Critical Writing Index

Meetings of Past and Present: The Installations of Multimedia Artists Hana Iverson and Melissa Shiff

by Susan Chevlowe

Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women's Studies & Gender Issues, Fall 2007, no. 14, pp. 30-62

Recent site-specific installations incorporating video and digital media by artists Hana Iverson and Melissa Shiff provocatively engage women's roles in relation to Jewish history and traditions, cultural and religious. Utilizing many of the strategies that emerged in installation and performance art during the early 1960s and mid-1970s, these artists create works that are also broadly reflective of the displacements experienced by contemporary Jews. In View from the Balcony (2000), Iverson performs a kind of hybrid spiritual-secular healing ritual in and on the traditional sacred space of the Eldridge Street Synagogue on New York's Lower East Side. The work—a "multi-media project about memory"—responds to the wounds suffered during the historical displacements experienced by immigrant Jews, as they are embodied by one of that community's most important surviving communal buildings. In Postmodern Jewish Wedding (2006), a video based on the performance Melissa Shiff created around her own wedding in Toronto in 2003, the artist reinvents ritual; in ARK (2006), a video sculpture commissioned by the Jewish Museum in Prague, she creates a new form of display for the archive in a narrative work through which objects recount their own history and resonate both in a local Jewish communal context and in a wider Czech national and political one. Iverson's and Shiff's works have in common the idea of rescuing and restoring the empowering and positive aspects of women's difference as expressed in traditional Jewish ritual. In addition, their interests in the relationship of place to cultural memory, and their engagement with new media to evoke the past in light of the present suggest common cause in the aesthetic re-visioning of contemporary Jewish life.

ITEM 2007.160 – available for viewing in the Research Centre

Videos, Artworks and Artists Cited

View From the BalconyHana Iverson

ARKMelissa Shiff

Postmodern WeddingMelissa Shiff

Louis and Melissa's Huppah in the SukkahMelissa Shiff