“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


Our “Diversity in Schools” Program: the Whys, Wherefores, and Lessons Learned

Coulerful tablet with sketches

A “graphic recording” of the ways in which schools and museums can cooperate more closely on diversity issues © JMB, photo: Jule Roehr

We learned a lot in the course of our three-year “Vielfalt in Schulen” [ViS] program, which the Jewish Museum Berlin [JMB] carried out in cooperation with the Deutsche Kinder- und Jugendstiftung [DKJS, German Foundation for Children and Young People], with funding courtesy of the Stiftung Mercator [Mercator Foundation]. Journalist Alke Wierth of the national daily paper, tageszeitung, recently helped us weigh up the results.

 

Alke Wierth: Looking back on what you had in mind when launching the “ViS” program, can you recall at which point you first thought: “Things are not going the way we planned?”

Rosa Fava, project leader, JMB: It was right at the start, at one of the meetings with the participating schools, where we discussed their expectations of the program. A lot of the stuff talked about there made me wonder: What on earth has this to do with our concept?

For example?
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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