The CANVAS Compendium returns from summer hiatus with an installment of Artists on Artists, when Jewish creatives share the work of Jewish artists they admire. This time we invited Yevgeniy Fiks and Maria Veits to choose artists, as their multinational project, Yiddishland Pavilion, is currently fascinating visitors online and at the Venice Biennale.
Yevgeniy Fiks is a Moscow-born New York-based artist, author, and organizer of art exhibitions. His work is inspired by the collapse of the Soviet Bloc and the complex historical amnesia found in both the post-Soviet space and in American considerations of its progressive history. Recent projects have been exhibited at 2B Galéria in Budapest, Galerie Sator in Paris, 21ST.PROJECTS-Critical Practices Inc. in New York, and CCI Fabrika in Moscow. You can delve into Fiks’s captivating multidisciplinary work via his website.
Maria Veits is an independent curator and researcher. Her curatorial projects investigate how the manipulation of history and information are integrated into the process of nation-building through education, media, architecture and other social institutions and forms of statecraft. Veits’s recent curatorial and co-curatorial work has been exhibited in The Israeli Centre for Digital Art, Gallery Luda in St. Petersburg, and Het Nieuwe Instituut, a cultural center in Rotterdam. Veits is a co-founder of TOK, a female curatorial collective that revisits the power of social institutions and reimagines their potential future.
Below, Fiks and Veits share some of the Jewish artists whom they tapped for Yiddishland: “We find these artists exciting and challenging. We’re delighted to introduce or re-introduce their ingenuity to a North American audience.”
The work of New York-based director, designer, puppeteer, and educator Jenny Romaine is a blazing intersectional continuation of progressive Yiddish culture. With projects like The Sukkos Mob (featured in the documentary Punk Jews) and Aftselakhis Spectacle Committees’s “diasporist, queer, abolitionist, feminist, antifascist, trans, & very very maximalist” purimspiel, Romaine fuses secular Yiddishkeit and frumkeit (devoutness) to create a new kind of Yiddish creativity. It’s a blend of socially responsible collective work and the downtown-New York DIY tradition.
A great example of Romaine’s unique aesthetic is the online performance piece Vu Bistu Geven?/Where Have You Been?, which is presented as part of Yiddishland. Romaine, with collaborators Simone Lucas and Sadie Gold-Shapiro, explores the Montreal Jewish community’s relationship to colonialism in the Canadian context. But these difficult questions are investigated with a playful, humorous storyline and with handcrafted props, sets, and costumes, ensuring that the piece is never didactic or moralizing.
Neue Jüdische Kunst
Neue Jüdische Kunst (“New Jewish Art”) is an association of artists, psychoanalysts, writers, and philosophers founded in Odessa, Ukraine in 2013 by artist Nikolay Karabinovych and writer and therapist Garry Krayevets. [Karabinovych’s work appeared in the CANVAS Compendium’s special issue on Ukraine.]
Now residing in Belgium and Germany, respectively, Karabinovych and Krayevets collaborated on Yarmulke of a Stretched String for the Yiddishland Pavilion, which they performed at the Venice Biennale. The performance piece is a fictional trial, referencing, among others, Sabbatai Zevi, Joseph Brodsky, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, The Merchant of Venice, and the Nuremberg trials. The result is an intense piece that uses parody and satire to reflect the fragmented, obsessive, and traumatized nature of 21st-century Jüdische Kunst—Jewish art.
Shterna Goldbloom is a Chicago-based artist, curator, and educator. Working mostly in photography, Goldbloom’s artistic practice is deeply rooted in the Jewish communities they grew up in as well as the communities they chose as an adult. For Goldbloom, the principal position of a Jewish artist is that of a community member who represents contemporary Jewish life from within, recognizing both tradition and changes and challenges to tradition.
Their photographic series Shabbos exemplifies this ethic of community. Goldbloom grew up in an observant family, and shabbat has been extremely important for them since childhood. The series became a way to connect with family and with the people the artist “chose to make family with too—the queers, rabbis, artists, and heretics I want to break bread with.”
Ella Ponizovsky Bergelson
The large-scale, site-specific, language-based murals of Ella Ponizovsky Bergelson reflect her own multilingual, hybrid, migratory identity: the artist was born in Moscow, grew up in Jerusalem, and now lives in Berlin, where she has been creating numerous works in public spaces.
Bergelson uses Yiddish, Arabic, German and English typographic elements to explore connections between language, identity, territory, and movement. Often poetry is an inspiration. Intertwining these different alphabets, Bergelson plays with visual representations of words, turning the process of reading into an emotional journey that transcends borders and presents multilayered meanings.
Her recent commission for Yiddishland was created in collaboration with literary scholar Anna Elena Torres and Arhead, a digital and augmented reality content company. Pseudo-territory is an augmented reality sculpture inspired by the concept of “Quasi-Territory” (כּמו-טעריטאָריע) coined by the Yiddish literary critic and editor Boruch Rivkin (1883-1945). The piece draws on Yiddish, English, and the Proto-Canaanite alphabet, which dates from the 17th century BCE. Pseudo-territory can be experienced by accessing the QR-code from the Yiddishland website.
[Ella Ponizovosky Bergelson also designed the CANVAS logo! Read the story of the logo by CANVAS founder Lou Cove.]
Dance has been an integral part of Avia Moore’s life since childhood—she grew up in a family of dancers in the folk music scene in Western Canada. Now she is the Artistic Director of Klezkanada, the internationally-acclaimed festival of Yiddish arts and culture, as well as an experienced performer and producer in her own right. Moore is also an expert in the history and theory of Yiddish dance—her doctoral work at York University explores how heritage and traditional cultural practices are performed on modern stages and in contemporary life. Finally, Moore is a teacher and leader of Yiddish dance, disseminating her passion and enthusiasm for Yiddish movement.
For the Yiddishland Pavilion, Moore conducted a workshop of Yiddish dance in Giardini, one of the main Venice Biennale public and exhibition spaces. A participatory, performative gesture seemed like an interesting experiment at an event like the Venice Biennale, where the organization and division of space determines the choreography and movements of the art crowd as they wander between pavilions. The workshop delighted passersby, who were happy to participate in the dancing or just to hear Yiddish music. Moore’s invitation to dance was a physical method of cultural transmission, a gesture of togetherness, and a celebration of life.
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