16 November 2012

Miami Beach Eruv

Mel Alexenberg’s painting Miami Beach Eruv in the "Shaping Community" exhibition at Yale University Art Galleries shows a generic Art Deco hotel on Ocean Drive with the cord of the Miami Beach eruv hovering over it.  The Miami Beach eruv encircling the island city is the largest environmental sculpture in North America.  It is also kinetic art that transforms itself in seven day cycles and participatory art that shapes community.

Texts describing the Miami Beach eruv are published in the Yale exhibition catalog, my paper “Eruv as Conceptual and Kinetic Art” in the Visualizing the Eruv issue of Images: Journal of Jewish Art and Visual Culture, Vol. 5, 2011, and my website www.melalexenberg.com   
Shaping Community:  Poetics and Politics of the Eruv

An exhibition exploring a Jewish spatial practice
Yale University Art Galleries
October-November 2012
Curated by Margaret Olin

Talmudic law interprets the biblical imperative to “do no work” on the Sabbath as forbidding the carrying of objects from a private space into a public space on that day.   Because, however, the injunction against carrying would seem to contravene the biblical command that the Sabbath be “a joy,” the rabbinical corpus also instituted the eruv, a partnership that operates during the Sabbath to transform a neighborhood into a community with a shared dwelling place, within whose borders an orthodox Jew may carry a prayer book to the synagogue, push a stroller or wheelchair, and where children may play outdoors.

The eruv boundary is marked, so subtly as to be nearly invisible, by redefining urban fixtures such as utility wires with the addition of common pieces of hardware or fishing line. Yet the institution of an eruv demands the cooperation of surrounding communities and is often the center of acrimonious disputes and litigation.  The concept of the eruv raises issues about public and private space, borders and limitations that speak, in multifold and fascinating ways, to wider concerns about multiethnic communities, immigration, and human rights.

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