We’ve been into Sam Winston for quite a while. He first came to our attention through an interview he gave in Beached Miami. As you can see, he has a wonderful way of deconstructing texts.
From the piece, Orphan, 2010: ”Since 1999 I collated scraps of paper, diary notes and typed word document all pertaining to this one idea I was trying to express through a story. And when in 2010 I finally did reach a final draft, I also realised I had generated a history of documents that said something about the process of writing itself.
For Orphan I wanted to present both my final tale and show the archaeology of that writing process. By cutting out the words from my previous drafts I created clouds of text that I could use as the ‘typeface’ for my final draft. It is a book in which you have both the story and it’s history presented on the same page.”
From Made Up True Story, 2005: “The way you navigate a timetable is very different to the way you read a short story. I wanted to take these different types of visual navigation and introduce them to each other: a timetable re-ordering all the words from beauty and the beast, or a newspaper report on Snow White.”
From Rage, one of three works in the project entitled Romeo and Juliet, a work-in-progress: “The images are large columns of text that contain the whole of Shakespeare’s play. Instead of presenting the play in its chronological order however – the text has been divided into the three emotional states – Passion, Rage, and Indifference. Every line said in ‘passion’ forms the first image, ‘rage’ the second and ‘indifference’ the third.”
Of course, we couldn’t help but think: what would it look like if Sam Winston made a ketubah?
Ketubah texts can be a tricky thing. According to who you ask, there is only one acceptable text, and it is written in the ancient language of Aramaic and has not evolved for thousands of years. And then, depending on who you ask, there are a multitude of acceptable texts, and they are constantly evolving to meet the needs of a diverse and modern Jewish community. It seems that Sam Winston’s approach to text, and to creating image from text, could encapsulate both views in a piece that somehow charts the evolving history of the ketubah text, while allowing them both to be present. Or what if the artist chose to mine only one text, let’s say, the Orthodox text, and allowed a new meaning to emerge from his deconstruction of it?
Of course, judging from Winston’s work, this ketubah would be a pretty radical departure from traditional ones. It would almost surely be illegible, at least in part. While this causes significant problems if the couple views their ketubah as strictly a legal document, the couple who looks at the ketubah as a symbolic exchange of vows, will have less of an obstacle. In fact, the illegibility could add a level of intimacy, as only the couple would know what the original text was, and the agreement between them becomes a private, sacred thing.
I first saw Ward Shelley‘s work during Art Basel 2009 at a show in Wynwood, hung salon-style and belonging to one of my favorite Williamsburg galleries, Pierogi. It was an amazing show (also introduced me to the dream-like paintings of Ryan Mrozowski), and I fell in love with Shelley’s visual maps of everything from the history of the downtown scene to the history of science fiction to the history of Shelley’s love life. Though the information doubtless is painstakingly arranged by Shelley, it also predetermines its own shape– the viewer feels as though she is looking directly at the innate shape and structure of a movement, or a life.
Media Role Models, ver. 1, 24″ x 41″
Who Invented the Avant Garde, ver. 3, 62.5″ x 28.5″.
Autobiography, ver. 2, 36″ x 23″
To see these images enlarged, visit www.wardshelley.com.
Many of these charts– since they deal with organic developments over time– take the form of organs, trees, or other biological structures. It’s not hard to see how this format could translate to a ketubah, as the charting of two lives before and after they intersect (it could go several generations back), or as a chart of the relationship itself, as the history of a favorite genre of music that the couple shares as an interest, or even as “the history of love” through different art forms. What about Jewish history, with the couple’s meeting as the outcome of generations of wanderings? The text of the ketubah could be added on the side, or across the bottom, I suppose. That would be for Ward Shelley to decide.
Glad you asked! Well, we launched on August 10th and since then we’ve just been getting our bearings, peering into the blinding expanse of social media marketing like little deer in headlights, bringing new meaning to the words “learning curve.” For one thing, if you’ve sent us an email through our contact form in the last two weeks—yeah, we didn’t get it. But now that’s fixed so feel free to reach out again or email us at email@example.com.
So what’s next…
We wanted to give you an idea of what to expect from the Ketuv blog. Of course, this brief list is by no means the extent of it—we plan to cover a range of different topics relating to Jews and art and weddings (and sometimes all three simultaneously).
Here are some themes we’ve outlined in our first editorial meetings:
Ketubahs 101: Ketubahs are what we’re all about, and on this blog you’ll find valuable information on the history (and future) of ketubahs, as well as how to choose the right ketubah for you. As early as next week, we’ll have guest blogger Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer, author of the Creative Jewish Wedding Book, to check in and drop some knowledge!
Remixing the Jewish Wedding: What keeps Judaism relevant is the little ways that Jewish people make the tradition their own. That’s why we plan to feature ways that people are updating/personalizing/remixing Jewish traditions in their own wedding ceremonies. Whether it be a homemade, handmade chuppah, or a rewritten sheva brachot (seven blessings), we want to be a resource for inspiring ways that real people use the Jewish tradition to connect to their identities. Every so often, we’ll throw in remixed Jewish traditions from other holidays and ceremonies, for good measure. And, of course, if you’ve got a suggestion, or want your “remixed Jewish wedding” featured, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Artist Wishlist: We’ve always got one eye on the art world, since that’s where we’re from! When we see work we love, and especially work that would translate well to a ketubah—whether it be famed artists, or someone’s little sister, living working artists, or old deceased dudes and dudettes—we’ll post it here.
Artist Features: Spotlight on our artists, including studio visits, exhibitions, interviews, new work and, of course, new ketubahs.
The Biz: We’re figuring out this “small business” thing as we go along, and we’re eager to share what we learn. Maya, who is 1/2 of Ketuv, starts an MBA program this fall, so look out for the fruits of her edumacation.
Ok, no puppies. But wouldn’t it be nice if that were part of the job?
In the meantime, send us suggestions by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @KetuvTweets.