Episode 32: The Art of Judaism

How can the methodology of an artist shape or re-shape Judaism in new ways? How can we begin to understand Judaism as a material of art in and of itself? In this final episode of Judaism Unbound's series on the role of art in Judaism, Dan and Lex ask explore the relationship between contemporary Judaism and the creative impulse. [1]

(0:01 - 15:05): We start off the episode by discussing the role of the creative impulse in Judaism. We look back at the historical precedent of the Impressionists, asking how the lessons of their work could apply to contemporary Judaism. [2] We also compare and contrast the phenomena of "skill" and "art," arguing that the Jewish community has primarily oriented itself towards "skill" in recent generations. [3]

(15:06 - 26:25): Dan outlines three different dimensions to the role of art in Judaism, that correspond to the ideas of "Jewish-themed art," "the aesthetics of the Jewish experience," and "Judaism as the material of art itself." Lex discusses the different kinds of people who are best situated to lead the way in each of those three realms, tying the conversation to our idea of the "knowledge vs. chutzpah curve," first outlined in Episode 6 of our podcast. [4]

(26:26 - 40:49): We ask what conditions would help ensure a Jewish ecosystem where artistic, creative impulses can most thrive? How could the Jewish artists (in each of the above three realms) that already are out there connect with and learn from each other, elevating one another's work (and Judaism) in the process? We close by tying the discussion into our next block of episodes, focusing on sectors of the Jewish world that have historically been marginalized.

[1] To listen to the previous three episodes in this series, visit these links: Episode 29 (Featuring Amichai Lau-Lavie) Episode 30 (Featuring Nina Paley) and Episode 31 (Featuring Aliza Kline).

This space, Brown RISD Hillel's Hillel Gallery Project serves as the main foyer and dining area of their building, while simultaneously doubling as an art gallery, featuring exhibitions like this one. Image Credit: www.jessxchen.com

This space, Brown RISD Hillel's Hillel Gallery Project serves as the main foyer and dining area of their building, while simultaneously doubling as an art gallery, featuring exhibitions like this one. Image Credit: www.jessxchen.com

[2] Impressionist art was viewed by many people (including some prominent art critics) as amateur-ish, uninteresting, and occasionally as vulgar. Most famously, the critic Louis Leroy coined the very name "impressionism" as an implication that their art is not genuine, but merely an "impression" of real art. To learn more about Leroy (and the widespread, negative opinion of impressionism he represents) visit this link.

[3] Lex discusses a case study of the Brown RISD Hillel Gallery Project, an initiative of the Hillel that serves both Brown University and The Rhode Island School of Design. Learn more about it here.

[4] For a fuller explanation of the "knowledge vs. chutzpah" curve, check out Episode 6 of our podcast.