“When civilization goes wrong, there is blood:” A brief exchange with Peter Greenaway

The exhibition “Obedience: An Art Installation in 15 Rooms by Saskia Boddeke & Peter Greenaway” is about to open. It reflects on the biblical story of Abraham, a forefather willing to sacrifice his son in compliance at God’s command.The installation is still being set up when the catalog arrives, hot off the press. It comprises an art book designed by Peter Greenaway as well as a compilation of essays. The artist and filmmaker took a break from the hectic pre-opening preparations to talk with Mirjam Wenzel about the meaning of the biblical story, and the notion of text, image and blood.

Mirjam Wenzel: The biblical story in the Book of Genesis 22 holds an awkward place in Jewish memory and has given rise over the centuries to many theological debates and artistic interpretations. We had been considering doing an exhibition about this story and its reception for a very long time. What did you think when we approached you with the idea of creating this exhibition? How do you perceive this biblical story?  

Peter Greenaway: I think that when making an exhibition it is as important to attend to form and language as to content. The content is always maneuverable, adjustable, and ever subjective. This story consists of very many meanings,  continue reading

Saskia Boddeke: “Their pain will be our pain”

Starting on May 22 the Jewish Museum Berlin will present the exhibition “Obedience” by filmmaker Peter Greenaway and multimedia artist Saskia Boddeke. Designed as an installation in fifteen rooms the exhibition refers to the story of forefather Abraham, who is willing to obey God’s command and sacrifice his son. The two artists use film projections, installations, precious objects, and sound effects and music to stage the biblical narrative as a sensuous and immersive showpiece. For Saskia the “beating heart” of “Obedience” is the film installation “I’m Isaac / I’m Ishmael” which will be presented at the beginning of the exhibition. Children and young adults from all over the world are now being invited to become part of this installation:

In order to encourage our readers to follow this call, make a video and send it to the artists “Blogerim” spoke with Saskia about the idea of the installation and her artistic vision.

Mirjam Wenzel: The biblical story in the Book of Genesis 22 starts with the voice of God telling Abraham to take his son to the land of Moriah for a burnt-offering. But your exhibition will start with the voice of Isaac and Ishmael. Why?  continue reading

Practicing Our Storytelling Skills

Preparing for the Educational Program on the Exhibition “The Creation of the World”

A depiction of a bird holding a wine goblet

Detail from a Megilla (Esther scroll), 1750-1800, Alsace
© Braginsky Collection, Zurich, photo: Ardon Bar-Hama

As a part of the educational program accompanying the exhibition “The Creation of the World: Illustrated Manuscripts from the Braginsky Collection” we’re offering the workshop “But the Snake was Craftier…” about telling and passing down stories from generation to generation. Since very few of the schoolchildren who will participate in the workshop can read Hebrew, we’ll be looking closely at the illustrations. In addition to portrayals of David with the harp and Adam and Eve in the manuscripts, our program looks at the megillot, or Esther scrolls, with their illustrations. Six scrolls have been unrolled to their full length for the exhibition.

Before we take participants in to see the exhibition, a guide will tell the story of Esther. During this conscious act of listening, each person generates pictures in his or her own mind’s eye. Afterwards, the group visits the exhibition and looks at the Esther scrolls with a magnifying glass to re-discover the scenes they’ve heard about.

To prepare for this workshop, we consulted a storytelling expert. Ten museum employees met with Prof. Dr. Kristin Wardetzky to practice storytelling under her tutelage. The first chairwoman of the Society for the Art of Storytelling, Prof. Wardetzky also founded the storytelling department at the Berlin University of the Arts’ theater education department.

Our two-day workshop with Prof. Wardetzky enthralled us all.  continue reading