The Eruv as Art: Two New Exhibits Explore the Boundaries

4 May

Can Boundaries Cause Unity?

Two exhibits ask whether eruvs speak to our essential beings or just replicate the conditions of our wanderings

By Sarah Lehat for Tablet


The works in the Yale exhibit are indicative of Shabbat’s choreography, containing as many variations as there are artists on the eruvic theme. Daniel Bauer and Avner Bar Hama each photograph the contested borders of eruv lines crisscrossing Palestinian-Israeli territories, recalling gang culture and turf wars of simultaneously global and personal magnitude. Ellen Rothenberg riffs on the eruv’s units of measurement—tefachim, or handbreadths, and amot, or cubits—tracing a simple black line along her skin, a snapshot of the human scale at the source of halachic terminology. There is Eliott Malkin’s hyper-conceptualized laser eruv, Mel Alexenberg’s exploration of the individual versus the collective, and Suzanne Silver’s depiction of eruv literature taking on a Kafkaeqsue life of its own. A series of exquisite photographs by exhibit curator Margaret Olin highlights the bricolage quality of the eruv’s amateur partitions: Telephone poles become columns to which are affixed the barest of horizontal wire architraves, which reveal how building an eruv can be an act of conceptual or performance art, simulating Christo-like contortions that test how much one can conceal an object while still maintaining its identity.

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