“I was never disengaged”

A Conversation with Rachel Heuberger on the Biblical Story of the Binding of Isaac and the Exhibition “Obedience”

An old man and a young man, a person dressed in white and a man dressed in dark colours with long red hair and a donkey, all moving on tarmac

Still from a film in the installation “Obedience”
© S. Boddeke & P. Greenaway, photo: Digidaan

The exhibition “Obedience. An Installation in 15 Rooms by Saskia Boddeke & Peter Greenaway” has been open for some time now at the Jewish Museum Berlin. As with every exhibition, this one meets the approval of our visitors to various degrees. Unlike other exhibitions however, the feedback – which often reaches us later – is different than what we might have anticipated. Indeed, this was the case with Dr. Rachel Heuberger, the curator of the Hebraica and Judaica collections at the University Library of Frankfurt. We spoke right after her visit about her thoughts and impressions.

Mirjam Wenzel: You just saw the exhibition “Obedience” by Saskia Boddeke and Peter Greenaway. How would you describe it?  continue reading

Happy Moments for a Curator
Ilse Bing’s Photograph “New York—The Elevated and Me”

A self-portrait shot by Ilse Bing on her first trip to New York in 1936 has been imprinted on my mind’s eye for a very long time. The image was up for sale only twice in the last twenty years. On the first occasion, in 2009, a vintage print went at auction for the princely sum of 25,000.00 EUR. Given its rarity and great market value, I imagined at the time that the enchanting image was unlikely ever to become a part of our collection. For me, it came to be the very epitome of wishful thinking.

black white photograph of the skyline New York with Ilse Bing in specular reflection

Ilse Bing, “New York—The Elevated and Me,” print from 1988 of the original negative from 1936. Jewish Museum Berlin © Estate of Ilse Bing


The photograph depicts a station on the Elevated (subway line) in New York and the reflection in a small round mirror of the photographer with her Leica. The title “New York—The Elevated and Me” underscores the hybridity here of cityscape and self-portrait.

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From the ceramic jug to the Pineapple Goblet: Working with archival items

photograph of the storage room of the Jewish Museum Berlin with an opened glass cabinet

View of Jewish Musem-Berlin storage,© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe

It’s cold. The neon light casts a harsh glare. A gray cabinet stands next to another along white walls. The room feels sterile. The air conditioning hums. A gloomy place.

I put on blue, latex gloves, open one of the cabinets and take out a gray carton. Contours of an item shimmer from under layers of tissue paper. Carefully, I take the object out of the carton and free it from the paper; a microcosm of history presents itself, as if this gloomy place accentuates the aura of the item, the room itself taking a whole step back.  continue reading