Here are some process images of the piece I have in the EMULSION 2017 exhibition opening Friday, March 3 and closing March 16, 2017. I will be participating in an informal discussion on this piece on Thursday, March 9 sometime between 6:00 and 7:30pm.
The piece is a ladder holding 10 containers (re)constructed from shards of broken vessels, arranged on seven levels in three columns. Inspired by concepts found in the Jewish mystical tradition, the piece comes from the conviction that something fundamentally destructive has happened and a rebuilding must be undertaken. The shard v
essels are strange and the original vessels—from which the shards came—are prosaic, kitschy, and often ugly. There is no pattern to follow to create the repair except for failed traditions and institutions, but still, something must be done. There is a pathetic absurdity to the objects and the enterprise; still, the stakes are high and humans must continue to be present and act in the world even when the presence of good is hidden.
Nice shadows! “PRESENCE: assembling the shards” in the PEPCO Edison Place Gallery at 702 8th Street NW, Washington DC
Starting with thrift store knick knacks. In the Jewish tradition, creation was a “Shattering of the Vessels” when the originating power (in a “Big Bang”) could not be contained, and the shards of these primal vessels were dropped into the world. For the purposes of this sculpture I imagine that any object in the world could be a shard of the primordial vessel, especially things which are separated from their original purpose.
Shards. The vessels were simpler to destroy than to assemble. The shards, themselves polluted, are said to function as containers to protect the sparks of power scattered in the world. For more about “shards” in Kabbalah (Qliphoth) see this article.
Creating vessels from the shards. I combined shards from different vessels to make the new vessels.
Building in stages. I experimented with different adhesives. I didn’t try to make them look perfect. I felt like the enterprise was pathetic. I matched up similar edges.
I scribed words into lead sheets scavenged from wine bottles. There is a long tradition, most evident in ancient Roman archeology, of magic words being written on lead sheets and thrown into wells and other contained spaces.
There are ten aspects to the sparks hidden in the world, along with ten opposites that stand in tension with them. These aspects are represented by the words scribed into the lead and attached with a chain to their opposite inside the vessel, hanging inside and out in a similar way to how a label connects to a tea bag.
The word for the good aspect (e.g. ‘Beauty”) is hidden inside the vessel and the evil opposite (“Blame”) is hanging on the outside to name the evil shard-vessel.
In this way the good power in the world is shielded by the deformed vessels.
The ten aspects are traditionally depicted aligned in three columns with seven levels, as they are in the sculpture. The aspects are called “sefirot” and their arrangement is called the tree of life.
In this sculpture I arranged the sefirot like this, from top to bottom. 1. Error (Division Based on False Knowledge) encloses UNITY 2. Confusion encloses WISDOM 3. Secrecy encloses UNDERSTANDING 4. (Greed and) Waste encloses ABUNDANCE 5. Domination encloses STRENGTH 6. Blame encloses BEAUTY 7. Hatred encloses LOVE 8. Failure encloses SPLENDOUR 9. Pollution encloses CLARITY 10. Fear encloses ACTION
I was struck by how the words describing the divine and its opposite relate to the ideas of the #resistance
In the Jewish tradition, humans are tasked with the project of “Repairing the World.” This involves, along with proper actions, a being-present (“Here I Am,” says Abraham) with the holy presence of the sparks. The goal is to reunite the scattered sparks with the original power. The sparks are said to be the feminine aspect of the original, undifferentiated, power. This is how “Assembling the Shards” relates to the #FemalePowerProject.
The viewer of the sculpture is prompted to mark her own presence by taking a pebble from the bucket and placing it on the ladder. This is a practice relating to another Jewish tradition of placing a pebble on the tombstone when visiting a grave.
I assembled “Assembling” in the gallery last Wednesday. On March 9, sometime between 6:00pm and 7:30pm, I will give an informal 5 minute talk about this sculpture. I hope I don’t sound like a crazy person. I am not a Jewish mystic. I am an atheist artist of Jewish ethnicity. (A distinction without a difference?)