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Life's a Fence

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A comment on Jewish menstrual cycle rituals and marriage laws
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  • Life's A Fence
    The traditional role of the married Jewish Woman provokes questions about my identity. I question the role of women in my community and in Jewish culture through art. My process starts by creating fast drawings. When I am drawing, I feel creatively free. I feel comfortable to confront controversial ideas without censoring myself. These drawings eventually set the stage for me to create and edit video performances and prop like sculptures.
    As a newly married woman in an orthodox Jewish community, I suddenly find myself in a position where Jewish marital laws apply to me. For the first time I am struck with the opportunity to choose whether I should keep these laws or not. In the past, it has been easy to keep certain laws since they have become habits from childhood. This is something new.
    In Judaism, when a married woman menstruates and for the following week she is considered Nidah (“impure”). During this state of impurity, she is forbidden to have marital relations with her husband. The law further states that she should go as far as separating the bed so as not to cause arousal of each other; thus breaking the law. This concept is called a “Gader” or translated into English as a Fence. I realize these laws are going to determine how I am going to live my life. The law would prohibit me to touch my husband for almost 2 weeks.
    I ask myself why am I keeping these laws?
    Am I keeping it for myself?
    For the sake of my marriage?
    For God?
    Am I doing them because that’s what I’m “supposed” to do?
    During my live performance of “Life’s a Fence”, I will take on the role of a newly married Jewish wife. Upon hearing the laws of Nidah and separation, the new bride decides to cut the bed. She does this with the tools of a typical housewife: a kitchen knife. The title “Life’s a Fence” refers to the struggle between breaking the fence and feeling trapped by it.
    There are also two video performances that relate to the concept.
    The Fan is a video in which I am performing as a bride who is overwhelmed by the pressure of feeling that she must act in a certain way. She is nervous and she is letting the fan takeover her. She concludes with turning the fan off and gaining back control.
    In the cake video, again I am dressed as a bride and am determined to bring my wedding cake to the ocean as a final send off. The cake crumbles through the waves and is eaten by the birds. The ending of one thing leads to the beginnings of something new.

  • Documentation of the performance Life's A Fence. 

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