to move from Darmstadt, in Hesse, into the surrounding countryside, I shake my head in disbelief. That an Israeli family would leave Tel Aviv not, as many Israelis do, to move to Berlin (see the German-language blog post offering ten tips for Israelis in Berlin), but rather to the tiny Hessian town of Niederbrechen, seems audacious, if not outright absurd. This scenario, however, is the starting point of Sarah Diehl’s debut novel Eskimo Limon 9. The novel depicts a “very particular kind of culture clash,” as the book’s flap announces.

Book cover © Atrium publishers

Book cover
© Atrium publishers

Some of the characters are Israelis, and they have little interest in discussing Germany’s past or the history of European Jews.

“The only thing in the Jewish Museum that will remind me of home will probably be the metal detector you have to go through at the entrance.”

The novel’s Israeli father Chen wishes Germans “would associate us with Eskimo Limon instead of six million dead.” The title of the book refers to a film series of the same name, which aired in Germany in the 1980s as Eis am Stil (Popsicle), “one of the few Israeli pop culture phenomena […] familiar to German audiences.” Many assume that the series is Italian, which—as the author of the novel argues—shows how selective Germans’ perception of Israel can be, and how limited their idea of Jewishness often is.

Other characters are natives of Niederbrechen.  continue reading