Oy Vey! These don’t look like the pictures from my “Little Jew’s First Torah”

Adam and Eve, creation, fratricide, Noah’s Ark…these are the sort of things that pop into my head when I"Day One" by artist Matthew Ritchie think of the book of Genesis in the Bible. So when I went to the Contemporary Jewish Museum’s (CJM) exhibit “In the Beginning: Artists Respond to Genesis” I had very different expectations of it than I was about to experience. And yes, perhaps I should have realized that an exhibition at the CJM, whose building looks like something straight out of Star Trek bursting from the pavement, might be a little more abstract…but how abstract can an exhibit on Genesis be?
As it turns out…it can be very abstract.
In the course of about an hour, I read a story about two violent siblings (who form the “Vegan” race) that massacred their hairy half-siblings, understood that a thin pencil mark can represent the growth of a tree, and listened to the sounds of the Big Bang. The most incredible part of my experience was an interactive art piece where I got to play God and randomly generate my own Bible quotes. Seven TV screens were set up on a black wall with all the words from Genesis quickly rolling past on the screens like a slot machine. There was a podium in front of these screens with a green button and a red button. When you pressed the green button it started the random sorting of words and when the red was pressed, it stopped the words and your quote would appear across the screen. The first quote I generated read, “Behold a great female spirit upon Earth.” It seemed almost too deliciously significant and perfect to not be a coincidence. However this thought soon passed after my subsequent quote which read “A heavenly monster lives in the sky.”

ben_rubin_lg1Although I enjoyed the exhibit, it wasn’t quite the “soul-searching” experience I thought it would be. I was hoping to gain some insight on my Jewish identity but it was sort of difficult to do so when the exhibit itself didn’t really have that Jewish identity I was so interested in probing. I do realize that the Book of Genesis isn’t specific to Judaism, however I felt that an exhibit about Genesis in a Jewish museum would be. With the current US Jewish population fluctuating around 2% (which makes up about 40% of the total global population) it can be very lonely sometimes to be a Jew, especially at a private Jesuit university. So sometimes I need that space where I can reflect on my “Jewishness.” And although I think that CJM overall does provide that space for Judaic introspection…I still felt that their Genesis exhibition was unable to do so.

Image 1: Matthew Ritchie,Day One, 2008. Source: http://www.thecjm.org/index.php?option=com_ccevents&scope=exbt&task=detail&oid=25

Image 2: Ben Rubin, God’s Breath Hovering Over the Waters (His Master’s Voice), 2008. Source: http://www.thecjm.org/index.php?option=com_ccevents&scope=exbt&task=detail&oid=25

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~ by tamgolan on November 14, 2008.

One Response to “Oy Vey! These don’t look like the pictures from my “Little Jew’s First Torah””

  1. I’ve never seen anything like that! THe first picture is so impressive, soo deep… Non jewish guy, but I think althoug that does not fill you expectations and need for jewish culture, it could be a lot more a “religious experience” than most traditional culture searching you could ever do. And that I tell you having seen just ONE PAINTING of the museum…

    Really loved your site, though you seem not to be posting new stuff anymore. Nice seeing not everyone says what peopple want to hear but what they really think… =) plus you have a nice art taste!

    see ya!

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