Wrestling with Leviticus 18:22
Abomination: Wrestling with Leviticus 18:22, is an artistic installation produced by Trix Rosen and Susan Kaplow. The work explores the damage done by the biblical passage, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind: it is abomination,” and its homophobic legacy. The first to wrestle with the meaning of this verse were the early Rabbis and the text reproduced here is the Talmud page where their commentary is recorded.
“When artist, Susan Kaplow, came to me in March, 2012 with her idea about doing a collaborative installation about the Talmud page, Leviticus 18:22, I was very intrigued. Because this abhorrence of her lesbian sexuality made Susan feel “dead,” she had the Talmud text printed on fabric like that used in the traditional Jewish burial ritual, and then hand-sewed the cloth into shrouds.
I didn’t have the same feelings about the Talmud text, but acknowledged the importance of refuting these words.
The first photography session took place at Kaplow’s studio. While photographing Susan dressed in the shrouds, I was looking to find an iconic, universal image for what the Talmud words could mean to me. I sought to find a figure that could be abstract enough to allow the viewers to imagine their own story to go along with the graphic text. I digitally painted the background so that the figure would appear to be floating in space.
We discussed our project further when Susan next came to my studio. We talked about taking a positive action to retire the garments. We decided that placing the garments in a geniza, a traditional storage space for damaged or worn-out sacred books, would be a respectful way to retire the garments based on Jewish lore. Susan later located a chest for that purpose.
For the second image, I imagined that the figure should look like it was placed into a deep hole or inside a cave. I stood above Susan as I photographed her. I wanted the text on the garments to disappear from our consciousness and for the figure wearing the shrouds to feel like it was about to be buried. I altered the skin-tones to appear like white marble, with the hope that the word ‘abomination’ will no longer cause pain and suffering to those that have suffered it’s centuries-old curse.
NASHIM. A Journal of Jewish Women's Studies & Gender Issues, Spring-Fall 5772-3/2012. Number 23. Published by: Indiana University Press
THE JEWISH WOMEN AND HER BODY.
COVER PHOTOGRAPH by Trix Rosen from the Installation: Abomination: Wrestling with Leviticus 18:22 by Susan Kaplow and Trix Rosen.
Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women's Studies & Gender Issues provides an international, interdisciplinary academic forum the only one of its kind for the innovative work being done in the many areas of research that comprise the field of Jewish women's and gender studies.