We are surrounded by boundaries. Some are inherited, some are self-imposed, but all of them are limiting, in one way or another. They frame how each one of us lead our lives, in ways both incidental and exceedingly consequential. Boundaries can be restrictive, literally confining us to a finite time, space or intellectual sight line. They can also, on occasion, point the way toward inventive discovery, heightened dialogue and progressive means of defining who we are and how we relate to an expansive world.
The Museum of ImaJewnation encourages people to respond to complex situations like these by creating artwork that draws inspiration from diverse elements rooted in Jewish culture. The Museum is planning an exhibit for the fall of 2011 that will explicitly address the ever-changing boundaries in our world. The exhibition will be;
Sukkah City/Defining and Defying Boundaries
An exhibit of sukkot, walls and boundaries
How will you build your sukkah this year?
Among the questions that we intend to addressed;:
What does it mean to live surrounded by abstract boundaries that can be broken and blurred, rigid and pliable, new and old, sometimes all simultaneously?
How have the boundaries between parents and children, between teachers and students, between men and women changed?
How do we appreciate another culture without relinquishing one’s own? What does religious identity look like in an interfaith marriage?
What does it mean to have a national border in a time of transnational corporations, globalization, foreign workers and illegal immigrants? What does it mean to work in a country of which one is not a citizen?
What is the meaning of the newly created boundaries that characterize the food people choose to eat-such as organic food, “free range” chickens and eggs, and “slow food” as well as kosher food?
What does it mean for financial institutions to send out privacy notices in a time of increased numbers of surveillance cameras and online social interaction?
The sukkah is a temporary dwelling for the Biblical Israelites who moved to an unknown future in an ever-changing wilderness of shifting desert landscapes and verdant oases. Jews celebrate the holiday of Sukkot every fall by building sukkot in which they eat and converse. The fragile shelter, which is open to the sky, sometimes offers an experience that could be understood as preparation for the vicissitudes of life, especially when the temperatures drop or there is rain.
Just as the act of building of a new house provides an opportunity to reconsider what a home means, this sukkah home, which is built anew every year, can represent a constructed vision of the future.
The defining walls and boundaries of the sukkah can be somewhat fluid. The challenge for participants is to choose a boundary issue that exists in our collective contemporary lives and express the challenge or its resolution within the medium of a sukkah wall.
In the Fall of 2010, an organization called ReBoot created an extraordinary competition. Participants including architects, designers and artists from around the world were invited to create designs of sukkot. Over 600 designs were submitted and eleven were displayed in a New York City Park and the installed exhibit fostered lively discussion and interaction throughout the diverse population of NYC.
The Museum of ImaJewnation is very interested in partnering with Hillel and the College of Architecture and Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Design programs at Washington University in St. Louis to create an artistic, architectural and philosophical conversation about boundaries.
Architectural students and faculty, as well as architects and designers in the community and beyond would be welcome to participate in designing and building sukkot according the law of Jewish tradition or create temporary dwelling models that would be functional for the many displaced people in our world. If the “sukkot” could be displayed on the grounds of the university, the Museum would ask for inside space to display artists’ sukkah walls. Money could be raised for a charity that serves people displaced by war, famine, or earthquake, through the sale of a “sukkah” charm.
(The Museum of ImaJewnation engaged people in a conversation about the enemy in February 2010 in an exhibit of “groggers for war and peace.” The Museum applied for steel recovered from the World Trade Center for the fashioning of a grogger. The steel was granted and given to St. Louis native Micah Roufa. His grogger was accepted by the National 9/11 Museum in NYC for its permanent collection. It will be used for educational purposes.)