Spertus Institute Commissioning Site-Specific Installation by Acclaimed Artist Ellen Rothenberg 

Artist Ellen Rothenberg (photo courtesy of Ms. Rothenberg).

Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership has commissioned a site-specific installation by internationally-acclaimed, Chicago-based artist Ellen Rothenberg. Entitled ISO 6346: ineluctable immigrant, it will be on view beginning February 1, 2018, in the Institute’s main floor gallery. With this work, Rothenberg prompts visitors to consider connections between past and contemporary issues of migration. The project is inspired by objects and documents that Rothenberg uncovered in the Spertus collection—as well as research she pursued in Berlin at Germany’s largest refugee camp, currently housed in the monumental Tempelhof Airport, a disused site that was originally designed and built by the Nazis.

Rothenberg has titled the installation ISO 6346 after the international standard for identification and marking of shipping containers, such as those being used to house Syrian refugees at Tempelhof. Images of these containers will appear in dialogue with materials from the Spertus collection—such as passports, birth certificates, comics, and photographs—that represent earlier Jewish immigration and movement. The word “ineluctable” in the exhibition title (meaning: inescapable, unavoidable) was first used in print in 1623, notably at the same time as the words "immigrate” and "migration."

Said Behar: “Ellen Rothenberg’s project is significant on many levels. Photographs of archival documents and objects from the Spertus collection are juxtaposed against images of the construction of one of the largest refugee settlements in Germany. The exhibition––with a focus on the current crisis of migration and the forces of global capitalism––finds deep historical echoes in the Spertus Institute’s archive and collection.”  

ISO 6346: ineluctable immigrant will open with a reception with the artist on Thursday, February 1, 5:30 - 8 p.m.  Spertus Institute is located at 610 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago. The exhibition is free and open to the public. The installation will be on view through April 22, 2018.

This exhibition is organized by Ionit Behar, Spertus Institute's Curator of Collections and Exhibitions. For more information, visit spertus.edu.