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Borders: The Eruv In Contemporary Jewish Art – Shaping Community: Poetics and Politics of the Eruv at Yale


The Miami Beach Eruv (1998) digital print on canvas by Mel Alexenberg
Courtesy the artist

The Miami Beach Eruv (1998) digital print on canvas by Mel Alexenberg Courtesy the artist

The Eruv of Jerusalem (1996) photographs, map, text by Sophie Calle
Courtesy Musee d’art et d’histoire du Judaisme de Paris

The exhibition concludes in the galleries of the Yale School of Art, one of the foremost art schools in the nation. The artist, Sofie Calle, is not Jewish and is an international art celebrity, known for her controversial works that are “sleuth-like explorations of human relationships.” The Eruv of Jerusalem (1996), (beautifully designed installation by Eduardo Vivanco and the curator) consists of 20 starkly vertical photographs of eruv poles, delineating the edges of Jerusalem’s Shabbos permissibility; each identical and yet in a different location. Alone, these are the authoritative images of boundaries that surround the holy city. And yet in this exhibition they surround a table that tells another story. The table in the middle is a map of Jerusalem with the eruv clearly delineated in red, punctuated with 14 small photos that tell quite a different host of private stories. Here the photo locations reflect 14 vignettes about private episodes and meanings that are contained within the strict confines of the eruv. Each, culled from personal interviews Calle randomly conducted, is deeply personal and linked to very specific places that are randomly found within the Jerusalem eruv. Arab and Jew, religious and secular, Calle denotes that lives deeply imbued with meaning, loss, love and joy occur within the magical wall of the Jerusalem eruv. Her installation considers a border of consciousness containing and celebrating the importance of a geographical place and human memory.

Finally a double projection video, Turbulent, by Shirin Neshat goes beyond the confines of the eruv and explores a relationship between a male performer and a female performer mediated by the poetry of the 13th century Persian poet Rumi. It too depends on borders and the reality that separates audience, performer and art.

This brilliant exhibition has explored a vast range of meanings that arise out of the eruv; from its practical reality, impact on concepts of borders, transformation of urban and rural space, local and national, to a social consciousness that affects Jew and non-Jew alike. Remarkably these artists have plumbed the complexities of a deeply Jewish subject by seriously considering a rabbinic construct that for most of them was foreign. Significantly this surrender to Judaic ideas is the hallmark of a truly radical contemporary Jewish Art.

About the Author: Richard McBee is a painter and writer on Jewish Art. Contact him at rmcbee@nyc.rr.com


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2 Responses to “Borders: The Eruv In Contemporary Jewish Art – Shaping Community: Poetics and Politics of the Eruv at Yale”

  1. Shaping Community eruv exhibition curated by Margaret Olin is reviewed.

  2. This is a thoughtful review of our exhibition, Shaping Community.

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