Inspired by the 500th anniversary of the Jewish Ghettoʼs creation in Venice, Divided Waters examines the origins of existence and the resonance of being through the lens of text. Artists from the northern and southern hemispheres present works that explore universal ideas of creation, existence and coexistence which reverberate with the particular history of Venice as well as a narrative unrestricted by place or time.
Text is the anchor that grounds and unites—creating a people not of place, but of the letter, of the word.
If, as Freud said, Judaism is an invisible building constructed on top of a loss that granted meaning as a cultural foundation, the Venetian decree of 1516 that forced Jews to live in what would be the first “ghetto,” was also the creation of a cultural territory. The act of creation and our relationship to space inform the works in the exhibition, oscillating between the physical, the metaphysical and the spiritual. While seemingly codifying boundaries, divisions become a means to create spaces imbued with meaning that challenge our perception of limits. Employing the physical construct of letters and words as a method of demarcation invites the viewer to contemplate an alternative realm where significance expands— be it a chuppah made from the Song of Songs; an oculus formed with the word “eye”; integrating the duality of a void and the whole; or layering text to create a pulse of light within darkness.
These text-based works venerate the historical import of the Jewish Ghetto — a place divided from the rest of Venice by water—and at the same time transcend temporal, geographic and cultural boundaries, conjuring a realm which bridges the divide. The exhibition, drawing on the Jewish tradition of reflecting upon text, uses text- based art as a lens through which one can ruminate on the state of our contemporary society.
The art in the exhibition explores the notion of how we might unify the dualities we perceive as separations and employ compassion as way to construct a different reality—inviting the viewer to consider that we are all one, all part of a shared humanity.