Avi Feldman

Curator, Gallery owner, Berlin 

Vorher Weiter

Identity is a changing thing. So when we say ‘Jewish identity’, we stop it from evolving and changing.

Avi Feldman
Avi Feldman
Avi Feldman

I don’t know how many identities I have. Hopefully, every day it’s something different. I really think an identity is something that should be in flux all the time, in movement, evolving. So I say there is my Jewish background, my Canadian background, my Israeli background, plus the Romanian and Polish background of my parents. There’s the Orthodox background of my mother. Then there’s Christianity and different cultures that came with people that have entered the family. I’ve lived in New York, Saxony, Stuttgart. So all of this is part of the dough. And hopefully I will be adding new ingredients and taking out other ingredients, understanding what I enjoy and what makes me, hopefully, a better person, a better human being, a better father, a better friend, a better partner, a better gallerist, whatever it is until I die. 

For me, the essence of life is to continuously learn who I am, what I am, and what I can do with that. And I think that’s a human thing. Admittedly, not everyone is on a quest to discover or rediscover who they are. But I think it’s for me it’s central. 

At the same time it has been always a challenge to come to terms with who am I? Where am I? What do I want in my life? There has always been a question of where I want to go, where do I want to be? The outcome is sort of ambivalent. Compared to my peers and friends, I haven’t had the same identification with Israel. It’s only one part of what I am. Being Jewish is only one part of what I am. Being Canadian is another. 

I was born in Canada, in the Diaspora, in the 70s. It was still the time of the Arab boycott. So in Israel we didn't have cars from abroad, except for one Japanese company, none of the American brands. Every summer I would go for two months to my family in Canada, where I indulged all this American-Canadian culture, of consumerism, of entertainment, and another way of being Jewish as well.

In Israel, most of the people I knew had parents who were both considered to be Jewish by the state, and considered themselves to be Jewish. In Israel at that time, you could not conceive of the idea of having anything non-kosher, as it is now. It was still dominated by the idea that everyone keeps kosher, every restaurant too. That everyone must observe all the holidays. This was still in the 70s and the 80s. In Canada it was different. It was much more relaxed. I remember a Christmas tree next to a menorah.

Of course, religion is part of our history, it’s part of our culture, it’s part of our tradition, it’s part of our upbringing, whatever it is. But it’s not a big thing for me anymore. Since I’ve been in Germany, I’ve often been asked to do a ‘Jewish thing’ here, a ‘Jewish thing’ there. I’ve refused. Religion is a bad joke that should have been already forgotten. And for some reason, we continue telling the joke, instead of understanding that it’s not relevant anymore. The religious establishment is just not relevant.

With Wannsee Contemporary I wanted to show that I live here now, that I'm invested in this place. I’m raising my daughter here. So I want to show what I know, what I am interested in, and hopefully make other people interested in that. If I can have some sort of effect on their lives because they are introduced to artists whom I find important or interesting, who are thought provoking, who bring a new idea of aesthetics, that’s my contribution.

Avi Feldman is a curator and writer based in Tel Aviv and Berlin. He is the director of the Wannsee Contemporary gallery. In 2018 he was the curator in residence at the Ludlow 38 MINI/Goethe-Institut Curatorial Residencies program, NYC. Feldman is the founder of The Agency for Legal Imagination, an independent organization devoted to the investigation of existing and potential relations between legal and artistic imagination, and between visual activism and legal activism. The Agency started operating in NYC following a residency, workshops, and an exhibition at Artport Tel Aviv (2015–2017). Dr. Feldman holds a law degree and has been a member of the Israeli Bar since 2005. He recently obtained his PhD in Practice in Curating at the University of Reading in cooperation with the postgraduate program in Curating at the Institute for Cultural Studies in the Arts, Zurich University of the Arts.