An Exhibition of Paintings, Silverpoint Drawings, and Video by Ken Aptekar
When confronted with this history, I wondered if young Christian Germans in Lübeck today think about why their relatives closed the curtains as the Nazis came to pick up the Jews next door. And what are Lübeckers’ attitudes toward Muslims—and the Russian Jews now living in Lübeck? Can people recognize and respect their profound differences and together build a vibrant community? And what can Christian paintings from long ago, some with anti-Semitic imagery, possibly have to say to Jews, and Muslims, not to mention Christians today?
- a long-lost monogrammed kitchen towel that fifty years after the end of WWII reconnected neighboring families, Christian and Jewish, and came to symbolize courage and humanity in a town seized by fear and hatred
- the race against the clock to find the last surviving pre-WWII Bar Mitzvah boy from the Lübeck Synagogue, whose family fled in 1937 to South America
- this American artist’s determination to broaden the narrative of the tragic victimization of Jews in Nazi Germany, to take on otherness, immigration and community, to speak to new generations in Lübeck and elsewhere
Inspired by a museum of Christian Art and the Jewish and Muslim communities in this German town, Nachbarn invites new viewers and old paintings to speak to each other. All the works in the exhibition are based upon altarpieces in the museum collection. With works that merge my two identities, Jew and painter, I aim to dissolve persistent boundaries between people. As the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas wrote, “My relationship with the Other as neighbor gives meaning to my relations with all the others.” [Emmanuel Levinas, Autrement qu’être ou au-delà de l’essence (Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence), 1984].