KADDISH: A PRAYER PERFORMANCE QUILT

stone kaddish
Preformed at A Gathering of Jewish Learners: 1996 Summer CAJE Conference

The performance space is arranged with chairs forming two large concentric circles. The inner circle is made of 26 individually separated chairs. The outer circle has two or three chairs placed side by side behind each of the inner 26 chairs. On the outer circle chairs are 26 individual pieces of “pellon” and assorted colored markers. Each fabric piece has a line from the prayer drawn on it in pencil. The prayer lines are arranged in order going left around the circle.
Participants are greeted by the artist as they enter the area. Each person is handed one statement from below, a program, and a copy of the prayer. They are instructed to sit anywhere in the inner circle.
The performance begins with an explanation of the task of the group which is to perform the Kaddish Prayer after they have learned about Performance Art, Quiltmaking, and the Kaddish Prayer. The microphone is passed so that each person reads a relevant statement, first about Performance Art, then Quiltmaking, and finally about the Prayer.
Next each participant connects with an individual portion of the prayer, by decorating one of the pellon fabric pieces. As they are working, the artist leads a discussion helping the group agree on how to perform the prayer.
The performance ends with the actual recitation of the prayer. If time allows, there is a “dress rehearsal” with evaluation and modification, and a discussion of how and why the participants decorated their quilt pieces. Participants keep their part of the Prayer Quilt.

THE ART OF PERFORMANCE ART
(Printed on blue paper)

The “observer” is a notion that belonged to the classical way of looking at the world. The observer approaches the world without taking part. But our social reality is not to just observe. Our vision is constructed from the way our private beliefs and intentions actively interact and merge.

We live in a toxic culture. If one’s work is to succeed as part of a necessary healing process, there must be a willingness to abandon old programming. The person who is in touch with the future is the creative personality who is in touch with the necessary psychological tasks that prepare for conflict solutions to emerge, and for the healing of the toxic defects.

Increasingly, as artists begin to question their responsibility and perceive that “success” in capitalist, patriarchal terms may not be the enlightened path to the future, they will change from demystifier to cultural healer. Healing is the most powerful aspect of reconstructive postmodernism art movement.

As participating co-creators, we become ourselves the shapers of new frameworks, the orchestrators of culture and consciousness.

In our present situation, the effectiveness of art needs to be judged by how well it overturns the perception of the world we have accepted.

It is not enough for artists to create or express an idea; they must also awaken the experiences that will make their ideas take root in the consciousness of others. To do this the artist must empower the participants and raise their consciousness as to their shared conditions.

Most of us see art as a tradition in which individuals and individual art work are the basic elements. We do not recognize that it contains the standard capitalistic values of pursuit of power, production, prestige and accomplishment. In this mind set, it is hard to see art as interactive, inclusive of ritual process, as a possible act of healing, and as an awareness of living in the world soul.

Interaction is the key that moves art beyond the aesthetic mode: letting the audience intersect with, and even form a part of, the process, recognizing that when observer and observed merge, the vision of static autonomy is undermined.

A great deal of modern art was intended to be against the audience. But there is another possibility. Art that collaborates consciously with the audience and is concerned with how that audience connects, can actually create a sense of community.

Performance art is a prototype that embodies the next historical and evolutionary stage of consciousness, in which the capacity to be compassionate will be central not only to the ideas of success, but also to the recovery of both a meaningful society and meaningful art.

THE ART OF QUILTING
(Printed on pink paper.)

Quiltmaking is a unique and powerful medium of expression signifying shelter and tranquillity. Particularly with our high-tech age, the quilt and the quilting process remain powerful metaphors for sharing and connecting with the human community.

Quilts have always been made to acknowledge and honor such life events as birth, friendship, marriage and death.

The quilt satisfies the public’s craving for both the old and the new, familiar and modern. It can be composed of ordered soothing geometric tactile materials in familiar techniques yet it’s bold graphic design bear a striking resemblance to modern art.

In this country during the 18th and 19th centuries, many women stitched their thoughts, hopes and fears into their needlework. In this century, the idea of using quilting to express a social or political message has evolved into a global activity in which men, women, and children participate.

The names of individual traditional quilts from the last two centuries tell stories of the times in which they were designed. Today, it’s not so much the individual quilt design but the communal process of creating and displaying quilts that is important.

Oliver Wendell Holmes advised, ”Take your needle, my child, and work at your pattern; it will come out a rose by and by. Life is like that… take one stitch at a time. Taken patiently… the pattern will come to right.”

Pete Seeger said. ”We’ll stitch this world together yet. Don’t give up.”

Although quilt designs are named, each design is rarely the same twice. The variations
in borders, color, fabric, thread, and quilting stitches make it impossible for two quilts to be identical.

Because they were not considered artists, quiltmakers were free from the stereotypes of what women’s art should be. They were outside the repression of the “high” art tradition. They succeeded in building an art form so strong that its influence has extended over 400 years.

In the past decade a quilt revolution has been taking place. It has pulled the covers off the bed and nailed them to the wall. No longer are quilts patched from treasured hand-me downs: Grandmother’s calico curtains, Mother’s wedding gown, or Aunt Ida’s petticoat. Now new fabrics are carefully selected, custom dyed and painted like canvas. Hand and machine work may co-exist on a single quilt. New techniques in quiltmaking include air brushing, photography, silkscreening, batiking, pleating, and computer generated designs.

THE ART OF KADDISH
(Printed on green paper.)

Originally, the Kaddish was a hymn to the greatness and holiness of God’s name, recited after a lesson devoted to the study of Torah or at the close of a service of worship. It most probably originated in the talmudic period because it is written in Aramaic, the language spoken by the Jews of Babylon.

Two important ideas are involved in the recital of the Kaddish: the mighty role of Torah in Jewish spiritual life and the great merit attached to the recital of formula that constituted Kaddush Hashem, Sanctification of God’s name.

Kaddish became associated with paying respect to the memory of the dead because at one time lectures on Torah were given in the house of mourning the week after the death of a learned man as a means of honoring his memory. Later, this period was prolonged and lectures were continued for a whole year.

Traditionally, The Kaddish is an Aramaic prayer said 7 times a day in the prayer service. This is based on the verse “Seven times a day I praise Thee” from Psalm 119:164.

The Kaddish yatom- Orphan’s Kaddish- is said at the services by a mourner for the first eleven months of the year and at each recurring Yahrtzeit.

Kaddish means sanctification.

Rabbi Akiba is said to have taught an orphan to recite “May His great Name be blessed” in order to rescue his father from Gehinnom (punishment in hell).

The nucleus of Kaddish is the congregation response,” May His great Name be blessed.” It is around this response, rooted in Daniel 2:20, that the entire Kaddish evolved. The sages said,” He who responds ‘Amen. May His great Name be blessed’ with all his might, his decreed sentence is torn up” (if Heaven has decreed evil for him). By this is meant that one should say it with his heart and soul and should not merely pronounce it with his lips without having in mind what he is saying.
A slight pause should be made between Amen and “May His great Name” because the word Amen serves as a response to what the community prayer has said and what follows is an independent statement.

Kaddish contains ten expressions of praise: exalted, sanctified (the first two words Yitgadal veyetkadosh), and the eight words: blessed, praised, glorified, extolled. exalted, honored, elevated, and lauded. The ten expressions correspond to the ten utterances and Ten Emanations by which God created the world, the ten expressions of praise King David uttered in the Book of Psalms, and the Ten Commandments. The reason the first two praises are separated from the other eight is because the first two commandments were given directly by God to the Israelites whereas the last eight were transmitted to the people by Moses.



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