Michal Fuchs, “Ishmael”

1. Double spread with words cut out, transparent silk paper pocket containing the cutouts
2. Pocket seeing from the other side
3. Double spread with words cut out, punctuation, name of interpreter and bible verse printed on
transparent silk paper
4. Detail from the cut out words
5. One out of three etching graphics


Michal Fuchs
Halle (Saale), Sachsen Anhalt, Germany

Book, blind cliché stamping, digital print, coptic binding, etching
31 x 60cm
31 x 30 x 0.7cm

What drove me making this book was a hard feeling that awoke during and after the last war in
Israel and Gaza in 2014. Seing how religious extremists from both sides design and define the
reallity as it is. The helplessness thinking that a dialog with extremists is impossible. I am not able
to understand them, neather they me. This book is a way of dealing with this feeling.
The story of Ishmael is the origin of the separation between Judaism and Islam. While Isaac represent
one of the most important roots of Judaism, Ishmael, his brother, disconnects from his jewish
roots and starts a dynasty which eventually leads to Muhammad and the beginning of Islam. The
questions around Ishmael’s character concern many jewish historians and bible interpreters,
among them rabbis, who devote their lifes to understand the meaning of each word in the bible.
Through years of study, they try to comprehend who was Ishmael, giving various interpretations
for his smallest gestures and trying to understand his character as well as the relationship between
him and his family: his father Abraham, his Egyptian mother Hagar, his brother Isaac and
Isaac’s mother Sarah. Many of todays opinions are based on these interpretations. Some of them
are building an ideology after them.
In this book, there are three quotations from the Book of Genesis. Each of them deals with Ishmael’s
character or his relationship with his family. To each of these quotes I give two opposing interpretations
from two different rabbis. One shows Ishmael’s character in a negative way, the other
one in a positive way.
The opposing interpretations are printed each on one side of a double spread page (in Hebrew).
The words are cut out, so the only thing left to see are the punctuation and holes which create kind
of a wall. In between there is a closed transparent pocket which contains the words, blended
together. The original interpretations are gone, one cannot read them anymore. A short research,
using the little information appearing in the book, will lead to a bigger variety of interpretations
regarding Ishmael’s character.

note from JY – There is an additional graphic in the artist statement that I can add later.