Bees, Candles, Roots, and Remembrance

Interview with Alexis Hyman Wolff

A woman standing in front of a showcase with books.

Alexis Hyman Wolff in her exhibition Zur Zeit at the Museum der Dinge, Berlin, June 2013.
Photo courtesy of the artist.

One of the works in our art vending machine is a candle shaped like a root, made by the artist and curator Alexis Hyman Wolff. In this interview, she offers insight into the development of the work:

Christiane Bauer: Why did you make a candle for the art vending machine?
Alexis Hyman Wolff: Thinking about the small size of the objects and the temporary home they would find in the vending machine, I wanted to reflect on the idea of the souvenir, a central theme in museums. Candles are used for memorial in many cultures.  In Jewish tradition, a yortsayt candle is lit to remember a loved one on the anniversary of their death.

What is special about the material you used?
The candles are made out of beeswax from a beekeeping supplier in Berlin. I understand that beeswax is one of the few materials that burn without producing black smoke, which could explain the belief that burning beeswax candles is good for the air.  According to a European folk custom, when someone dies, a member of the family must go to the hive and “tell the bees,” and also invite them to the funeral. This tradition suggests a link between bees and the spirit world.

How important is the aspect of “remembrance” in your work?  continue reading


A Story from the Kibbutz

photo of the booklet, on the left an illustration, on the right a short text

Excerpt from “The Guardian / Sycamore Group”
© Atalya Laufer

One of the works in our art vending machine is a booklet which provides an insight into the inner-workings of many of the Israeli Kibbuzim. With sober drawings and a text that is based on archival documents, artist Atalya Laufer (b. 1979) exposes a particular aspect of growing up on a Kibbutz. As one of the last generation of children to be raised in communal children’s houses (Batei Yeladim), she takes us on a journey through time and into the passing world of the Kibutzim.

The text in the booklet is based on protocols of night shifts that were taken in the early 1970s. In these protocols incidents and particularities in every house, during every night shift, had been recorded. Owing to these we can readily reconstruct the daily life in children’s houses.  continue reading


The story of Uri Kozower

Photo of Gisela and Phillip Kozower with their baby in 1932

Gisela and Philipp Kozower with their daughter Eva in August of 1932
© Friends of the Jewish Museum New York, Princeton; photographer: unknown, donated by Klaus M. Zwilsky

Lawyer Philipp Kozower was 37 when he married the 23-year-old medical student Gisela in 1931. A year later she gave birth to their first child, a daughter called Eva. The new parents had their picture taken with their baby in Berlin’s Monbijou Park: wearing a bright dress and straw hat, Gisela holds the baby towards the camera somewhat awkwardly, as if the picture should document that Eva exists.

By the time Eva’s sister Alice was born in 1934, the National Socialists had already enacted numerous laws against Jews as well as taken measures to exclude them from public life. Our online project “1933: The beginning of the end of German Jewry” presents a variety of source materials from the Jewish Museum Berlin’s archives that bear witness to the disenfranchisement of German Jews. A display case with photographs and letters in our permanent exhibition details the Kozower family’s story:  continue reading