Jewishness, Queerness, Homophobia and Anti-Semitism

February 11, 2019

At the San Francisco Contemporary Jewish Museum Liz and I saw  “Show Me As I Want to Be Seen.”

How do we depict “the self” if it is unknowable, inherently constructed, and ever-changing? How does the concept of portraiture shift when categories are in crisis and visibility itself is problematic? Jewish thought on performed and fluid identity can be interpreted in the Book of Esther in the Hebrew Bible, an archetypal story of an empowered declaration of Jewish identity. Likewise, the Talmudic notion of svara is a potent entry-point to Jewish practices of self-determination, themes that animate Show Me as I Want to Be Seen.

Taking the work of French Jewish artist and writer Claude Cahun (1894–1954) and her lifelong lover and collaborator Marcel Moore (1892–1972) as its starting point, Show Me as I Want to Be Seen examines the empowered representation of fluid and complex identity. Cahun (born Lucy Schwob) and Moore (born Suzanne Malherbe) were pioneers in their bold representations of an unfixed self. This exhibition positions their work in dialogue with ten contemporary artists working in painting, sculpture, photography, video, and 3-D animation. The contemporary artists in the exhibition—Nicole Eisenman, Rhonda Holberton, Hiwa K, Young Joon Kwak, Zanele Muholi, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Gabby Rosenberg, Tschabalala Self, Davina Semo, and Isabel Yellin—also address notions of the opaque, constructed, and shifting self.

Following a tour of the exhibit we visited the CJM library where Liz found the following.

Queer Theory and the Jewish Question – David Boyarin, Daniel Itz Kovitz and Ann Pellegrini

Columbia University Press – New York, Copyright 2003

Explores the relationship between Jewishness and Queerness, Homophobia and Anti-Semitism, Queer Theory and Theorizations of Jewishness.

Stereotypes of the Jew frequently underwrite pop cultural and scientific notions of the Homosexual.

There may be just something queer about the Jew. And something well, racy, about the Homosexual.

The popular notion that Jews embodied non-normative sexual and gender categories is long-standing.

CJM II 2.11.2019



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