Domestic Judaism, Objects and Memory (“As it were … So to speak: A Museum Collection in Dialogue With Barbara Bloom)


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An easy confluence of sacral and secular objects from the permanent collection and their reinstallation into reconfigured domestic interiors of the Warburg mansion, now site of the Jewish Museum in New York City. Wall texts serve as commentary, but at the center are the amulets, hats, the outlines of spice boxes, illuminated ketuboth, hats, letters, books, photographs, Torah pointers, glassware that fill the mint blue display cases shaped like tables, sofas, beds, tables, bookshelves, a piano. A lot of the critical commentary on Barbara Bloom’s exhibit has focused on memory (that old saw). But I’d put it this way. It’s the combination of history and intimacy that catches as you move throughout the rooms of the house. What catches is how the museum, a repository of cultural memory, turns back into a house.

Explaining the interaction between objects and text, here’s what got written at the New Yorker:

Inspired by scholars’ commentaries on the Talmud—conversations across generations—Bloom uses the objects to reflect on eclectic subjects in essays displayed in the form of open books. Marriage contracts lead to musings on the Song of Songs as it relates to the lyrics of Leonard Cohen; drinking glasses spark an interest in the origin of toasts. The items are installed in sculptural tableaux that suggest furniture and hint at the museum’s past life as a grand family mansion.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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