Say Shibboleth! On Visible and Invisible Borders

  • post war history
  • contemporary art
  • photography
  • holocaust
  • history
  • social history
  • film/video

Despite talk about globalization and international community, new borders, fences, and walls are erected all over the world—around states, occupied territories, and gated communities, between public and private spaces. Some of these borders are permeable and others fatal, some are visible and others reinforced by cultural codes, language tests, or biometric methods. Borders decide about “identity” and “otherness”, belonging and exclusion, life and death.

“The Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan opposite Ephraim. And it happened when any of the fugitives of Ephraim said, “Let me cross over,” the men of Gilead would say to him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” If he said, “No,” then they would say to him, “Say now, ‘Shibboleth.’” But he said, “Sibboleth,” for he could not pronounce it correctly. Then they seized him and slew him at the fords of the Jordan. Thus there fell at that time 42,000 of Ephraim.“ (Book of Judges 12:5,6)

Starting from the biblical story of the Ephraimites‘ escape from the victorious Gileadites and its failing on the banks of the River Jordan, the Jewish Museum Hohenems has invited international artists, working in the media of photography, video and installation, to critically reflect upon the renaissance of borders—just a stone’s throw away from the banks of the “Old Rhine,” the river where in 1938 Jewish refugees desperately tried to reach Switzerland.

Ovidiu Anton (Vienna), Zach Blas (London), Sophie Calle (Paris), Arno Gisinger (Paris), Vincent Grunwald (Berlin), Lawrence Abu Hamdan (London/Beirut), Ryan S. Jeffery and Quinn Slobodian (Los Angeles, Boston), Leon Kahane (Berlin/Tel Aviv), Mikael Levin (New York), Fiamma Montezemolo (San Francisco), Pīnar Öğrenci (Istanbul), Fazal Sheikh (Zurich).

An exhibition in cooperation with the Jewish Museum Munich.

A catalogue (available in German and English) accompanies the exhibition:
With texts by Emily Apter, Zach Blas, Arno Gisinger, Zali Gurevitch, Gabriel Heim, Katarina Holländer, Boaz Levin, Mikael Levin, Hanno Loewy, Fiamma Montezemolo, Selim Özdogan, Anika Reichwald, Fazal Sheikh, Quinn Slobodian, Frances Stonor Saunders, Vladimir Vertlib, Najem Wali, and Marina Warner.