Ishmael, 2015-2016

Artist’s book

300 X 310 mm

Graphic: Etching. Print:Cliché stamping, digital print. Coptic binding.

Paper: Japanese paper / Altworms: 230g, 300g/ Alster, 150g.


The story of Ishmael is the origin of the separation between Judaism and Islam. While Isaac represents 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 lives to understanding 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 today’s 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 is the punctuation and holes which create kind of a wall. In between, there is a closed transparent pocket that contains the words, blended together. The original interpretations are gone, one cannot read them anymore. Short research, using the little information appearing in the book, will lead to a bigger variety of interpretations regarding Ishmael’s character.

In addition to the book, there are three original etching graphics showing a group of people with unclear identity. The image repeats itself in all three graphics, but it’s different each time. This is my personal interpretation.

Michal fuchs artist