Inverting the renowned Jewish exorcism story of The Dybbuk, painted and sculpted figures stitch protective layers onto their own skin.
Multidisciplinary artist Jess Riva Cooper has a long-held interest in mystical characters of Jewish folklore. The notion of the evil spirit of the Dybbuk which enters a living person intertwines with Cooper’s ongoing exploration of parasitic, invading plant life. Noted writer and ethnographer S. An-ski (1863–1920) popularized the lore of the malevolent spirit in the renowned early 20th century Yiddish play: Der dibek: Tsvishn tsvey veltn (“The Dybbuk: Between Two Worlds”). The story centres on Leah – possessed on her wedding day by the tortured, wronged soul of her true beloved, Khonen, who died suddenly upon learning of her impending matrimony to another.
In this exhibition, the artist interprets the famed fantastical tale through a woman’s view, considering how Leah does not possess control over her destiny within a devout, patriarchal world order. The exhibition title is extracted from a climactic moment in the script; the Rabbi commands the Dybbuk to sever “every thread that binds you to the living world and to the body and soul of the maiden." The world An-ski describes demands separation; cutting from the unknown. Integrating large-scale drawings and ceramic sculptures, Cooper takes up the metaphor of connective threads in a generative way. She transforms women’s idealized domestic work of sewing and mending into an otherworldly gesture equal to An-ski’s drama. Sewers stitch protective garments onto their clothing and even their own skin, attaching to themselves benevolent shadow-beings that only appear foreboding. Here the act of creation is one of salvation, returning power to the hands of women.
The opening event will feature a live performance by award-winning theatre artist Alon Nashman presenting the Dybbuk scene from his original one-man show, Hirsch. Click here for details.
Jess Riva Cooper is an artist and educator based in Toronto, integrating colour, drawing, and clay to create sculptures and installation-based artworks. She received her MFA in Ceramic Sculpture from the Rhode Island School of Design. Cooper exhibits her work throughout Europe and North America and has participated in numerous artist residencies such as Brandeis University, Lillstreet Arts Center, Medalta, The Archie Bray Foundation, and The Kohler Arts/Industry Program. Cooper currently teaches at Sheridan College in the Bachelor of Craft and Design Program in Oakville.
Detail of the multi-media installation Every Thread That Binds You. Opening May 27.
A Place for Wholesome Amusement
FEBRUARY 26 - MAY 26, 2018
OPENING EVENT | THURSDAY, MARCH 15, 7 - 9 PM
In a striking new neon light installation for the FENTSTER window gallery, Toronto-based and Beijing-born multidisciplinary artist Shellie Zhang reimagines marquee signage to represent two significant cultural institutions established by Chinese and Jewish newcomers to Toronto. Zhang was invited to mine the extensive holdings of the Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre (OJA) for intersections between Jewish and Chinese histories in Toronto. Her research at the OJA led to the building on the north-east corner of Dundas and Spadina that functioned as a cultural destination for both communities. First known as the Standard Theatre, the venue opened as a Yiddish theatre in 1922 and five decades later hosted Chinese cinema as the Golden Harvest Theatre.
The artist considers how one building served as a locus for cultural expression and cohesion for two different communities. Separated by decades but both operating in their native languages, the venues fostered and celebrated these distinctive cultural identities whereas the aesthetics each theatre adopted – revealed in Zhang’s neon sculpture – reflect an impulse to keep pace with the latest mainstream trends. Accompanied by historic information detailing over 75 years of the building’s continuous operation together with reproductions of archival materials, the exhibition surfaces immigrant narratives embedded in the architecture of the Kensington Market-Chinatown neighbourhood, revealing little-known points of connection and breaking down siloed conversations about our city’s past.
FENTSTER and OJA would like to acknowledge Arlene Chan, Miriam Borden and Colin Geddes for their contributions to the research for this exhibition and related public programs.
Shellie Zhang (b. 1991, Beijing, China) is a multidisciplinary artist based in Toronto, Canada. She has exhibited at venues including WORKJAM (Beijing), Scope Art Fair (Switzerland) and Public House of Art (Netherlands). She is a recipient of grants such as the RBC Museum Emerging Professional Grant, the Toronto Arts Council’s Visual Projects grant, and the Canada Council’s Project Grant to Visual Artists. Recent projects include a residency at the Art Gallery of Ontario with EMILIA-AMALIA, the 2017 Creative Time Summit, and an ongoing yearlong peer mentorship program with Whippersnapper Gallery.
By uniting both past and present iconography with the techniques of mass communication, language and sign, Zhang’s work deconstructs notions of tradition, gender, identity, the diaspora, and popular culture while calling attention to these subjects in the context and construction of a multicultural society. She is interested in exploring how integration, diversity and assimilation is implemented and negotiated, how this relates to lived experiences, and how culture is learned and relearned.
Installation photos by Morris Lum
Proposed marquee for the Standard Theatre, 1921
This drawing is from the collection of Benjamin Brown (ca. 1888-1974), one of the first practicing Jewish architects in Toronto. Brown’s involvement in the building of the Standard Theatre is uncertain as is whether this marquee was ever fabricated. However, almost one hundred years later, the drawing served as inspiration for Shellie Zhang’s FENTSTER installation. (OJA, fonds 49, series 3, file 104)
North-east corner of Dundas and Spadina today
NOTHING AND ALL
NOVEMBER 24, 2017 - FEBRUARY 22, 2018
OPENING EVENT | Tuesday, December 5 | 7 – 9 PM
Bernice Eisenstein opens the pages of her meditation on language, books and memory in a new site-specific installation for FENTSTER. A long table is laid with an assortment of open books, each intricately manipulated and embellished by the artist who folds, paints, scribes and reinvents the pages of works by the likes of Albert Camus, Stefan Zweig and Robert Walser. Their poetic, philosophical writings are transformed into musings on “nothing and all,” a phrase drawn from a poem by Mark Strand. Based on a wedding photograph of the artist’s family taken on the cusp of the Second World War, a large painted group portrait hangs in the window. Lost and unknown ancestors are audience to both this eclectic library and passersby on College Street. The painting and the exhibition as a whole become a palimpsest – an entirely new, pulsating creation revealing traces of what came before.
Bernice Eisenstein is a Toronto-based author and artist. Her award-winning graphic memoir I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors (2006) has been translated into ten languages and was adapted into a National Film Board animated short, which was voted among Canada’s Top Ten Short films of 2010 by the Toronto International Film Festival. She also created Correspondences (2013) with celebrated novelist and poet Anne Michaels. Eisenstein’s art has been featured in exhibitions throughout Canada, Europe, and the United States. Most recently, her installation Genizot was presented in a solo exhibition (2015) at the Royal Ontario Museum as well as in the international group exhibition From Generation to Generation: Inherited Memory and Contemporary Art (2017) at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco. The solo show Portraits of Memory appeared at Yeshiva University Museum in 2016.
PHOTOS by Lisa Logan (unless otherwise noted)
Albert Camus / The First Man, 2017
detail from the installation, Nothing and All. Photo: John Silverstein.
MAY 25 - AUGUST 29, 2017
EXTENDED THROUGH OCTOBER 2017
OPENING EVENT: JUNE 7 | 7 - 9 PM
I saw the land and it was unformed and void; and to the skies and they had no light. I saw the mountains and they were quaking and all the hills shook. I saw and there was not a man and all the birds of the sky fled. I saw, and the grove was a desert. And all its cities were demolished in the face ofthe Lord, in the face of his anger. For so saysthe Lord: All the land shall be desolate but I will not make an end.
Four gilt Hebrew letters on four blackened airplane doors spell out the word “ha’aretz” meaning “the land.” The word and the installation relate to the artist’s ongoing interest in a particular passage from the biblical book Jeremiah in which the doomsayer prophet echoes language from the book of creation: Breishit. In Genesis there is light, but Jeremiah sees darkness. Instead of vegetation and fruit trees, Jeremiah sees a desert. Where Genesis describes the creation of people, living creatures and birds flying over the land, Jeremiah sees a barren landscape on the brink of destruction.
Throughout his portfolio on this biblical text, Simon Glass considers the way in which Jeremiah’s mirroring of Breishit is refracted in contemporary reality. Degradation of the land, extinction of animals and needless loss of life are caused by comparable manmade devastation that fuels the prophet’s preaching. Yet in transcribing “ha’aretz” onto the salvaged scrap yard doors of a civilian aircraft, Glass suggests taking a bird’s-eye view of the scarred land. Seeing ha-aretz from above, defects become distant and borders blur, offering the potential for healing that Jeremiah longed for.
Opening event will featured Jeremiah-inspired poetry readings. Click here for details.
Photos by Simon Glass
Simon Glass is an artist and educator based in Toronto. In his artistic practice, archival and original photographic imagery is combined with mystical, biblical and liturgical Hebrew. Recently, his work has gravitated toward installation and examines prophecy in the context of the possibilities and impossibilities of translation, the philosophy of language and the conflation of future and past. Glass graduated from the Ontario College of Art in 1983 where he trained as a photographer and visual artist. He completed an M.A. in Media and Communication at the European Graduate School in 2005. Glass’ work has been exhibited widely in group and solo exhibitions throughout Canada and internationally. He is the recipient of numerous awards from the Toronto Arts Council, the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts. Glass is an Associate Professor at OCAD University where he teaches photography and cross-disciplinary art. His project “The Ten Commandments/Prohibited Weapons” will be on view at the McMaster Museum of Art in Hamilton from August 17 to December 2 with an opening reception on September 14.
Muslim and Jewish women explore menstruation, breastfeeding and mourning through writing, art and traditional texts.
Last year, a group of Jewish and Muslim women artists met regularly to study texts from their respective traditions, sharing how their heritage informs their artistic output. This collective was convened by the grassroots Shema & Iqra': The Jewish-Muslim Text Project, which brings together Muslims and Jews using religious texts as a springboard for dialogue. Called Blood, Milk and Tears, the initial project explored each traditions’ response to menstruation, breastfeeding and mourning, considering connections between gender, creativity, religiosity and identity.
FENTSTER invited the Blood, Milk and Tears Collective to make new work reflecting on their personal experiences and the religious practices that often marginalize them as women. The process began with further text study and by sharing stories with the creation workshops facilitated by noted printmaker, painter, fabric and book artist Rochelle Rubinstein. The result is a dense assemblage in the window gallery of long paper scrolls interpreted in inventive ways by a diverse, inter-generational group of women drawing upon a range of media including painting, print-making, collage, drawing, textiles and original poetry written in Arabic, English and Hebrew. Many scrolls incorporate textual sources from the Quran, the Hebrew Bible, Jewish prayer as well as Sufi mysticism.
The project features collaborations between longtime neighbours and new friends, several mother-daughter duos as well as students and scholars. Whether practicing or secular, each woman's relationship to her cultural and religious heritage encourages thoughtful reflection on her place within that tradition and on the significance of our blood, milk, and tears.
Participating Artists | Asma Ali | Fredelle Brief | Siham Chowdhury | Caryn Joy Colman | Karen Gold | Maysa Haque | Alisha Kaplan | Sarah Katz | Sharon Katz | Sara Abdel-Latif | Hannah Mayne | Tiferet Nashman | Sumaira Naz | Nilofar Noor | Rula Kahil | Kanwal Rahim | Sharon Ross | Rochelle Rubinstein | Shlomit Segal | Manaal Syed | Soheila Zarrabi
Developed by Evelyn Tauben, Shari Golberg and Rochelle Rubinstein
Join us for the launch of the new FENTSTER installation on International Women's Day and meet the Muslim and Jewish women who created artwork for Blood, Milk and Tears. The evening will feature vocalist Aviva Chernick and poet Sheniz Janmohamed sharing a new collaboration – two women exploring their relationship to their spiritual and creative practices through movement, sound and ritual.
Curatorial decisions were solely made by FENTSTER and the leadership team involved in Blood, Milk and Tears.
Myseum Intersections is an annual festival of exhibitions and events showcasing different perspectives of the city's natural, cultural, and historic diversity.
ABOUT THE FACILITATOR
Rochelle Rubinstein is a Toronto-based printmaker, painter, fabric and book artist. In Toronto, she is represented by Loop Gallery, where her solo exhibitions are held regularly. Her work has been exhibited in such diverse places as the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Ireland; Yeshiva University Museum, New York; Tokyo University of the Arts, Japan; and McMaster Museum of Art, Canada. Rubinstein's work can be found in public collections such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. As a community arts facilitator, her workshops and projects involving groups such as health workers, battered women, people with eating disorders, seniors with depression, and youth at risk, are based upon methods that are central to her or art practice: drawing, printmaking, sewing and bookmaking. www.rochellerubinstein.com
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Asma Ali is in her first year of a Masters of Pastoral Studies at Emmanuel College. She working towards being a spiritual care giver and psychotherapist. She appreciates the opportunity to work with and get to know the Jewish community and women who share her love for poetry and art. Asma is grateful for to FENTSTER and to all the organizers.
Fredelle Brief is a Jewish artist, active in her own community and in interfaith dialogue. She has worked professionally as a social worker, an environmental planner and a television executive (Director, Multifaith Programming, Vision TV). Her passion for peace building has animated her work in the volunteer sector. Fredelle received the Canada Peace Medallion from the YMCA for her work in interfaith dialogue and peace building.
Siham Chowdhury is a Bellydancer based in Toronto. She is the founder of Dance Sister Dance, a fusion bellydance company that explores diversity and social justice issues. With immense pride and gratitude she presents her collaboration with Sharon Ross as her first art submission with the beautiful sisterhood of Blood, Milk & Tears at FENTSTER
Caryn Joy Colman hails from Toronto and Temagami. She is a landscape and portrait painter, chef, writer, mum, and klezmer violinist. A pun on the concept that text is a body of work, Caryn's scroll illustrates the words "blood, milk and tears" in Arabic, Hebrew, and English to represent what she has learned from this project: that the unity of Muslim and Jewish people in Canada is more than possible.
Karen Gold's work focuses on her love of painting, printmaking, collage, fabric and the aesthetic power of language. Her piece was inspired by the ancient Jewish blessing/poem 'The Prayer for Dew,' shaped by conversations with others at the art-making sessions for this project. It integrates images of sky, tears/dew, text (in Hebrew, Arabic, and English), and blood with thanks to Rula Kahil for the Arabic translations.
Maysa Haque is a cat-loving, Muslim prairie girl who is interested in studying and advocating for reproductive and sexual health education in religious communities.
Alisha Kaplan is a poet from Toronto. She recently completed an MFA in Poetry at New York University and is currently working on a collection of poems centered around the concept of sacrifice and the world of Orthodox Judaism in which she was raised.
Sarah Katz is an aspiring artist, humanitarian and poet. Studying psychology at Glendon College (York University), she is currently doing research in homelessness and creativity. She endeavours to create kinder communities, and a more artful world, which she believes is highly influenced by her Jewish heritage.
Sharon Katz is a visual artist who mixes the techniques of animation with those of painting. Her practice includes works on paper, video sculpture, and animated film. She has an MFA and blogs at Animation World Network.
Sara Abdel-Latif is a Ph.D. Candidate, Yoga Teacher and Reiki Healer. Her work explores Sufi feminine spirituality and the power of embodied religious practice.
Hannah Mayne is a doctoral student in anthropology at the University of Toronto. Her research is on Jewish women's prayer and political protest in Jerusalem. She has been photographing pomegranates, as well as other subjects, for several years.
Tiferet Nashman sees her Jewish, feminist and environmentalist identities as inherently linked. As a student of Disapora and Transnationalism Studies, she focused on issues of displacement and rootedness, and how these relate to the land. She is currently an environmental educator and community organizer with Shoresh Jewish Environmental Programs. Right now, her favourite tree is the Linden.
Sumaira Naz is an emerging visual artist, experimenting with sculptures and printmaking. Her works focus of themes of feminism, queerness, and environmentalism from a queer, desi, Muslim perspective. For her Blood, Milk & Tears piece, Sumaira focuses on the universality of the three elements in the human experience and the connection they have with nature, queer love and Islam. The DNA helix is incorporated in the structure of the scroll to represent the basic element of life which makes us the same as nature and each other. The drop motif is in the symbol of Allah, signifying the creator of all worlds. The quote used about creation and recitation speaks to the creation of humans by God, self-realization and the quest for knowledge of truth and justice.
Nilofar Noor is a University of Toronto graduate who explores art as a feminist vehicle for spiritual resilience and self-realization. Working with multi-media, she uses art for self and communal healing. She is passionate about interfaith and intercultural dialogue and has thoroughly enjoyed creating the scroll for the Blood, Milk and Tears project.
Rula Kahil is originally from Lebanon and was a philosophy professor at the American University of Beirut. She is currently completing a Ph.D. on the subject of shame at University of Toronto with a focus on Middle Eastern women. Rula is passionate about poetry as a powerful expression of lived experience. Poetry helps her in her personal life and is central to her dissertation.
Kanwal Rahim is a storyteller-poet, dancer, humorist-healer and arts facilitator. Kanwal works and plays at the intersection of theatre, dance, sustainable community-building and meditative arts, where she strives to understand how stories shape human relationships, resilience and revolutions. As a Pakistani-Egyptian-Emirati-Canadian, she reflects her nomadic experiences by excavating from these multiple places, spaces and identities. Kanwal has graced many stages in Toronto, including Sound Poets Circle, SpeakOut, South Asia Calling Festival, Canadian Women’s Foundation and the Feminist Art Conference. She is currently working on her first collection of poetry and songs. Participation in the Blood, Milk and Tears project inspired her to engage more deeply with her feminist Muslim understanding of traditional inherited Islamic and Jewish texts on women and renewed faith in her personal Sufi practices. Sincere appreciation and gratitude to have the opportunity to co-create and connect in a circle of sisterhood with other Muslim and Jewish artist sisters in this city.
Sharon Ross was honoured to study Jewish and Muslim text with Jewish and Muslim women. We shared food and laughter, stories and sorrow, ideas and insights, creativity and community. We saw parts of ourselves reflected. Our crevices found companionship. Sisters across skin tones and over tones and varied scrolls and circumstance.
Shlomit Segal is a graphic designer, artist, feminist, cyclist, mom, reader, poet, granddaughter of Jewish refugees. She is concerned about the state of our planet and believes that one day there will be reconciliation and peace in Palestine/Israel. Her work has appeared on posters, magazine covers, the Toronto Women’s Bookstore, the Mayworks Festival, to name a few.
Manaal Syed is a social worker with an interest in social justice and community based work. With a focus on drawing, her artistic expression is a tool for self care and faith-based learning. Her involvement in the Blood, Milk and Tears project allowed her to explore women’s identities in scriptures.
Soheila Zarrabi is a Muslim Iranian visual artist. Her work incorporates mix media and mono print. Soheila also identifies as an activist who believes in equality and freedom. This project afforded her an opportunity to express her anger towards violence against women carried out under religious laws in Iran, such as stoning women.
Blood, Milk & Tears installation. Photo by Justine Apple Photography
Blood, Milk & Tears installation. Photo by Justine Apple Photography
Project launch with the women sharing in the study of texts from the Quran and the Hebrew Bible.
Dr. Nevin Reda (Assistant Professor of Muslim Studies, University of Toronto) lead the text study together with Dr. Shari Golberg
Our text study workshop was hosted by the Multi-Faith Centre at the University of Toronto
Transcribing the word 'holy' in Arabic and Hebrew onto one of the paper scrolls that will make up the installation.
Asma Ali and Tiferet Nashman collaborating on a scroll.
Siham Chowdhury and Sharon Ross working together on a text piece that will form the basis of their scroll.
Using recycled cardboard and faded memories; Evan Tapper recreates his grandmother’s 1930s kitchen in Winnipeg to reflect on past and present hardships of starting life anew as an immigrant.
In a new site-specific installation for FENTSTER, artist Evan Tapper recreates his late grandmother Sylvia's 1930s kitchen using recycled cardboard to reflect on past and present hardships of starting life anew as an immigrant. The installation’s title originates from a well-known 1920s Yiddish song, Di Grine Kuzine (The Greenhorn Cousin) about an expectant newcomer to America who has become disillusioned by the harsh realities of immigrant life. Like the young woman in the song, Sylvia toiled at part-time jobs, saving to bring her husband to Winnipeg from Poland before WWII, despite being swindled by a fraudulent immigration agent.
Hearing this song in his youth, Tapper mistook the unfamiliar Yiddish words to mean “The Green Kitchen.” In the cardboard kitchen filled with green Wandering Jew paper plants, a young Sylvia sits alone, waiting. As with many cultures, for Jewish immigrants the kitchen is often a locus of memory and sharing enduring traditions through food. The installation raises questions about the responsibility of descendants of immigrants to support new arrivals to our country and prods us to consider what is handed down and what is lost in translation—between cultures, between places, between generations—through the immigrant experience.
Born in Winnipeg, Evan Tapper lives in Toronto. He received an MFA from the School of Art, Carnegie Mellon University. Tapper was a resident artist at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, the Center for Contemporary Art Kitakyushu Japan, and the Jewish Museum New York. His animations, videos, performances and installations have been exhibited throughout Canada, the United States, Europe, South America, the Middle East, Australia, and Asia. Tapper’s work was featured at Nuit Blanche, Toronto, Melbourne International Animation Festival, Tate Modern, and has been broadcast on CBC. Tapper serves as Director of the Office of Continuing Studies at OCAD University and Lecturer at the University of Toronto. He is currently working on an ambitious experimental documentary animation, My Dybbuk, about the life of Canadian theatre director John Hirsch.
INSTALLATION PHOTOGRAPHS BY DAVID KAUFMAN
AUGUST - OCTOBER 2016
Celebrating the food history of one of Toronto’s first Jewish neighbourhoods through a creative reimagining of the past.
Inspired by Mandel’s Creamery, a dairy shop that left its trace on Baldwin Street through the hand-painted Yiddish lettering remaining on its front window years after the Mandels moved on. The window and its Yiddish signage made headlines last summer when the OJA saved it from destruction after a new business replaced the Italian café that had long preserved this unique piece of Toronto’s Jewish past. Pass by Fentster day or night to get the flavour of our city’s original Jewish food culture.
August 14 – October 31, 2016
Monday, August 29, 5 - 8 PM | Public reception with live music & Ashkenazi Jewish nosheray
Curated by Evelyn Tauben (Fentster) together with Dara Solomon (Ontario Jewish Archives)
The second installation in the window gallery is now on view featuring the striking photographs of Aaron Vincent Elkaim. The images track Elkaim’s travels in Morocco, the birthplace of his father, to Jewish sites in various stages of use and abandon. The portfolio reveals the complex layers of the relationships between the Jews of Morocco and their Muslim neighbours, who in many cases continue to be the guardians of Jewish cemeteries, synagogues and the shrines to Tzaddikim long after the vast majority of Jews have left.
A Co-Existence was made possible with support from Makom and the Betzalel Culture Fund.
CARPET STORE, Marrakech, Morocco, 2010
TOMB OF RABBI PINTO, Essaouira, Morocco, 2010
ZUBEIDA, Irill Noro, Morocco, 2010
LEBOVIC GIRLS’ SCHOOL, Casablanca, Morocco, 2010
FEAST OF QUESTIONS
MARCH / APRIL 2016
Unpacking symbols of the Passover seder in celebration of Makom’s move into our own place
Edible items on the seder plate act as tactile cues for telling the story of the Exodus during the seder. These foods embody themes of oppression, freedom, the vitality of life and the spring season. Continuing the tradition begun by Rochelle Rubinstein of displaying art in her Mon Ton Window Gallery, two Makom members created our inaugural storefront window presentation. As we move into our new space, we move towards a holiday with a massive move at its core. Architect / artist Joanne Frisch and curator / artist Evelyn Tauben teamed up to design an installation exploring six new questions for you to chew on, each related to the seder plate foods.