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Museum of Embraces and Encounters
Physically Distanced Hugs

“Museum of Embraces and Encounters”
“Museum of Embraces and Encounters” | Illustration (detail): Tobias Schrank © Goethe-Institut

When was the last time you hugged someone? For the Goethe-Institut’s online video project “Museum of Embraces and Encounters”, artists from all over the world talk about moments of meeting and intimacy, but also of an encounter with a criminal.

By Carla Jamatte

After Anita Nair gets an assignment for a travel journal, she travels to a small village near the Indian city of Kerala. Her goal is to write a report about the unique features of this town. Nair travels by train, car and boat, observing the landscape and exploring the village. During a boat tour, she strikes up a conversation with the personable and open-minded boatman. At some point she realizes that he is a reluctant criminal.

People have encounters with one another every day all over the world. Sometimes they are fleeting (as in Anita Nair’s case), sometimes more intimate and sometimes they are the beginning of long-lasting relationships. The pandemic has limited such encounters as well as physical contact between people. A hug or even a handshake seems almost unthinkable. But our longing for it grows.

The “Museum of Embraces and Encounters” was launched as a continuation of the online video project “Time to Listen”. It gathers many stories by artists from places like Norway, Israel, Taiwan and Nairobi. The stories focus on encounters and embraces that left an indelible impression on the narrators. Israeli writer and screenwriter Etgar Keret tells of incomprehensible hugs during a book signing on his book tour in Mexico. German-Iranian television journalist Isabel Schayani describes her experiences during her reporting after the fire in the Moria refugee camp where she met a desperate family. The videos at times take the form of performances, at times readings, mostly storytelling.

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