Der Wanderer, 2019-20

Installation in the Nikolai church in Eisenach, Germany

wood, glass, Water, Plants, 4 Podest, Each one: 2 meter x 60cm x 30cm

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The Israeli artist Michal Fuchs engages with important topics such as »belonging«, »origins« and »exile« and integrates these questions into her installations Der Wanderer (The Wanderer)…

…The Mexican purple-heart plant, referred to in both English and Hebrew as the Wandering Jew, serves her as an object to engage with. One historical source of Fuchs’ works is the legend of the Eternal Jew. It dates back to Christianity’s anti-Judaism, which emerged in the 17th  century and gave the name to the plant. A pictorial type of the Eternal Jew can be referred back initially to the religious legend of the shoemaker Ahasaveros, who refused to give Christ a drink while He carried His cross and was therefore damned to live his life eternally homeless. 1 In modern 19 th century anti-Semitism the legend became referred to the Jewish diaspora and ideas about Jews as cosmopolitans without a nation or homeland. 2 This resulted in the Jews often being depicted as stateless strangers.3 

The Wandering Jew plant, also called tradescantia pallida, is robust, spreads quickly, forms strong roots, and can survive under the most adverse circumstances – one of nature’s survival artists. In her installation Der Wanderer Michal Fuchs deprives the plant of its natural growth and of its rootedness in the soil. In a white stele, at eye-level with the viewers, there is a glass container full of water in which the roots hover weightless and groundless; the part of the plant otherwise growing out of the soil remains concealed. In a process lasting just a few weeks, the roots in the water begin to grow. »The assertive presentation of the roots by rendering them visible and emphasising them, raises questions about uprootedness and rootedness«. 4 Michal Fuchs, who moved to German eleven years ago, engages in her artistic work with the all too human question of belonging. Given that the meaning of the plants and what they symbolise is not immediately evident for viewers, questions inevitably arise as to where the plants come from and what will happened to them. Will they survive in a new element? Can the allegory of uprootedness be applied to people’s experiences? The artist denotes personal questions about her origins and identity, leaving enough scope for interpretation however, so that we can develop our own associations and enter into dialogue with one another.

Karoline Schmidt, translation to English: Pauline Cumbers, Una Farrelly and Dan Farrelly, From the “Tu BiShvat – Fest der Bäume” Exhibition catalogue.

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Exhibition view, Nikolai Church, Eisenach / Photo: © Katharina Gahlert
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Exhibition view, Nikolai Church, Eisenach / Photo: © Katharina Gahlert
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Exhibition view: Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz, 2021 Photo: EKA e.V.
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Exhibition view: Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz, 2021 Photo: EKA e.V.
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Exhibition view, Nikolai Church, Eisenach / Photo: © Katharina Gahlert
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