Why Toronto artist Melissa Shiff is exhibiting at NYU’s Center for Jewish Life instead of the Jewish Museum or, better, MOMA, is a mystery to me. But get there while you can to see one of the most innovative uses of space, myth and texture I’ve encountered in a long long time.
It’s a provocative and playful exploration of the real values underlying Pesach, transmitted to its audience through a series experiential installations that hit all the senses. From a video special effect that puts you at the center of the Red Sea, to a floor filled with pillows that crunch (yes, that’s matzah) as you walk across them, a Miriam bar, an Elijah lounge, and a plague animation, the installation embraces you with the real spirit and content of this holiday.
Of course, ghettoizing the best of Jewish conceptual art at a Jewish student center might be great for the students, but sequesters important works from the general audiences who might appreciate this work for something other than its “Jewishness.” Until we stop seeing art as a form of outreach, I fear work like this – which transcends the goals of the few institutions who might choose to fund it – will remain sadly under-appreciated.
See “Crush Oppression” at the Bronfman Center 7 East 10th Street, New York City, Mon-Thurs from 11am to 7pm, Fri-Sat 11-5 and 7-9, and Sun noon-6pm, until May 2.