Creation of Adam, (Paraphrase Michelangelo, detail), Ruth Schreiber, 2016, From the exibition "Beyond Rubies", Agripas 12 Gallery, Jerusalem
Ruth Schreiber´s exhibition, entitled "ve-rachok mi-peninim michra" ("For her price is far beyond rubies") examines the roots of the feminine image, focusing on biblical women, providing them with a heroic, tragic, and sometimes ironic, form.
Schreiber turns the exhibition space into a mysterious and provocative site of investigation. She offers the viewer the opportunity to re-examine the presence and role of women in history and culture. Schreiber´s staged photography introduces an innovative interpretation regarding the characters of biblical women, and places them in modern-day scenes. The photographs lead the viewer to consider wisdom, bravery, and feminine valor in the biblical text, in Jewish culture, and in human culture.
The staged photograph resounds with Schreiber´s critical voice, encouraging a new reading of stories underplayed by the Bible. Schreiber illuminates shadowy corners; she focuses on stories where the text is concise and modest, presenting bravery as an insignificant matter. Schreiber refocuses and protests through her photographs: remember Devorah the prophetess, who led the nation to victory? remember Esther? remember Sarah? Rahab? Yael?
The exhibition includes a reproduction of Michelangelo´s Creation of Adam, taking up a full wall. At a quick glance, all of the characters seem to be in place: Adam, the angels, the most well-recognized hand and finger motions in the history of art. Another look reveals one significant difference: according to Schreiber´s version, God is, in fact, a woman! The effect is both chilling and ridiculous. The jarring image leads one to question why we were previously so convinced regarding God´s gender. Why were we so sure that God was a man? By presenting God as a woman, Schreiber notes the presence of the shechina – the perceived feminine divine attribute in Jewish culture. She creates a new connection to the creation narrative, indicating the balance between feminine and masculine elements in our world: the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve.
Then we are faced with another provocation: "600,000" – a video exhibit utilizing 3-D animation techniques, presenting the Exodus story from an entirely unexpected angle. A film "shot" from a bird´s eye view depicts the slow movement of people going through a wadi, screened in a loop. Schreiber´s shrewd decision to depict from this angle neutralizes gender distinctions, since from above we all look alike. Here, too, watching the hypnotizing flow of tiny figures poses a firm feministic statement, and Schreiber´s dialogue with the Biblical text continues: "And the Children of Israel went from Rameses to Succot, six hundred thousand men on foot, apart from the children. And mixed multitudes ascended with them, and sheep and cattle, they were laden with livestock" (Exodus 12:37-38). Why does the text state that 600,000 men left Egypt, whereas in fact, when we include the women and children, the nation numbered over 2.5 million?
A floating colorful, flowery garment, perhaps a carpet, perhaps a curtain – "Gan Eden mi-Kedem." The piece is poetic, aesthetic. What is it? A celebration of pure beauty from antiquity? The artist invites us to dive into the experience of aesthetic enthusiasm. Flowers are known to be an ancient symbol of femininity, abundance, growth and happiness. Can one relax and take it easy now? ... not at all! These are silk flowers, they aren´t real. They are resplendent decoration. We are not in the Garden of Eden, in spite of God´s feminine face.
Neopostism? Neosent? 2021
New website: https://lenazaidel.com
Measurements are given in centimeters, height ª width
All the reproduction photos of Lena Zaidel's artworks in this website,
are taken by Michael Amar, unless otherwise noted.