Crossposted from Haaretz.com
The previous owner was a mosaic artist and did the bathrooms in mosaic tiles. Yossi Turisky, a director and producer of sound and light installations, kept them in his otherwise different home in Neve Yarak. The best moments in his productions, he says were “when a professional came up with a better idea than mine.”
That’s what happened with the house. He could see things were “nicer than I would have done.”
Turisky, 60, has been doing sound and light installations for 30 years, mostly at visitors’ centers, from Rosh Hanikra to Timna Park. He studied film at Tel Aviv University and toward the end of his studies joined the team building Beit Hatfusot and so was exposed to the world of presentations.
“Cookalein” is Yiddish for “a modest bungalow, usually in the Catskills” where mothers would cook for their vacationing families. It’s also the title of one of the more modest but moving works in “Will Eisner’s New York: From the Spirit to the Modern Graphic Novel,” which opened last week at Soho’s Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, running through June 30.
The exhibit showcases the work “of the comics and graphic novel master that was inspired by, and which spotlighted, his hometown, the city he always held closest to his heart: New York,” according to its website. Progressing from the iconic early “Spirit” cartoons to his prodigious later output of graphic novels — most with Jewish themes — the show offers a rare opportunity to see Eisner’s original work up close. While much of his graphic-novel portrayals are “affectionate, and softer-edged in terms of social commentary,” co-curator Danny Fingeroth told the Forward, “some works are as savage as any Philip Roth or Saul Bellow on the less pleasant sides of the Jewish-American experience.”
Ladino, the language of the Judeo-Spanish Diaspora, has unfairly languished behind Yiddish in the Jewish language popularity sweepstakes. With the release of her 2009 U.K. album “Sentir” in the United States and an accompanying tour, including upcoming shows in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, Israeli singer Yasmin Levy joins a bevy of artists trying to change that. Alongside artists like Sarah Aroeste, Judith Cohen and Flory Jagoda, Levy tries to channel a rich, transnational, historical genre for modern audiences. Like those artists, she has succeeded in evoking something distant and foreign. She has failed in similar ways too, producing another Ladino project trapped as a token of the past without bringing anything exciting and new to the table.
“Sentir,” Levy’s fifth album combining Ladino music with Andalucian Flamenco, is a far better exhibition of Levy’s voice that it is of the Judeo-Spanish musical history it weaves through over 12 tracks. Even when the songs blend into each other, melodies failing to distinguish themselves, Levy’s voice is commanding. On the opening track, “Mi Korason,” her voice quivers, slipping elusively behind and under and through the lyrics. On “Londje De Mi” she shows off her vocal mastery, flashily trilling or halting breathily, unfortunately illuminating how lackluster her musicians are by comparison.
Listen to ‘Mi Korason’:
Crossposted From Under the Fig Tree
In my household, Sundays are usually given over to two rituals: reading The New York Times and taking in a museum exhibition. I suspect your household is no different.
But, as I explained recently to a group of George Washington alumni who had come together on a rainy Sunday morning to visit the brand new National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia as part of an alumni series called “GW Culture Buffs,” the mere thought of doing exactly what we were doing had once generated more than its fair share of controversy.
We take our Sundays-at-the-museum for granted; earlier generations of culture buffs did not. Many museum officials and their elite patrons were initially rather resistant to the idea of opening the doors of, say, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, on a Sunday, fearful lest it attract the wrong kind of people — those with “vandal hands” or broken English. A Sunday at the Met, they warned, was a “perilous experiment.”
Crossposted from Haaretz
Sculptor Oz Malul has created a universe out of computer printers at the Center for Contemporary Art in Tel Aviv. Dismantled, defective or broken printers of various ages move in a kind of repetitive, mechanical dance, in time to the sounds they create. They are also attached to other objects or pieces of machinery - for example, a radiator laying on its side, a dilapidated record player, a can of spray paint.
Malul, who graduated from Columbia University in New York in 2008, has been a notable exception on the Israeli art scene for some years now. His kinetic sculptures are made from ready-made materials, which in his hands become futile machines that range from touching to threatening, from amusing to frightening.
In 2006, when the MacArthur Foundation bestowed its “Genius” award on John Zorn, the panel of judges only underscored what many fans already knew. Zorn’s extensive output as a composer of avant-garde music, a first-rate saxophone player, and a leader of a group of downtown New York musicians, has been vastly important and influential.
His latest album, “Interzone,” recently released on his own Tzadik Records label, is a reminder that the maestro still remains on the outer edges of experimental music. Zorn is not only proficient in a multiplicity of styles and approaches, but has also attained a whole new level of fluidity of movement within them.
Crossposted from Haaretz
“Would you like to see what I have in my bag?” asks Noga Shalev at the start of our meeting in a bustling Tel Aviv bar before pulling a flute out and starting to play.
Perhaps because of the noise, no one in the bar notices, but even if they did notice, she certainly would not have gotten excited.
“Sometimes I sit on the bus and my hands automatically go into the bag and without realizing, I start playing,” she says. “It’s very meditative to play the flute; it’s simple, addictive and soothing.”
Ruth R. Wisse reflects on decades of political disputes with Saul Bellow.
James Levine will be leaving his post as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Rahm Emanuel talks to the Tribune about his plans for the arts in Chicago.
Former Pink Floyd bassist and singer Roger Waters has decided to boycott Israel.
DovBear reviews the iTalmud for the iPad.
A.J. Goldmann talks to Israeli filmmaker Jonathan Sagall, about his new film “Lipstikka,” which recently premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival.
Jan Ellen Spiegel looks at a new exhibit of Jewish-themed art by Norman Gorbaty, who is just being discovered at the age of 78.
Benjamin Ivry revisits the legacy of hotel architect Morris Lapidus, whose over-the-top designs were often the subject of critical scorn.
Philologos digs up 10 Yiddish words for “potato.”
In 1991, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) began a bloody insurgency against the government of Sierra Leone. The resulting conflict lasted 11 years and caused more than a third of the population to flee; thousands more were killed by guerillas or had limbs forcefully amputated by machete. In the wake of the crisis, the U.N. and the re-instated Sierra Leonean government took an unprecedented measure, creating a “Special Court” to seek justice against war criminals in a tribunal that combined international and state law. As a third year law student at Harvard, Rebecca Richman Cohen went to the Special Court on a fellowship to work for the defense. When she returned to the country several years later, she brought a film crew.
The documentary that resulted from Cohen’s three year stay is “War Don Don,” screening next week at the Ambulante Film Festival in Mexico, following a short run in New York last fall. Her film traces the trial of RUF leader Issa Sesay, a man directly responsible for many of the war’s worst atrocities, who also protected many civilians from the clashing forces. Wayne Jordash, Issay’s lead defense lawyer, admits at one point that in other circumstances, he would have been friends with Issay. For Cohen, this is part of the central point: War criminals, if not for the war, might not be criminals.
Earlier this week, Aaron Roller, an editor of Mima’amakim, wrote about the Jewish Austin Powers and the Jewish poetry conspiracy. His blog posts are being featured this week on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog series. For more information on the series, please visit:
I knew something exciting was afoot when an e-mail from the poet Jake Marmer popped up in my inbox with the subject header, “Won’t you be my Tosafot?” Jake Marmer is a longtime editor with Mima’amakim who performs improvisatory jazz poetry with the hippest downtown avant gardists. The Tosfos were a group of Talmudic commentators centered mostly in medieval Provence whose work of dense and brilliant legal exposition is compiled in the margins of the Talmud. As many a teacher of Talmud might ask, “So, nu, what’s the connection?”
Most people do not know that we are living in a golden age of Jewish American art. But, as I will explain in a lecture at the Jewish Museum on March 7, we are.
Since around 1975, there has been an incredible but largely ignored outpouring of art based on the Bible, the Talmud, Kabbalah, the prayer books, and midrash by artists all over the country. Depending on their points of view — feminist, psychological, existential — they approach their subject matter in entirely different, personal ways. Rather than illustrate texts they challenge their subject matter, as well as invent explanations of their own. Their work has little precedent in past Jewish American art, and the artists have leap-frogged back over generations to find their source material directly in the ancient texts. Taking nothing for granted, they have few inhibitions about questioning what they find.
I blame Heeb. Launched in 2001, “The New Jew Review” iterated a sharp, satirical take on Jewish culture. The idea was to edify through mockery: Thus a 2005 cover featured Sarah Silverman displaying her cleavage through a hole in a sheet. Although it can try too hard to shock (remember Roseanne Barr as Hitler baking “Jew cookies?”) Heeb is usually funny — and kind of cool.
That is to say that the magazine is cool (or was — the print version folded last year). But now, perhaps emboldened by Heeb, a number of organizations are attempting to brand Judaism itself as cool.
For example, there’s the Jewlicious blog and its attendant festival, which I covered for the Forward last year. The festival (which took place February 24 to 27 in Long Beach, California) features Jewish music and Jewish comedians and Jewish panels talking about Judaism. The blog is strongly Zionist, with articles like, “Egyptian Riots… but is it good for the Jews?” [sic]. And blatantly supportive of sex between Zionists, with articles like, “The Unofficial Guide to Sex on Birthright Israel.”
Each Thursday, The Arty Semite features excerpts and reviews of the best contemporary Jewish poetry. This week, Jake Marmer introduces four poems by Jennifer Barber.
“All forms of landscape are autobiographical,” wrote poet Charles Wright, and indeed, some poets, while describing natural or urban landscapes, tend to use words that echo with metaphysical sensations evoked by these landscapes in our inner lives. This, to some extent, is true of all four poems by Jennifer Barber, featured on The Arty Semite today. The concept comes to light most explicitly in “Proximity,” while “Dwelling” reverses gears, using a play of private and public spaces as a layered metaphor. The poem “The Way to Rainbow Lake” touches subtly on the setting before it dissipates into a spiritual experience of nature and one’s own emotions.
Jennifer Barber’s “Rigging the Wind” received the Kore Press First Book Award for 2002 and was published in 2003; her next collection, “Given Away,” is forthcoming from Kore Press. She has been the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a St. Botolph Grant, and a Heinrich Boll Cottage Residency in Ireland. Her poem “God Doesn’t Speak in the Psalms” was awarded the 2008 Anna Davidson Rosenberg Award. Barber is the founding and current editor of the literary journal Salamander, now in its 19th year.
Michael Weiss on why Boris Pasternak matters.
Was Jewish humor created in 1661?
Steven Spielberg has secured the rights to make a Wikileaks movie.
The new edition of the Laba Journal, “Eros,” is out, featuring Stephen Hazan Arnoff on music and artificial memory, Shari Mendelson on the work of Charles LeDray, fiction by Jeremiah Lockwood, and Elissa Strauss on why we want to kill the ones we love.
Crossposted from Haaretz
The writing was on the wall regarding the urban renewal projects on Jaffa Road in Jerusalem and the old central bus station in Tel Aviv. Urban renewal has become just another word for gentrification, higher prices, uprooting working-class residents and small businesses, widening the gap between rich and poor — all in exchange for improving the quality of life and the public landscape of the affluent.
No one has yet come up with the formula for renewal that will benefit all those who have rights to the city, while balancing improvement with fairness. But this needs to be the top priority for all those involved today in renewal, whether from a government or municipal standpoint, or from a practical or theoretical standpoint.
“The Jaffa Road Botox Party” was the name (unforgiveable, indeed) of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design’s end-of-semester event organized by students enrolled in an interdisciplinary course that focuses on redesigning showcase windows. Held last week, it included a tour of the shops that participated in the project, an exhibit at the Yaffo 23 Gallery that provides documentation of the work done, and a study of preservation efforts on the street that includes interviews with merchants.
After 2009’s biography Ignaz Friedman: Romantic Master Pianist by Allan Evans from Indiana University Press, and CD reprints on such labels as Arbiter Records; Naxos USA; and Philips Classics, new attention is being paid to the splendid Polish Jewish pianist Friedman. A warmly affectionate biographical memoir, “Ignaz Friedman” by Nina Walder, the pianist’s granddaughter, appeared in November 2010 from Les Editions Slatkine in Geneva.
The pianist, born Salomon Isaac Freudman in Podgorze, outside Cracow, adopted his stage name only in 1905, at age 23. By then, his identity as a Jewish pianist was well established after studies with noted teacher Theodor Leschetizky, who famously proclaimed three requirements for any keyboard virtuoso: “Being Slavic, Jewish and a child prodigy.” Friedman fulfilled all three criteria. On perpetual tour to far-flung places as an adult, Friedman wrote home to his family in 1927 from Cairo, Egypt:
The region which can be seen from our boat is sandy, dry, and extremely dull. Now I understand why Jews never wound up here.
On Monday, Aaron Roller, an editor of Mima’amakim, wrote about the Jewish poetry conspiracy. His blog posts are being featured this week on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog series. For more information on the series, please visit:
Of all the poets whose work I’ve come across while reviewing submissions for Mima’amakim, Samuel Thrope is probably the most mysterious. I don’t know Samuel, though I hope our paths will cross some day soon. For the past two years, Mima’amakim has published poems by Thrope that encompass the unpredictable sweep of the Jewish past, while playing some serious postmodern tricks.
Last year, Thrope submitted a short, translated excerpt from the “Dabestan-e Mazaheb” or “School of Religious Doctrines,” a 17th-century book that documents and compares Asian religions. The portion of the Dabestan that pertains to Judaism was taken from the anonymous author’s encounter with a Jewish convert to Islam named Sarmad. Sarmad, himself a poet, traveled to India, whereupon he fell in love with a Hindu boy and renounced everything, becoming a wandering ascetic.
Image by Ivan Dribas. Courtesy of Minsker Kapelye.
There is a story in my family about my paternal great-grandfather Yosl (Yeysef), who served as a clarinetist in the Russian Army military band. During World War I, he was captured as a prisoner of war and was held in Germany until a year after the war ended. When he returned to his hometown of Mogilev in late 1919 with his clarinet in hand, all he saw was devastation and famine, and he was forced to trade his instrument for bread to feed his family.
I started to play the clarinet at the age of 13 as a second instrument after first learning the piano. As a child, I dreamed of becoming a symphony orchestra conductor, and it seemed important to master an orchestral instrument. But as soon as I became interested in Jewish music I knew I had discovered a powerful tool to express myself as a Jewish musician. For my zeyde’s clarinet, I like to think that it was a kind of reincarnation.
Crossposted from Haaretz
Before you read any further: If you weren’t at Gogol Bordello’s first two performances this week and you don’t have tickets for tonight — get them now. This is the sort of event for which the words “don’t miss” were invented.
The question with regard to Gogol Bordello, as opposed to most bands, is not whether its show was good, but rather just how good it was. Or more precisely, just how amazing it was. This is because less than “amazing” is apparently not an option for Eugene Hutz and his explosive multinational gang.
The band’s previous appearance in Israel, about a year ago, was tremendous. It was nearly a religious experience, in the aesthetic sense of the term: A celebration of liberation and humanism. The performance on Monday, which (for me, at least) lacked the element of surprise, in the nature of things did not replicate that experience. The first time is always the best. But even the second time was excellent.