Text by Dekel Peretz

The encounter of the Israeli artist with Germany stirs an emotional complex within. Although educated in Israel, in European oriented institutions, this has not relieved his and her experience of otherness when facing Europe as an immigrant. The specific encounter with German culture also refines the question of the Israeli artist's own identity.

At the beginning of the 20th Century - in a time when German artists and scientists were trying to define the essence of German identity both emotionally and “objectively” - various typological images were created for this pseudo-scientific process. For instance, in August Sander's monumental photographic work People of the 20th Century, in which the whole of Weimar Republic society was profiled into 7 categories. Namely, through a set of portraits, depicting peculiar German characters in their work environment.

The young Israeli artists participating in this exhibition are critically examining this discourse from an outsider's position. Influenced by its suggested methodology, they appropriate it as the very object of their own research, embedding within it the many paradoxes it implies.
Via ironic utilization of the period’s visual language in contemporary photography, they reflect upon their own identity in the mirror of an-other.

This unified organization and systematic categorization of research findings - similar to the manner of a museum of natural history - imparts a feeling of objectivity, whereas their use of solely organic materials and the installation's Art Nouveau setting counteracts the cold gaze of science.


The journey into identity begins with the study of Michael Steindel. He explores the representation of nature around the river Rhine. Once a wilderness, now tamed. Following paths created by the treading of generations, the wanderer, whether alone or as part of a Verein (Society), is invited to stop in a thoughtfully placed hut or rest on the stem of a cut down tree and contemplate the symbiosis of Germanness and forest. But this relationship has never been an equal one. Although the forest used to symbolize primordial fears, it has been conquered by man over generations, and has come to be at his mercy. The allusions to works of Romantic German artists underscores that their naturalistic scenes were not only ones of harmony, but also portrayed the crumbling remains of human dominance over nature - paradoxically, the very object of their love.

The desire to live in harmony with nature fascinates Daniela Orvin. During one of her walks through the city of Munich she stumbled upon a secret valley full of little huts and gardens. This phenomena called Heimgarten (home garden), seems strange to the oriental eye. It is almost as if taken out of a fairy tale. These gardens started as an answer to the rapid urbanization and industrialization at the turn of the century. They served a retreat from modernity and its alienation from nature, back into village life - the lost Heim. But the fairy tale dissipates upon close inspection. The gardens are filled with commercial objects. And yet, although the industrially packed earth in which the vegetables are grown might not be local, it doesn't seem to make the garden any less of a home.

As the research advances, the focus moves from the land to its people.

Benyamin Reich examines the anthropological typology of the German male. The objects of survey are analyzed both in natural and laboratory conditions, to empirically determine the essence of the relationship between the Germanness and nature. The subjects' fragility questions the ideals of strength developed by "back to nature" youth movements such as the Wandervogel (wander bird), prominent at the beginning of the 20th century. Conquered and tamed by the camera - a device created by modern science - the confused young men appear in need of a Führer - a popular title among early German youth movements, given to the guide who would lead them over the unknown hills and forests.

The romanticizing streaks of German identity displayed an amazing capability to adapt to the turbulence of post war Germany. Naomi Tereza Salmon collects bags common in everyday life in the German Democratic Republic. At the time, these colorful and flowery designs brought nature to the urban centers. Upon reunification, the GDR had entered a globalized world characterized with abundance and hastiness. In her series The State of Things, the artist "traps" objects left behind in the course of everyday life, through which arbitrary domestic moments are revealed. Groceries and dinner leftovers indicate a foreign cultural presence. They mix with local delicacies and carton boxes still unpacked - a variety of distant transitory elements arranged in unified compositions. Nature and home have never seemed so far apart.

Lior Wilentzik finds the very elements essential to Volk and folk festivals, objectified in disposable products of mass consumption such as table napkins. The choice to put a focus on such shallow objects comes from an ironic stance. Easter eggs and exotic fruits have long been adopted by popular culture. For the locals, they are a reminder of an old formative bond. However, to the Israeli observer they might seem strange. As the curator of the show, Wilentzik cautiously positions the artworks of her peers. The spacial assemblage forms a dialog which functions as an extension of her personal search after "what is actually German".

The conclusion is shady - a romantic yet humorous reflection on the German nature of things.