Sparrows, 4 Euro, and the Stuff of a City

A Conversation with the Artists Maria und Natalia Petschatnikov

The end of May, as the first palpable rays of sun shone in Berlin, offered the perfect occasion for an outing to Berlin’s Kreuzberg neighborhood. There the artists Maria and Natalia Petschatnikov showed me their atelier and told me about “Sparrows” and “4 Euros,” the two objects they made for the Jewish Museum Berlin’s art vending machine. They also talked about their current projects and responded with good humor to all of my questions above and beyond the subject of art.

Twins on chairs in front of paintings on the wall

Maria (left) and Natalia Petschatnikov in front of part of their project “Berlin & Berlin”, 2015
© and photo by Michaela Roßberg

Michaela Roßberg: You work together and you’re twins – identical twins. What is it like to work so closely? How do you develop ideas and work on projects? And does one or the other of you start with an image of the finished work in mind?

Maria: We do a lot through dialogue. It isn’t that one of us has an idea and, once a project is finished, could say: “That was my idea.” Our work emerges from a joint process. For instance, we walk through the city and see interesting things that get us thinking. We talk about them, and together, start forming ideas.  continue reading


Congratulations to the Refik-Veseli-School!

Graffiti lettes of the Theater, findet Refik"

A scene from the theater play, “Findet Refik!” © Lernkultur – Institut für Bildungsforschung und Evaluation, photo: Katharina Obens

The recently approved introduction of upper secondary level teaching at the RVS was a first for Kreuzberg 36, an inner-city district of Berlin, which is very popular. Now, local kids from the neighborhood called “Wrangelkiez” need no longer travel to other districts to study for the “Abitur,” Germany’s high school diploma. This is a major step towards assuring non-segregated educational opportunities in Kreuzberg

The 8th Integrated High School in the downtown district of Kreuzberg-Berlin sealed its partnership with the Jewish Museum Berlin in June 2012. Prior to that, all the staff and pupils had voted on a new name for their school and decided to call it the Refik-Veseli-School. For during a study trip to Israel, pupils had visited the Yad Vashem Museum and learned about the history of Refik Veseli—a man acknowledged being Righteous Among the Nations.

Refik Veseli was a 17-year-old apprentice in a photo studio in Tirana, Albania, when he first met the Jewish photographer Mosche Mandil, who had fled Yugoslavia to escape the National Socialists. But in 1943 the Germans invaded Albania too, and things became much more dangerous for Jews. The Veseli family owned a house in Kruje and decided to hide Mosche Mandil and his family there. It turned out to be a three-year commitment.  continue reading

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“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