Jewish Museum Dedicates Exhibition to Prejudice

Die Presse (03/31/2009)

The nose, the Jesus beard, the wealthy Jew – anti-Jewish resentment tends to take on very diverse forms. Vienna’s Jewish Museum is presenting an exhibition entitled, “Typical! Clichés about Jews and Others,” which hopes to sensitize people as to stereotypes and draw attention to prejudice. The “grand annual exhibition” offers an abundance of display and room for discussion.

The exhibition which could be seen in Berlin and Chicago last year restricts itself not only to anti-Semitic prejudice. “Anti-Semitism is not a unique phenomenon,” claimed chief curator Felicitas Heimann-Jelinek, “but rather goes hand in hand with racism, anti-Islamism and other forms of chauvinism.” For that reason the exhibition tries to combine these clichés in order to illustrate similar models of thinking and visualizing. When conceiving the exhibition, one started with oneself, looking for one’s own stereotypical approach. “Stereotypes help to bring order to the world and to find one’s place within the order,” said Heimann-Jelinek. Decisive, however, is when over-glorification of one’s own self occurs and the cliché upends itself by demonizing others.

“We are all used to mild racism, which we see every evening on the television,” explained Hannes Sulzenbacher, who helped organize the exhibition. For that reason one chose to approach the topic by exposing the viewer to advertising subjects as well as popular music, pithy with such clichés. The exhibition is divided into seventeen triptychs, each based upon a copy of a phenomenon in pop culture, somewhat like Marcel Reich-Ranicki’s figure of “Nörgeli,” having historical and artistic origins. The end of the closely-allied combination of clichés is capped with an installation created by the artist Lisl Ponger.