Our names are Maria and Natalia Petschatnikov. We are visual artists.
Where did the idea for your portrait’s staging and setting come from?
We met Frédéric Brenner at a traditional “Breakfast in Nature” organized by the Berlin-based Zurückgeben foundation. We presented our project, which was supported by the foundation, the animated film Pabaltis about our childhood in Lithuania. Somehow we just clicked right away. Frédéric told us about his project and we arranged a meeting in our studio. The first meeting was supposed to be a get-to-know-you, but after Frédéric saw us in almost identical poses and outfits, he decided that this was just right for his photograph. Because Frédéric didn’t have a tripod with him, we had to improvise and use ours. The photograph was taken spontaneously, which says a lot about Frédéric and his creative approach: he is always ready to spot his subject.
How do you experience Jewish life in Berlin?
We experience Jewish life in Berlin primarily through people. Many of our friends and acquaintances come from Jewish or half-Jewish families in which certain holidays are celebrated, specific dishes prepared, and special songs sung. This culture stuck with us in Germany. There are also many places in the city where you can eat a Jewish bagel or falafel or hear klezmer. In general, it’s not unusual in Berlin for “Russian” to be confused with “Jewish,” especially at cafés and restaurants. Jewish life in Berlin is also present in such wonderful projects as the Stolpersteine [“stumbling stones”] which are constant reminders to us of the people who lived here before the Second World War.
Describe your life in Berlin in three adjectives.
Creative, rich in encounters, unpredictable.
What would your wish be for the future of Jewish life in Berlin?
We would like to see and participate in interesting cultural projects that combine Jewish themes with an international, lively, and fresh Berlin.
Jewish Museum Berlin (2021), Maria and Natalia Petschatnikov. Interview and Photo from the Frédéric Brenner – ZERHEILT: HEALED TO PIECES Exhibition Opening.