(George Washington Bridge)
The nexi between culture, art, religious thought, and religious practice emerge out of sensate materialities –visible, sonic, but also tactile, olfactory, or gustatory— relative to some historical situ. It is only thanks to culture that one can say from either inside or outside a system that “religion” or culture looks, sounds, feels, tastes, or smells like something. In my own work, the visual arts have taken pride of place. Under-theorized in contemporary Jewish philosophy, the plastic powers of place prove fundamental to the dynamics and possibilities between religion and culture. At the end of the twentieth century and at the start of the twenty-first century, place is saturated by photographic images, in the museums and galleries, at home, and on the street. But what about “religion”? What might Jewish religion and spirituality look like through the photographic medium? How might one combine commitments to religious thought and secular thought, and to make sense of religious enthusiasm as a compliment to cynical realism?[i] It remains my contention that the interface between religion and art is key to understanding the intersection between (Jewish) religion and secularism in modern and contemporary culture. Today, that kind of analysis has to include photography.