NEW YORK, NY.-
Rite Now: Sacred and Secular in Video will be on view from September 13, 2009 through February 7, 2010 in The Jewish Museum
s Barbara and E. Robert Goodkind Media Center. In the past decade, contemporary artists have taken video in new directions. During its birth as an artistic medium in the late 1960s and early 1970s, most experiments focused on formal aspects of the medium. Today, artists are exploring a wider spectrum of cultural issues and incorporating genres such as documentary, narrative, and autobiography. Rite Now presents videos produced between 2001 and 2008 that explore secular and sacred rituals in a new framework, documenting inventive spiritual practices, reimagining old stories, and proposing new rituals. Artists represented include Lior Bar, Tamar Ettun, Neil Goldberg, Barbara Rose Haum, Sarah Jane Lapp, Hila Lulu Lin and Dafna Shalom. Rite Now is presented in conjunction with the exhibition, Reinventing Ritual: Contemporary Art and Design for Jewish Life, and is open on Fridays through Mondays.
Rite Now consists of three video programs. The first examines how three Israeli artists blur the lines between secular and religious ceremonies. In Gestures for a Metal Detector (2008, digital video, 6 min., 8 sec.), Lior Bar stages a security check in front of public buildings in downtown San Francisco, repeating an Israeli secular ritual in a society with a different set of safety protocols and expectations. In Tamar Ettuns Standing Prayer (2008, digital video, 5 min., 59 sec.), the artist performs her version of a prayer on the road between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Attempting to communicate more directly with God, she rigs herself up on ropes from structures such as a tower, bridge, tunnel and olive tree. Dafna Shaloms Yamim Noraim (Fearful Days) #2 (2007, digital video, 5 min., 23 sec.) posits ritual as a source of spiritual expression and social and environmental concerns. As an Israeli of Yemenite and Moroccan descent, Shalom uses ancestral musical motifs to break down dichotomies between Jew and Arab, East and West, male and female, religious and secular, sound and silence. Chanting in Hebrew, using a Moroccan call-and-response pattern, a lone female voice in dialogue with a male chorus describes the need for sanctity in the midst of chaos.
The second program focuses on the videos of Barbara Rose Haum (19622008), who dedicated her career to examining how the repetition of text and image shapes religious, gender, and Jewish identities. This selection of videos was part of Haums final, unfinished multimedia project, Book Unbound: Text in Time (20078, digital video, 13 min.), which advocates the reinvention of the annual reading cycle of the Torah using Biblical texts, interpretations by multiple artists, and twentieth-century events in Jewish history. Using stories from the Book of Genesis, Haum revises ancient narratives with striking imagery such as a woman consuming the alphabet, hands crushing a pomegranate, and books being buried under dirt.
The third program explores new approaches to mourning customs and rites. Understood (2002, digital video, 19 min.) is Hila Lulu Lins attempt to cope with the burdens of personal and national history and to affirm her own identity. Lin returns to her kibbutz, a place she associates with feelings of betrayal and repression. She invites her extended family and community members to a ritual that memorializes the passing of her father and grandparents, and heals painful memories. In A System for Writing Thank You Notes (2001, digital video, 8 min., 30 sec.), Neil Goldbergs widowed father explains a practical, efficient method for acknowledging condolence cards and other expressions of sympathy, showing how order and dispassion are necessary tools in the grieving process. Chronicles of a Professional Eulogist (2008, digital video, 24 min.), a hand-drawn animated film by Sarah Jane Lapp, based on interviews with various clergy members, stars an irascible rabbi - who prefers to think of himself as a grief facilitator - disclosing his trade secrets to an acolyte. Lapps film explores the challenging role of those who create authentic portrayals of the deceased and use the written word to minister to mourners.