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Evelyn Tauben
Curator, artist

Toronto
April 28, 2016

Evelyn Tauben is a curator, producer, and writer. With an MA in Art History from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University, she has worked at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Koffler Centre of the Arts. She is developing projects that seek to recapture a connection between her generation and their Polish-Jewish roots, and has explored this topic on CBC's The Current, The Forward, and The Canadian Jewish News, where she also writes a regular column on arts and culture. The installation Feast of Questions, which Evelyn created with Joanne Frisch, is on view through May 8 in the display window at Makom: Creative Downtown Judaism in Toronto.

1. The creative potential of Passover

This week is the festival of Passover. While this Jewish holiday has always held sway for me, I have never been more immersed in its creative potential as I’ve been this year. My husband and I just hosted the Passover seder (the ritual-laden holiday meal) for our extended family, adapting age-old customs to engage children and draw out social justice values intrinsic to Passover’s themes of fighting oppression, empathizing with human suffering, and valuing the fragility of freedom. In repackaging the rituals, we experienced the seder like a multi-sensory, interactive, all-ages performance piece. And, in the lead up to the holiday, which has long provided fodder for artists, I teamed up with architect and artist Joanne Frisch to create an installation informed by the centrality of asking questions to the Passover tradition. In the storefront window of the new hub for the progressive Jewish community, Makom, we pose questions inspired by the symbolic foods on the ceremonial seder plate. The Jewish tradition becomes a jumping off point for chewing on larger personal and societal questions.

2. The street

Working inside a window (see #1) and observing passers-by reacting to our sculptural assemblage of cardboard boxes and neon duct tape has re-awakened my interest in the dynamics of the street and of liminal spaces. This unassuming storefront on College has been Rochelle Rubinstein’s studio for years. She transformed the front window into the Mon Ton Gallery, exhibiting work by fellow artists and animating a nondescript stretch of street as a space for contemporary art. With Makom as the new tenant, I endeavour to continue Rochelle’s tradition, which has left me contemplating the nature of casual run-ins with contemporary art. In one day, more people see the window installation than attend the run of a show inside many Toronto galleries. What is the quality of that encounter? What possibilities for artistic expression and public interplay with art does a window onto the street offer?

3. Filling in the blanks

I have recently expanded my writing practice into fiction – quasi-fiction, really – as I take up aspects of family lore shrouded in mystery, misinformation, and trauma, and fill in the blanks of the narrative through invention. No living person remains to complete these gaps of knowledge. However, with historical research and creative writing, I can begin to assemble a picture of a lost past.

4. Remounts

Thanks to theatres bringing back successful shows from previous seasons, I’ve had a thrilling theatre-going time of late. From Buddies’ tremendous Gay Heritage Project to Can Stage’s presentation of the beautiful Kiss and Cry and the unmatched, electrifying Betroffenheit, the remount is the ultimate second-chance when sold-out runs or a deadline-heavy period barred me from the first go-around.

5. Early leaf green

Passover is also a spring festival. Emergence from the oppressive winter parallels our retelling of the Exodus from slavery in ancient Egypt. Often in Canada, we cannot appreciate the celebration of the season during the holiday. Thankfully, this year the lunar calendar aligned with the first signs of life on the impressive tree in our yard. I love the green apple hue of the tiny, delicate leaves that will deepen into a more hearty shade as the early days of spring give way to summer. It is a fragile, tender, uplifting green. “For now the winter is past, the rains are over and gone. The blossoms have appeared in the land.” (Song of Songs)

 

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