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, there’s been an interactive video box 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 soon 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. 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 exhibit, but a large-screen projection of children and young people presenting themselves, in their own languages, as Isaac or Ismael.  continue reading


Escaping the Escape Points

A bearded man in front of large art works

Georg Sadowicz in his atelier
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Kilian Gärtner

I’m meeting Georg Sadowicz in his atelier in Berlin-Hohenschönhausen. The Berlin-based artist was born in Liegnitz, Poland, on the German border. Since April, two of his pieces – precursors to larger work – have been made available to visitors as a limited run in the Jewish Museum Berlin’s art vending machine. They are titled, “The Cantor” and “The Mill.” Sadowicz’s atelier is a mere hundred meters from the grounds of a former Stasi detention center, now a memorial site. The sight of it troubles me, but the unease vanishes as soon as I step into Sadowicz’s atelier.  continue reading