Dwelling, Passover Edition

by Ronit Muszkatblit, Director of Arts and Culture, Artistic Director of LABA

Dwelling in a Time of Plagues is a Jewish Artist collaboration that spans six cities: NYC, Baltimore, Toronto, Boston, Charlotte and Detroit, funded by CANVAS a Jewish Funders Network.  Seven Jewish artists have created original pieces that represent a current plague of our time, echoing the plagues of Passover: COVID, Food Insecurity, Darkness, Housing Insecurity, Single Use Plastic, Grief & Loss and Binary Thinking. This ambitious, multi layered powerful series will open on March 25th.

This is a huge project, with sweeping meaning and impact, that will culminate in seven different exhibitions around the country, each looking at the Plagues of our time in original, creative and thought-provoking ways, and remind us of the plagues of the past.

Dwelling asks us to consider what and who are inflicting our plagues today? Are we being punished? By whom, and for what? How can we live meaningful lives in such a time of plagues, and do we hold some responsibility for the state of the world we find ourselves in? How do we give back and play a role in ending these plagues?

Through museum exhibitions, video series, murals, text and performances, Dwelling In A Time of Plagues is a collaboration that pushes us out of our comfort zone and makes us reflect on the present and past. These seven Artists shine light on the pain, loss, gravity and inequity of our time and ask us to look straight at it, without shying away, and ultimately, these artists create beauty out of darkness that lifts and inspires.

We are so proud of our own LABA artists, Tal Beery and Maya Ciarrocchi, who will have pieces in this series. Tal has tackled the Plague of COVID in Baltimore at the Jewish Museum in a moving, harrowing audio testimonial of people who have lost their loved ones to COVID represented by two large 15 feet zoom background images taken during the interviews, called In the Absence of a Proper Mourning. 

In the Absence of a Proper Mourning is an outdoor installation and online space to gather testimonials from Maryland residents who have had to say goodbye or memorialize their loved ones under conditions of social distancing. Audio excerpts from interviews play on loop from speakers hidden at the base of two large 15-foot decorative arches on the facade of the Jewish Museum of Maryland. The arches themselves will frame large prints of Zoom background images gathered from the recordings. Thus the arches, and the museum’s facade overall, will offer pixelated portals into the homes of grieving neighbors.

Doors are a central symbol of Passover. Each year, Jews open our doors to Elijah the Prophet as we do for the hungry and needy. But can we truly open our doors this year? Can we embrace those of us in our communities who are in need? 

It has been a terrible year for goodbyes: final FaceTime calls with loved ones in the hospital; no hugs at the graveside funeral; memorial services over Zoom. The mourning rituals we rely on for comfort and support as we grieve are not possible right now. The loss and isolation so many of us are feeling is immense.

In the Absence of a Proper Mourning, Tal asks us to confront these questions and realities, and transforms the Jewish Museum of Maryland’s public-facing facade into a site for collective mourning and communal care.

LABA artist Maya Ciarrocchi will paint a massive Mural on the side of the 14street Y in Downtown NYC (13th street facade), called This Place Has A Body, taking on the plague of Grief & Loss through a decorative, beautiful painting combining synagogue details, a unicorn and her dancing body

This Place Has a Body is based in New York City, a city in constant flux and a place of ghosts. Maya writes: “We live in apartments that housed countless generations of individuals and families, new buildings rise on top of the foundations of what came before, and long-familiar businesses open and close overnight. Now during the Covid-19 pandemic, this flux is more rapid and the scale of loss so immense we barely have time to comprehend its breadth.”

Combining decorative details that adorned the walls and ceilings of now-vanished wooden synagogues with her dancing body and the Unicorn, an ancient symbol of death and rebirth, Maya’s mural project and video installation This Place Has a Body, creates new fantastical spaces out of the residue of loss.

A video installation of This Place Has a Body will be showcased on the ZAZ Corner Billboard (South East Corner of 41st Street and 7th Avenues) and will concurrently be projected on the ZAZ10Ts Gallery Wall in the lobby of 10 Times Square.

Join us, March 25th for the opening of Dwelling In A Time of Plagues and start your Passover with Art, meaning, connection and a sense of responsibility. Learn more and resister for the opening HERE.