The Yiddishland Pavilion debuts at the 59th Venice Biennale this month. Maria Veits and Yevgeniy Fiks, curators of the pavilion, edited this series for ArtsEverywhere. The Yiddishland Pavilion is the first independent transnational pavilion bringing together artists and scholars from more than 15 countries who activate Yiddish and diasporic Jewish discourse in contemporary artistic practice.
Feygeles makes visible that which historically has been hidden. Handmade contemporary Torah scrolls, a series of five small parchments, and a digital archive of thirty five subjects reveal photographs and interviews with LGBTQIA Jews who have struggled to find ways of integrating their history and family traditions with their sexuality and gender. Feygeles, a Yiddish slur meaning “gay” and “little bird”, expresses both the queerness of these Jews and their flight. This project is in honour of Eliyahu Ben Menachem Mendel.
Ever since I was very small, my mother met the sunsets on Friday night with a crisp tablecloth, tall candlesticks, and a spread of purple cabbage, challah, and eggplant. Waving hands over the candles seemed to physically usher in a peace, like the whole house warmed up with Shabbos. When I was young they taught me this was called the “Shabbos spice,” angels descending upon our home to greet the Shabbos queen with us. I’ve since realized that the warmth I felt as a child was the way the people of my life would wind down together week after week, year after year. Over time, our home contracted and expanded, as children left and returned, sometimes bringing new friends and chosen family with them, but our Friday nights stayed constant. We flocked to the table, laughing at our bullshit weeks, razzing on each other, celebrating joys, sharing in griefs and heartbreaks, always with the same warm challah, eggplant, and cabbage sprinkled with craisins and pickles. Shabbos began to feel like a hug I carried in my arms and could wrap other people in, wherever I went. Moving across cities and visiting new homes and communities, I’ve carried the Shabbos I knew to the spaces I didn’t, challenging the traditions I knew to see how far I could stretch them. Shabbos has always been a way for me to connect with my family, but with this project, I wanted to explore how Shabbos could take me beyond the people and life I knew to find moments of overlap with the people I’ve chosen to make family with too — the queers, rabbis, artists, and heretics I want to break bread with.
The Shabbos project will be exhibited for the first time in Detroit in a duo show (called “Chosen”) with Nour Ballout on April 7, 2022, at Galerie Camille.