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Tal Alon and Olaf Kühnemann

Interview and Photo from the Frédéric Brenner – ZERHEILT: HEALED TO PIECES Exhibition Opening

A woman and a man stand in front of a large-format photograph in the exhibition room, in which they can be seen in front of a brightly painted shed

Tal Alon and Olaf Kühnemann in the exhibition ZERHEILT: HEALED TO PIECES; Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jule Roehr

My name is Olaf Kühnemann, a descendant of the never ending ever-changing evolutionary chain, a physical person-Atheist, father to two teenagers, partner to Tal, artist.

My name is Tal Alon, founder and editor of SPITZ, Hebrew Magazine in Berlin, head of division at the German-Israeli Future Forum Foundation, a fan of vegetables, my boys, yoga, documentaries, my partner Olaf, flea markets, a good talk and a long walk (not necessarily in that order).

Where did the idea for your portrait’s staging and setting come from?

Olaf: The idea came about through Frederics interest and will to document with photography some of the stories of Israeli and Jewish life in Berlin. Tal observes and documents this process and changing reality with words through community journalism. Their two journeys connected and became a photo that shows some parts of our neighborhood life and relationship.

Tal: It was a long process we went through with Frederic and among ourselves. The location is Landwehr Canal in Kreuzberg, next to which we have been living for over a decade now. We take our evening walks there and feel very much connected to it. Olaf's painting in the background depicts his childhood living room in Herzeliya, Israel. Also in the frame are bicycles that are part of Olaf's thing to collect “dead” bicycles from the streets of Kreuzberg and to bring them back to life using parts from other dead bicycles. The bier bottle is also part of the setting. The setting corresponds with our multi-layered perception of “home”, which comes down eventually to us being home for one another.

How do you experience Jewish life in Berlin?

Olaf: This question is very hard for me to answer. Religion is a story made up and told by humans. Different groups of humans across the globe made up and insist on their exclusive identity stories. Jewish life in Berlin is another variation on the story of Judaism. The meeting of the Jewish German story within the place of Berlin is a very loaded and difficult story that imposes itself whenever it is discussed.

In a way I am inevitably trapped within dead people's dreams to realize one story over another.

I “experience” Jewish life in Berlin through my own personal upbringing, parents, physical environment, educational and cultural indoctrination, none of which I chose freely. The emotional, physical and ideological encounters as a human within these stories are always open, changing, and in constant negotiation within myself and with other members of this identity group.

Tal: To answer this question properly I would have to write an article... So I would just concentrate on my favorite way of experiencing Jewish life in Berlin, which is hearing Hebrew being spoken by locals (i.e. not tourists) on the streets of Kreuzberg.

Describe your life in Berlin in three adjectives.

Describing “life in a place” in 3 adjectives is a frustrating game to play...

Olaf: exciting, conflictual, meaningful

Tal: adventurous, balanced, fulfilling

What would your wish be for the future of Jewish life in Berlin?

Olaf: The past is in the past, the future is unknown. I wish for as many people as possible to be able to find balance and peace within their present lives and relationships. An acceptance of what is true and real in the present can have a positive transformative effect on how we shape “the future.”

Tal: Maybe not to be asked this question? ;-)

A man in jeans, lumberjack shirt and sneakers and a barefoot woman in a colorful dress are facing each other in front of a brightly painted shed, in the front right a bicycle leans against a tree, on the ground in front of it is a beer bottle

From the photographic essay ZERHEILT: HEALED TO PIECES by Frédéric Brenner; Jewish Museum Berlin, purchased with the support of the Friends of the Jewish Museum Berlin

Citation recommendation:

Jewish Museum Berlin (2021), Tal Alon and Olaf Kühnemann. Interview and Photo from the Frédéric Brenner – ZERHEILT: HEALED TO PIECES Exhibition Opening.

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