Eran Schaerf in collaboration with Ofri Lapid
Doing Synagoga. A Proposal (shown in Dresden only)
5 plots, 4 screen prints on textile, 6 wooden tables, elastic band
In 2009 Eran Schaerf designed a “mobile synagogue” as a commissioned work for the progressive Jewish congregation Beit Ha‘Chidush in Amsterdam. The Beit Ha‘Chidush congregation does not have a synagogue of its own but uses the main hall of the former Uilenburger Synagogue, which belongs to the city of Amsterdam since World War II. In order to enable the synagogue to be installed for the worship service and stored away after it, the artist designed a set of five wooden elements that can all be contained in the largest of them – the Bima (lectern). Further, the artist designed a series of mappot (Hebr. pl. of tablecloth) for the furnishing, based on the tradition of the elaborately embroidered fabrics that are used to ‘dress’ and ‘undress’ the Torah scrolls.
Each of these mappot is imprinted with images of texts as well as ritual, secular and art objects from Judaism’s histories. Schaerf invited the members of the congregation to ‘activate’ these images by embroidering them and by adding new ones. Hence, Eran Schaerf conceived not only a design but also a novel form of worship service. The cloths he had printed supplement the present ritual, and their design is to be developed by the congregation over time. The mappot thus form a lively link between traditional rituals, people’s everyday lives and the historical as well as current aspects of Jewish identity at different places of the world, containing an alternative interpretation of the ‘ban on images’ regarding the commandments handed down by Moses (Ex 20,1-5).
In the exhibition, large-format plots on six tables document the project and give background information. In addition, several
printed but not yet embroidered mappot are on display. Beit Ha’Chidush (Engl.: House of Renewal) is a congregation in Amsterdam founded in 1995 by Jews who at that point did not feel at home in the existing Jewish congregations. Among other things, the progressive congregation is known for being open for same-sex-marriages as well as so-called ‘father Jews’, i.e., Jews who have turned to the faith due to the Jewish identity of their father (the traditional religious law accepts as natural members of religious community persons with a jewish mother) . The first rabbi of the congregation was the German-born Elisa Klapheck, the very first female rabbi in the Netherlands. The current rabbi is Clary Rooda.
video, colour, sound, 30 min (W)
Prop-Chain (Mickey Mouse Worker Dispute)
Prop-Chain (Robin Hood of the West Bank)
Prop-Chain (Palestinian Native American)
As an experiment with new artistic strategies of broadcasting, Eran Schaerf has created in 2012 the online radio-studio www. fm-scenario.net, where users can combine and arrange news items and other radio formats, based on the fictitious radio station
The Listener’s Voice (2002). One of the montages created in the context of the FM-Scenario project became the script of the installation “Panorama”. The video film “Continuity” is a part of this installation, in which Schaerf investigates different performative media strategies to create credibility: repetition, prosecution and variation of the same images or content guarantee a continuous stream of news which employed to reaffirm the already established interpretation of events. Various iconic strategies, metaphors and props used by the media are being taken up in this installation, revealing the theatrical strategies, by which the media itself becomes the stage and politics become staged productions. The main element of the installation’s architecture are cabins resembling interpreter cabins, indicating the continuous process of translation in media production. In the same way the media reiterates its plots and props, Eran Schaerf translates narratives into different formats, like installations, performances and films. In the film “Continuity” we hear from different perspectives about a court trial in Jerusalem, in which an Israeli activist is accused of having participated in a prohibited demonstration. In fact he tried to prevent Military Bulldozers from devastating huts of Palestinian Beduins in the West Bank. The international press refers to the activist as the “Robin Hood of the West Bank”. Schaerf inserts into the narrative the fairy-tale figure Little Red Riding Hood – a protagonist appearing in several works of the artist – who insists that the activist is not a fairy-tale figure. The film is “a true story, a true story as it happened in print and online media and partly also in the occupied territories, in the Israeli occupied territories, in a district court in Jerusalem or at the border between fairy-tales and the news.” (Eran Schaerf, Continuity, a script for a performance with a film, in: Chewing the Scenery, 3rd edition, edition fink, Zurich, 2011, pp. 103–110, 151–158, published as part of the exhibition of the same name, 54. Biennale di Venezia). Continuity is described in the program announcement of Chewing the Scenery as „a play without characters, a performance without actors. With Robin Hood, Little Red Riding Hood, the rhetoric of human-rights activism, the fantasies of solidarity journalism, and the drama of translating it all.” In the exhibition the film is accompanied by three “Prop Chains” – chains with costumes and objects, hanging from the ceiling, each referring to an image in the film. On one “Prop chain” we find the Robin Hood mask used in a London demonstration, another one, titled ”Prop-Chain (Mickey Mouse Worker Dispute)” features hands and ears of a Mickey Mouse costume, like the ones used in a protest of Disney workers, in Anaheim, California, in 2008. The third, Prop-Chain (Palestinian Native American) refers to a Palestinian protest in Huwara, West Bank, in which the demonstrators dressed up as Native Americans. In Schaerf’s works in this context, history and fiction cease to appear clearly separated, but are presented as a continuous flow of intertwined narratives, endlessly folded into each other.
ERAN SCHAERF (*1962 in Tel Aviv) studied architecture, urban planning, video, and photography at the Hochschule der Künste, Berlin (now University of the Arts). He lives and works in Berlin. OFRI LAPID (* 1983 in Haifa) studied 2006 interdisciplinary theater studies and stage design in “The Visual Theater School” Jerusalem and Fine Arts at the Kunsthochschule Weissensee, Berlin. She lives and works in Berlin.