Photographs that peel away the masks – A conversation with Ruthe Zuntz

colour photograph with a portait of a young women

Portrait of Ruthe Zuntz © Ruthe Zuntz

Less than three months after our art vending machine was filled with another 1,400 commissioned art objects, it has sold out. Visitors to the museum might have pulled a picture by Ruthe Zuntz from the machine. Pieces from her “PHOTOMAT: Challenging WallMAT” series, as the photographer entitled her square Dibond aluminum prints which cover ten different motifs, could be sparkling in many new households – like Ruthe herself whom I recently met.

Ruthe, you’re actually known for large, space-filling installations. And yet, for the art vending machine you produced a series of small photo prints. How did that happen?

I found the project really exciting because it matches one of my basic philosophies:  continue reading


Three Images, Two Artists and One Wall

Portrait of an young man with beard, looks in the right direction

David Moses © photo: B.Gruhl

The construction and the fall of the Berlin Wall have occupied two generations of artists in the Moses family: in 1963/64 Manfred Heinz Moses created “The Balcony,” an etching on which, fifty years down the line, his grandson David Moses was to base a woodcut and polychrome etching. The latter works are likewise called “The Balcony” and they number among the unique pieces developed by seven artists resident in Berlin for the art vending machine on display in our permanent exhibition. A total stock of 1,400 artworks has been sold since early summer.

Grandpa Moses created his etching when still reeling from the shock of a trip to Berlin shortly after the Wall was built. It shows  continue reading


Perplexing legacy

With her works for our art vending machines, Deborah Wargon exposes things that got swept under the rug

portrait of Deborah Wargon

Portrait of Deborah Wargon © Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Gelia Eisert

A cordial welcome, the wafting flavors of a freshly-cooked meal, a light-drenched room with a high ceiling, full of brightly-colored books and pictures, and a piano with a sign-post ‘to Australia’ sitting on it… My first encounter with Deborah Wargon in her live-in atelier in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood is a far cry from the rather severe, somber associations that the term ‘testament enforcer’ brings up for me. Wargon – a musician as well as visual and theater artist born in Melbourne in 1962 – describes herself this way on the package insert that comes with the small-scale artworks that she created for the art vending machine in our permanent exhibition. Those artworks bear the title “The Legacy of Friede Traurig” – where Friede Traurig doubles as a proper name and, in German, to mean peace sorrowful. And Deborah Wargon, who is best known for her paper cuttings inside former insect cases, says that she would rather be sorrowful.

With a little good luck, you may get one of her works from the vending machine: for instance, a little human figurine made of rail track ballast (gravel), wire, and newspaper. Aside from the expressive name Friede Traurig, the materials invoke woeful stories of train transports and barbed wire fences, particularly because the newspapers she used are from the Second World War. But for the artist, it’s clearly not only about the specific time the Nazis were in power and the Shoah. It’s also about the legacies, the inheritance, the stories that we all carry with us. She explains her choice of materials: “For me, wire is a fascinating material. It’s also used for cages. So you can use to suggest the ways that we’re all captive.” The rail track gravel, which normally lies on the ground, relates for Wargon to the ground that we all walk on, as descendants of the people who came before us. “Besides, in both German and English there’s the expression ‘to sweep something under the rug’”. The gravel, or grit, that we bring into the house on the soles of our shoes, and then sweep under the rug, stands for something that we don’t want to face and deal with.

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