Tag Archives: brooklyn

Installing Messiah in Brooklyn

14 Mar

Latest art review, in the Forward, about “Distorting (a messiah project, 13C),” by artist R. Justin Stewart, a pretentious but interesting installation about the Messiah showing at the Invisible Dog Art Center in Brooklyn:


High-Tech Messiah in Brooklyn

By Rebecca S

R. Justin Stewart

“Distorting (a messiah project, 13C),” an installation by artist R. Justin Stewart, is a technically ambitious representation of that most elusive of subjects: the Jewish concept of the Messiah.

On view until May 5 at the industrial-chic Invisible Dog Art Center in Brooklyn, the large-scale installation is composed of an elaborate web of blue, green and turquoise fleece pods interconnected by rope and plastic stretching from floor to ceiling. It invites the viewer to draw close and interact directly with the art, as well as with the artist’s thought process.

This second element is thanks to a technical twist: On each of the fleece pods, there is a QR (Quick Response) code which viewers are invited to scan using their smart phones, giving them access to a different piece of research Stewart undertook for the project, which draws on 13th-century Jewish scholarly sources.

Some QR codes reveal a specific Jewish thinker or writer, such as the philosopher Nahmanides, while others reveal a bite-sized idea or event connected to the concept of Messiah in Jewish history. One example from Raphael Patai’s “The Messiah Texts” reads, “After the redemption there will be a metaphorical banquet.”

One downside is that Stewart is expecting his viewers to be both smartphone owners and technically literate. Though armed with a smartphone, I was not QR-enabled, so had to download a QR app before I could get going. After that, I still found the QR codes frustratingly awkward to scan, and gave up on a good number of them after hovering my cell phone to no avail.

Once the QR codes were abandoned, the installation proved much more engaging. In the vast, industrial space of the gallery, which is housed in a converted belt factory, there is a dreamlike, mystical aspect to the pods suspended mid-air and pointing out in all directions. The web calls to mind the kabbalistic Tree of Life diagram which depicts the interconnectedness of the sephirot, or emanations of Godliness, in the universe.

“Distorting” is the first in a larger “Messiah Project” Stewart is currently working on. Raised as a Lutheran in Wisconsin, he became interested in the Messiah, and Jewish theology, after he married into a committed Jewish family and started reading up about Judaism. Expect more engaging, scholarly Messiah art from this artist.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Manhattan skyline

13 Dec

Second in a pic series of classic New York moments – Here, watching that most quintessential of New York films, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, at an outdoor movie screening in Brooklyn Bridge Park this summer, with the twinkling skyline of Manhattan providing the perfect backdrop to the scene:

Holly Golightly looking glam even when she wakes up:

Before the movie began, as it was getting dark, just to show off that Manhattan skyline (with many a New Yorker picnicker in the foreground):

“José’s my first nonrat romance”:

The dénouement we were all waiting for (contented sigh):

My top ten New York moments of 2010

19 Jan

I haven’t actually posted for quite a while and I was thinking, have I outgrown my blog?

I set this up to write about all the weird and wonderful experiences I’ve had being a newcomer to New York – and to American life as a whole. But maybe, could it be that I’ve been here for long enough (I’ve now been a Green Card resident for 14 whole months) that I’m simply not finding things weird anymore? Could it be that I’ve acclimatised to this brave new world?

Anyway in the spirit of end-of-year Top 10 compilations, I’m going to try and put together a list of my top ten New York highlights (funny or unforgettable or just plain strange) from 2010, my first full calendar year of residing in the USA:

In no particular order:

1) Enormously overweight young Bronxite woman with a MASSIVE attitude who very nearly beat me up for daring to attempt to sit comfortably in MY seat on the bus – her massive thunder thigh/posterior was overhanging into my seat and I committed the cardinal sin of inching back in my seat and inadvertently leaning against said thigh, whereafter all hell broke loose.

2) Snow blizzards! New York snow is serious snow – no pussy-footing, lame attempt at the white stuff à la London. Ended up in Brooklyn during the most recent, awe-inspiring, snow blizzard of Boxing Day 2010, where for some reason, the snow ploughs (NOT plows) had not quite reached, and there was literally thigh-high snow heaped up in the streets. It was a surreal winter wonderland.

3) Teaching English on the 63rd floor of the Empire State Building. Apart from the views, there was something wonderfully old-fashioned, in a quintessentially New York way, about the mighty skyscraper; the majestic Art Deco lobby, the pristinely-uniformed doormen greeting you with a “Welcome to the Empire State Building”, the grandiose lifts swooping you up to the 63rd floor…

And reading Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, in which the Empire State Building plays a central part, at the same time as working there felt quite incredibly cool.

Here are a couple of pics of the view from my classroom:

4) Visiting the two sides of Williamsburg in one afternoon – the cool, skinny-jeaned-clad, hipster side full of trendy cafes and bars, and the atmospheric hasidic side, full of cute children (the boys with long, curly peyot – sidelocks, and the girls dressed in ultra-modest skirts and tightly plaited hair) playing on the sidewalk and calling out to each other in Yiddish, and ancient rabbis with long long grey beards walking meditatively along the streets on their way to or from shul or a shiur. (click here for related post, “Williamsburg Wanderings”).

5) The cringeworthy hug moment at work, when the big bad stentorian shiny plastic-coated American boss gripped me in a huge inescapable bear-hug to welcome me into his company. (click here for related post, “Please don’t say he’s going to hug me”).

6) Getting a shiny new bike and discovering that New York is unexpectedly quite a bike-friendly city, by cycling the length and breadth of the metropolisfrom the glorious Hudson River Greenway that we cycled from the very top of Manhattan Island all the way to its southern tip, to the totally unexpected and very pretty green cycle/pedestrian path that runs all the way west-to-east across the whole of the borough of The Bronx, entirely avoiding roads, over to Pelham Bay Park, City Island and a glimpse of the sea.

7) Ending up in Coney Island on an unbearably sticky hot summer’s day, and loving the kitsch retro arcades, the revamped Luna Park, the boardwalk and unexpectedly, a real beach with the real Atlantic Ocean to sit and gaze at for hours on end while eating a rapidly melting ice cream. Here are a few pics:

8 ) Sitting in Barnes & Noble bookshop cafes for hours on end reading, writing, sipping cappuccinos and generally ruminating on matters profound and non-profound. (Sadly my favourite B&N has just closed down, the one at 66th Street near the Lincoln Center – I fear I was partly to blame for its demise, being one of the many customers who didn’t buy many books but who sat for hours reading them in the cafe…)

9) It’s not really a top highlight of 2010 for two reasons: a) it’s not that earthshattering and b) it actually happened at the beginning of 2011, but just for the sake of having a no. 9, here’s a pic of a funny little moment on an otherwise dull subway ride when a feathered New Yorker hopped into my carriage for a free ride before hopping off again at a station a couple of stops down the line:

10) And again taking chronological licence…Although this pre-dated 2010, how can I forget that unforgettable herring incident at my local New York supermarket which started off this whole blogging adventure…click here for a recap of “The Herring Incident and how I am transformed into local supermarket hero”.

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