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Ellen Rothenberg

Ellen Rothenberg

ISO 6346: ineluctable immigrant

February 1, 2018 to April 22, 2018
Past Exhibition

Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership presented a commissioned, site-specific installation by Chicago-based artist Ellen Rothenberg.

Rothenberg prompted visitors to consider connections between past and contemporary issues of migration. The project was inspired by objects and documents Rothenberg uncovered in the Spertus collection — as well as research she pursued in Berlin at Germany’s largest refugee camp, housed in the monumental Tempelhof Airport, a disused site that was designed and built by the Nazis.

Tempelhof’s building is a legally protected historic monument with strict regulations that dictate the physical forms of the interior camp spaces. No alterations can be made that will permanently affect the building, leaving the entire camp to exist in a state that Rothenberg describes as “permanently ephemeral.” Rothenberg critically approaches the temporality of this site in reference to global issues of migration.

Rothenberg’s installations and public projects often employ the iconography of social movements, using archival documents to examine the mechanisms underlying contemporary political engagement. Her work — architecturally scaled installations, public projects, performance, collaborations, and writing — uncovers histories embedded in the present, adding layers of meaning beyond the conventions of historical objects.

Ellen Rothenberg's work is concerned with the politics of everyday life and the formation of communities through collaborative practices. Her installations and public projects often employ the iconography of social movements and their residual documents to interrogate the mechanisms underlying contemporary political engagement and social dialogue. Her work — architecturally scaled installations, public projects, performance, collaborations, and writing — uncover histories embedded in the present.

Rothenberg’s work has been presented in North America and Europe at institutions including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; the Museum of London, Ontario; The Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco; the Neues Museum Weserburg, Bremen; Royal Festival Hall, London; and the Brukenthal National Museum, Sibiu, Romania. Her awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Bunting Institute Radcliffe College Harvard University, Illinois Arts Council, Massachusetts Artist Foundation Fellowships, and grants from CEC Artslink, Charles Engelhard Foundation, LEF Foundation, and NEA Artists Projects. She has worked in collaboration with the Chicago Torture Justice Memorial Project, Future Force Geo Speculators, and Chelen Amenca, Romania. Rothenberg teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she was recently appointed an inaugural Faculty Research Fellow of the Institute for Curatorial Research and Practice.

This exhibition was organized by Ionit Behar. Spertus Institute was pleased to partner with the Goethe Institut, the Poetry Foundation and the Illinois Arts Council. 


Exhibition publication

Related Programs

Thursday, February 1, 2018 | 5:30 - 8 pm
Opening Reception
Spertus Institute

Thursday, March 1, 2018 | 7 - 8 pm
An Evening of Readings and Performances
Featured writer and translator
Nathanaël, artist and translator
Jennifer Scappettone, and writer
and code artist Judd Morrissey
Poetry Foundation

Sunday, March 4, 2018 | 3 - 4 pm
Gallery Talk
Artist Ellen Rothenberg and
Curator Ionit Behar
Spertus Institute

Wednesday, April 4, 2018 | 6 - 7 pm
Cecilia Vicuña, Performance on Migration and Movement
Chilean artist, writer, and activist
Spertus Institute

All images by Ellen Rothenberg. Top image: Spertus Institute Collection Archival Document by Nicholas Sagan. Lower image: At Tempelhof, Berlin.