Energy galore: encountering Howard Katz

It always goes by so quickly: it feels as if the third round just started, of the art vending machine in the Jewish Museum Berlin’s permanent exhibition. But in fact it’s almost finished and sold out – 2,600 items since April! That’s certainly enough reason to pop by to visit Howard Katz and ask him some questions, especially considering that he was the first of the now 22 artists we’ve featured to use music…

Portrait of a man with guitar

Howard Katz © Yoann Trillu

Dagmar Ganßloser: Howard, you work as an artist in many different genres. You’re a dancer, performer, and choreographer, but you’re also an active visual artist, and on top of that a singer-songwriter. Right now the art vending machine has your “Mix Tape” as well as “4 short films”. How did you choose those?

Howard Katz: It was clear to me from the start that I wanted to present my music in the art vending machine. The 17 songs on “Mix Tape” came into being over the last twenty years plus and – the same as “4 short films” – they’re mainly about experiences I’ve had since I’ve lived in Berlin, so since the mid-1990s. The production was uncomplicated and I made the selection intuitively, from the heart. I made the four videos for my songs completely on my own, with my telephone – it was an opportunity to try out something new.  continue reading


Sparrows, 4 Euro, and the Stuff of a City

A Conversation with the Artists Maria und Natalia Petschatnikov

The end of May, as the first palpable rays of sun shone in Berlin, offered the perfect occasion for an outing to Berlin’s Kreuzberg neighborhood. There the artists Maria and Natalia Petschatnikov showed me their atelier and told me about “Sparrows” and “4 Euros,” the two objects they made for the Jewish Museum Berlin’s art vending machine. They also talked about their current projects and responded with good humor to all of my questions above and beyond the subject of art.

Twins on chairs in front of paintings on the wall

Maria (left) and Natalia Petschatnikov in front of part of their project “Berlin & Berlin”, 2015
© and photo by Michaela Roßberg

Michaela Roßberg: You work together and you’re twins – identical twins. What is it like to work so closely? How do you develop ideas and work on projects? And does one or the other of you start with an image of the finished work in mind?

Maria: We do a lot through dialogue. It isn’t that one of us has an idea and, once a project is finished, could say: “That was my idea.” Our work emerges from a joint process. For instance, we walk through the city and see interesting things that get us thinking. We talk about them, and together, start forming ideas.  continue reading


The Many Faces of Isaac and Ismael

Video box with Peter Greenaway and Saskia Boddeke

Peter Greenaway and Saskia Boddeke at the video box in the Eric F. Ross Gallery © Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Yves Sucksdorff

For the last several weeks, an interactive video box has stood in the Eric F. Ross Gallery, as part of the current special exhibition, “Obedience: An Installation in 15 Rooms by Saskia Boddeke and Peter Greenaway.” “Are you Isaac or are you Ismael?” a neon sign asks visitors as they approach the box. The question relates to the story from Chapter 22 of the First Book of Moses, in which God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son. However, Saskia Boddeke and Peter Greenaway turn this story on its head. It’s not the voice of God greeting the visitors at the beginning of their installation, but a large-screen projection of various children and young people presenting themselves, each in their own languages, as Isaac or Ismael.  continue reading