The Arty Semite

High-Tech Messiah in Brooklyn

By Rebecca Schischa

  • Print
  • Share Share
R. Justin Stewart

“Distorting (a messiah project, 13C),” an installation by artist R. Justin Stewart, is a technically ambitious representation of that most elusive of subjects: the Jewish concept of the Messiah.

On view until May 5 at the industrial-chic Invisible Dog Art Center in Brooklyn, the large-scale installation is composed of an elaborate web of blue, green and turquoise fleece pods interconnected by rope and plastic stretching from floor to ceiling. It invites the viewer to draw close and interact directly with the art, as well as with the artist’s thought process.

This second element is thanks to a technical twist: On each of the fleece pods, there is a QR (Quick Response) code which viewers are invited to scan using their smart phones, giving them access to a different piece of research Stewart undertook for the project, which draws on 13th-century Jewish scholarly sources.

Some QR codes reveal a specific Jewish thinker or writer, such as the philosopher Nahmanides, while others reveal a bite-sized idea or event connected to the concept of Messiah in Jewish history. One example from Raphael Patai’s “The Messiah Texts” reads, “After the redemption there will be a metaphorical banquet.”

One downside is that Stewart is expecting his viewers to be both smartphone owners and technically literate. Though armed with a smartphone, I was not QR-enabled, so had to download a QR app before I could get going. After that, I still found the QR codes frustratingly awkward to scan, and gave up on a good number of them after hovering my cell phone to no avail.

Once the QR codes were abandoned, the installation proved much more engaging. In the vast, industrial space of the gallery, which is housed in a converted belt factory, there is a dreamlike, mystical aspect to the pods suspended mid-air and pointing out in all directions. The web calls to mind the kabbalistic Tree of Life diagram which depicts the interconnectedness of the sephirot, or emanations of Godliness, in the universe.

“Distorting” is the first in a larger “Messiah Project” Stewart is currently working on. Raised as a Lutheran in Wisconsin, he became interested in the Messiah, and Jewish theology, after he married into a committed Jewish family and started reading up about Judaism. Expect more engaging, scholarly Messiah art from this artist.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Visual Art, Rebecca Schischa, Invisible Dog Art Center, R. Justin Stewart, Distorting (a messiah project 13C), Exhibits

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.