“When civilization goes wrong, there is blood:” A brief exchange with Peter Greenaway

The exhibition “Obedience: An Art Installation in 15 Rooms by Saskia Boddeke & Peter Greenaway” is about to open. It reflects on the biblical story of Abraham, a forefather willing to sacrifice his son in compliance at God’s command.The installation is still being set up when the catalog arrives, hot off the press. It comprises an art book designed by Peter Greenaway as well as a compilation of essays. The artist and filmmaker took a break from the hectic pre-opening preparations to talk with Mirjam Wenzel about the meaning of the biblical story, and the notion of text, image and blood.

Mirjam Wenzel: The biblical story in the Book of Genesis 22 holds an awkward place in Jewish memory and has given rise over the centuries to many theological debates and artistic interpretations. We had been considering doing an exhibition about this story and its reception for a very long time. What did you think when we approached you with the idea of creating this exhibition? How do you perceive this biblical story?  

Peter Greenaway: I think that when making an exhibition it is as important to attend to form and language as to content. The content is always maneuverable, adjustable, and ever subjective. This story consists of very many meanings,  continue reading

Saskia Boddeke: “Their pain will be our pain”

Starting on May 22 the Jewish Museum Berlin will present the exhibition “Obedience” by filmmaker Peter Greenaway and multimedia artist Saskia Boddeke. Designed as an installation in fifteen rooms the exhibition refers to the story of forefather Abraham, who is willing to obey God’s command and sacrifice his son. The two artists use film projections, installations, precious objects, and sound effects and music to stage the biblical narrative as a sensuous and immersive showpiece. For Saskia the “beating heart” of “Obedience” is the film installation “I’m Isaac / I’m Ishmael” which will be presented at the beginning of the exhibition. Children and young adults from all over the world are now being invited to become part of this installation:

In order to encourage our readers to follow this call, make a video and send it to the artists “Blogerim” spoke with Saskia about the idea of the installation and her artistic vision.

Mirjam Wenzel: The biblical story in the Book of Genesis 22 starts with the voice of God telling Abraham to take his son to the land of Moriah for a burnt-offering. But your exhibition will start with the voice of Isaac and Ishmael. Why?  continue reading

On international and other remembrance days

Black-white photograph of surviving children of the concentration camp in Auschwitz standing behind a fence

Surviving children in the main concentration camp, Auschwitz. This still from documentary footage shot by Alexander Voronzow shows Tomasz Szwarz, Alicja Gruenbaum, Solomon Rozalin, Gita Sztrauss, Wiera Sadler, Marta Wiess, Boro Eksztein, Josef Rozenwaser, Rafael Szlezinger, Gabriel Nejman, Gugiel Appelbaum, Mark Berkowitz, Pesa Balter, Rut Muszkies, Miriam Friedman, and Miriam and Eva Mozes. Licensed for the public domain by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Seventy years ago to this day, the Soviet Army liberated the death camps Auschwitz I and II. Almost ten years ago, the anniversary was designated International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Although I’ve been reflecting on representations of the Holocaust in art, literature, and philosophy for many years, I remain irritatingly little affected by today’s date, January 27. In most European countries, official events will once again collectively recall that breach of civilization and commemorate those who were systematically murdered. So too will Germany. Here, the decision to officially commemorate the victims of the Holocaust on this day was reached in 1996—not least because  continue reading