To judge this book by its illustrated cover and contents page is a challenge: witty or provocative? The Jewish Museum exhibition organizers probably aimed for ambivalence and they succeeded, in display and in this catalog, which accompanies an exhibition traveling from New York to San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum. This book is in the tradition of “Too Jewish?” — an earlier, controversial exhibition at the Museum.
Interpretation of Jewish ritual objects, especially those focused on home-based ritual, is risky when done by practitioners of outrageous art, be they Jewish or non-Jewish, female or male. The curators/writers/artists don’t deny themselves lofty references — among others, Abraham Joshua Heschel’s comment that Gd’s revelation of the Torah is always ongoing. So empowered, artists conceive of limitless Bible portions rolled into gel capsules, perhaps to be ingested, on a regular basis. An austerely designed yad (pointer) incorporates a compass, verifying East; another includes a magnifying glass, reassuring impeccable Torah reading. Combining a kitchen apron and a tallit may be another matter for reader/viewer.
Certainly some objects are refreshing, others vexing to consider, nevertheless the book is tied to a serious, nearly ponderous level by its topic, ritual — always ongoing. Acknowledgements, bibliography, contributors, exhibition checklist, index, notes.