The Deadly Attack on a Vision of Peace

Remembering 4 November 1995

A portrait of a man in suit and tie

Jitzchak Rabin, drawing by Chaim Topol
CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Twenty years ago today, 4 November 1995, Israel prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, was assassinated following a peace rally in central Tel Aviv. Mirjam Wenzel was there.

“It was a mild evening at Kikar Malchei Yisrael (Kings of Israel Square, now Yitzhak Rabin Square) in the middle of Tel Aviv, where throngs of people had gathered under signs of shalom achshav (peace now) to show their support for Rabin and Shimon Peres and their push for peace. The national religious movement had grown more hostile towards the government in recent weeks, and the media had been reporting its demonstrations with posters of Rabin in a SS uniform. No one could imagine, at least not within my circles, that this movement could turn deadly. From the Tel Aviv office of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, where I had a semester internship, the Oslo Accords were viewed as a political and economic fact.  continue reading

The Art Vending Machine Gets an Extended Run with “Glass Interiors” by Daniel Wiesenfeld

A man stands next to an electric kiln

Daniel Wiesenfeld at work. The freshly baked glass plates cool off in the oven, 2015
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Anna Golus

The last few weeks, while people everywhere were sizzling in the summer sun, Daniel Wiesenfeld was ‘baking’ a hundred new works of art for our art vending machine. What good luck, meanwhile, that the machine is nearly sold out!

Daniel is presenting the Jewish Museum Berlin with what is already the third series of works for the vending machine, all three of which are incomparable. In April we received a hundred oil paintings with self-portraits of the artist bearing a variety of poignant grimaces, along with a hundred charcoal drawings featuring a number of different motifs. For this new series, Daniel decided on a technique that’s new not only for him but for the vending machine as well: stained glass.

I visited Daniel a few days ago in Berlin’s Tempelhof neighborhood.  continue reading

Perplexing legacy

With her works for our art vending machines, Deborah Wargon exposes things that got swept under the rug

portrait of Deborah Wargon

Portrait of Deborah Wargon © Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Gelia Eisert

A cordial welcome, the wafting flavors of a freshly-cooked meal, a light-drenched room with a high ceiling, full of brightly-colored books and pictures, and a piano with a sign-post ‘to Australia’ sitting on it… My first encounter with Deborah Wargon in her live-in atelier in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood is a far cry from the rather severe, somber associations that the term ‘testament enforcer’ brings up for me. Wargon – a musician as well as visual and theater artist born in Melbourne in 1962 – describes herself this way on the package insert that comes with the small-scale artworks that she created for the art vending machine in our permanent exhibition. Those artworks bear the title “The Legacy of Friede Traurig” – where Friede Traurig doubles as a proper name and, in German, to mean peace sorrowful. And Deborah Wargon, who is best known for her paper cuttings inside former insect cases, says that she would rather be sorrowful.

With a little good luck, you may get one of her works from the vending machine: for instance, a little human figurine made of rail track ballast (gravel), wire, and newspaper. Aside from the expressive name Friede Traurig, the materials invoke woeful stories of train transports and barbed wire fences, particularly because the newspapers she used are from the Second World War. But for the artist, it’s clearly not only about the specific time the Nazis were in power and the Shoah. It’s also about the legacies, the inheritance, the stories that we all carry with us. She explains her choice of materials: “For me, wire is a fascinating material. It’s also used for cages. So you can use to suggest the ways that we’re all captive.” The rail track gravel, which normally lies on the ground, relates for Wargon to the ground that we all walk on, as descendants of the people who came before us. “Besides, in both German and English there’s the expression ‘to sweep something under the rug’”. The gravel, or grit, that we bring into the house on the soles of our shoes, and then sweep under the rug, stands for something that we don’t want to face and deal with.

 continue reading