Berlin Jewish museum takes on stereotypes at show

BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - A new exhibition exploring stereotypes about Jews, Asians, Muslims, Communists, blacks, gays and other groups typecast by the public and in the media opens at the Jewish Museum in Berlin on Thursday.

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The exhibition aims to shock and tackles a wide range of issues that are not politically correct.

It has one provocative artwork called “49 Jewish Noses” -- an eye-catching exhibition by American artist Dennis Kardon near the entrance of oversized noses of different sizes and shapes protruding from a wall.

“Are blacks the better athletes? Do gay people have a better sense for fine art? And do Jews have bigger noses?” reads a leaflet at the exhibition called “Typical! Cliches about Jews and others”.

The exhibition, which runs through August 3 before it moves on to Chicago and later Vienna, also includes some 200 objects, pictures and paintings from other cultures that shows stereotyping is a universal reaction to the unknown.

“The aim of the exhibition is to stimulate discussion and to sensitize people to the use of everyday cliches, and to make people think about their own way of thinking,” said Cilly Kugelmann, program director at the Jewish Museum.

“But not all stereotypes are bad,” she told journalists.

Even the television character “Tinky Winky” from the British children’s program “Telly Tubbies” makes it into the exhibition. In some countries he was assumed to be gay because of his purple color and his red hand bag.

Officials at the exhibition said stereotypes obviously cannot be banned from popular culture, where they sometimes help people come to terms with fear of the unknown. But they also said that stereotypes can be used as a vehicle for racism.

The exhibition is divided according to the various cultures on display. Each section looks at different historical periods to examine how a stereotype develops to fit changing views.

Several sections deal with the origins of anti-Semitism in the early 20th century. They show this attitude was widespread long before the Nazis seized power in Germany.

“Jews were a victim of a mentality that had been around long before the Nazis took power,” said Karl Albrecht-Weinberger, director of the Jewish Museum in Vienna which has helped put the exhibition together.