Holiday Art

April 4, 2011

The image left is on the 1892 edition of the Rödelheim Machsor, the well known German Jewish holiday prayerbook. It seems to represent the holidays, and I can make out most items. In the center are the Tablets of the Law, for the holiday of Shavu’ot. At the bottom, we find an incense burner in front of a shofar, representing Yom Kippur and Rosh haShana, respectively. The shofar doubles as a stringed instrument, representing the Levitical chants in the Temple. Left, above the shofar, is part of a trumpet, again evoking the Levitical musical performances during the Temple service. To the right and left are myrtle and date palm branches, two of the four species held during the Sukkot services.

However, I am mystified by the other four symbols. On top is the sun, which I am not sure what it is doing here; is it an allusion to Pessach, which always falls out in the early spring? Is it actually a radiating matza, rather than a sun? Immediately to the right of the Tablets of the Law is a structure that could be a building with lots of windows, a box for sorting little items like nails, spices, or whatever, or it could be a book with a very peculiar cover; I don’t know. On the immediate upper left of the Tablets is a kind of tube, which I cannot make sense of, either. Finally, on the left side, there seems to be a kind of chain or arc connecting the trumpet, the shofar or the myrtle branch to the sun, which I can’t interpret, either. Do you have a suggestion? If so, please leave a comment.


Raising Consciousness by Dressing Babies Outrageously

March 17, 2010

Denmark – “We all have evil within us. Even small children are evil towards each other,” Danish-Norwegian artist Nina Maria Kleivan tells Haaretz as she explains why she chose to dress up her baby daughter as the most evil historical figures of the 20th century.

The artist's baby daughter dressed up as HitlerIn the controversial photo-series “Potency,” Kleivan’s daughter Faustina, then a few months old, depicts such infamous personalities as Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini, Saddam Hussein, Ayatollah Khomeini, Chairman Mao, Idi Amin, Augusto Pinochet, Slobodan Milosevic, and Adolf Hitler. The aim is to illustrate just one thing: We all begin life the same. We all have every opportunity ahead of us. To do good, or inexplicable evil. (Haaretz reports)

While many will critique this artistic statement as offensive, it seems clear ffrom the article that the artists does not idolize any of history’s most wicked leaders. In order to raise consciousness, art often attempts to shock, to draw people out of their comfort zone and make them think. This particular artistic effort may be particularly distasteful, but I do not see myself as an art critic, leaving this craft to people far more able than I am.

But I do find fault with her thesis. By dressing up a child as Hitler, she almost makes the appearance of such tyrants a matter beyond the free moral choice of the child. Are the Hitlers and the Stalins and the Pol Pots predestined, and more importantly, are their followers predestined to follow them? Read the rest of this entry »