Off the Wall: Artists at Work

March 16 - 27, 2008

Off the Wall: Artists at Work is a two-week open studio project featuring 11 artists working and performing in the galleries. Representing a new generation with strong Jewish social networks or a familiarity with Jewish rituals and symbols, artists create a work-in-progress and exhibit other work in various media.

Off the Wall: Artists at Work is a two-week open studio project featuring eleven artists creating and performing in the museum. In this live art laboratory, different groups of artists develop a work-in-progress each week. The museum also showcases their fashion designs, music, performance art, and video. The artists in Off the Wall are part of a new generation that is engaged in alternative Jewish communities but may not be affiliated with synagogues or mainstream organizations. As but one aspect of their multiple identities, Jewishness, when it figures in their art, is playful, performative, and wired for the internet. Their work may be ironic and draw on pop culture or take inspiration from liturgical and spiritual sources. For many artists, especially those working in music and fashion, Off the Wall is their first venture in museum territory. For the Jewish Museum, it is the first time artists are using our galleries as workspaces open to the public.

Week One Events: March 16-20, 2008


  • Socalled
  • LoVid
  • Alina and Jeff Bliumis
  • Evan Tapper
  • Alicia Jo Rabins

Sunday, March 16, 2008

  • Folk-rock violinist Alicia Jo Rabins performs Girls in Trouble song cycle in permanent exhibition, Culture and Continuity: The Jewish Journey
  • Poetry slam hosted by Matthue Roth featuring Alicia Jo Rabins, Steve Dalachinski, Jake Marmer, and Dan Sieradski

Thursday, March 20, 2008

  • Tour of Culture and Continuity: The Jewish Journey with introduction to Off the Wall: Artists at Work
  • Tali Hinkis and Kyle Lapidus of LoVid perform and discuss their work
  • Prepping for Purim: masks, and makeup
  • Pink Hamentashen Purim Party and concert featuring Socalled and his Band of Misfits, Bindlestiff Family Circus, The Dazzle Dancers, and a special appearance by performance artist Danielle Abrams as Uncle Bob

Week Two Events: March 23-27, 2008


  • Diwon
  • Levi Okunov
  • Melissa Shiff
  • Danielle Abrams

Sunday, March 23, 2008

  • Performance Artist Danielle Abrams hosts The Uncle Bob Show
  • Zeek: Russified salon and performance hosted by Zeek magazine featuring bard and poet Vadim Pevzner and visual artists Alina and Jeff Bliumis
  • Diwon performs live set

Thursday, March 27, 2008

  • Tour of Culture and Continuity: The Jewish Journey with introduction to Off the Wall: Artists at Work
  • Salon with Off the Wall artists hosted by NYU’s Jews and Media Working Group
  • Fashion show by Levi Okunov with video projections by Melissa Shiff
  • Live music sets by Diwon, Smadar, and Y-Love.

Artists & Projects

Alina and Jeff Bliumis are multidisciplinary New York-based artists originally from the former Soviet Union. Exploring subjects such as migration and diaspora, their projects encompass “conversational” dialogue-based public art, site-specific installation, video, and sculpture. Their work has been exhibited at MOCA Cleveland, the Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, Busan Biennale (South Korea), the Hermitage Museum, and the New York Video Festival. Alina and Jeff Bliumis will create a community-based public art project that re-examines the notion of the “American Dream.” Artists will approach visitors and staff members throughout the Museum and ask them to share their “Dream” on a thought bubble and be photographed. The artists will upload images at the end of each day to a gallery monitor and to the Off the Wall blog.

Diwon is a multicultural maestro who produces a mix of Yemenite and Sephardic music blended with hip-hop beats. He frequently collaborates with non-electronic musicians, fusing live and recorded sound. He has performed with Lou Reed, Anthony Coleman, Daniel Carter, DJ Spooky, Matisyahu, MC Paul Barman, Idan Raichel, and others. Using the gallery space as a studio and lounge area, Diwon uses radio material from the Museum’s Broadcast Archive to create a new recording exploring Yemenite/Sephardic culture. Diwon will create a live mix for Levi Okunov’s fashion show at the Museum on March 27.

LoVid is an interdisciplinary artist duo working in live video installations, sculptures, digital prints, patchworks, performances, and other media projects. They have performed and exhibited their work at the Art Institute of Chicago, Eyebeam, Exit Art, The Kitchen, PS1, Neuberger Museum of Art, and New Museum of Contemporary Art. For Off the Wall, LoVid develops Retzuot, an interdisciplinary project inspired by tefillin (leather straps and boxes containing parchment scrolls inscribed with biblical verses) and tallitot (prayer shawls). Retzuot will feature handmade hardware, video-generating sculptural synthesizers, hand-sewn knotted patchworks, and a media performance featuring live abstract video and sound. These interactive and wearable sculptural instruments offer new perspectives on the performative aspects of ritual, the potential for creativity and spirituality in technology, and the relationship between abstract audiovisuals and language-based prayer.

Levi Okunov is a Hassidic-born fashion designer who presented his first collection at the age of nineteen. For his spring 2007 collection, Okunov incorporated fabric used for the production of prayer shawls. He has collaborated with several artists including the painter Rita Ackermann and Klezmatics musician Frank London. Okunov’s atelier will feature sewing and cutting tables and live models for fitting. He will produce a new body of work inspired by selected works in the Museum’s permanent collection. Okunov will fit live models in preparation for a runway show in the Auditorium on Thursday, March 27.

Melissa Shiff is a video, performance, and installation artist whose work has been shown at the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television (UK), Toronto Jewish Film Festival, Museum of Jewish Heritage, and other venues. Her work is in The Jewish Museum’s permanent collection. For Off the Wall, Shiff will create meditation videos using imagery from the Museum’s traditional Judaica collection. A hybrid of traditional calligraphic mizrachs (ritual objects that orient the worshipper towards Jerusalem) and Tibetan mandalas, the videos would be projected large in the gallery to create a trance/meditation space for viewing and contemplation. In collaboration with a composer, Shiff will present an optional soundtrack on headphones. The work references the psychedelic era of the late 60s and connections between Judaism and Buddhism developed by spiritual seekers during the Beat era. Shiff will offer dowloadable mandalas for mp3 players from the Museum’s website.

Socalled is a Montreal-based musician, photographer, magician and writer. In 2000 he independently produced The Socalled Seder: A Hip Hop Hagaddah. Since then Socalled has released several albums on JDub Records, scored films, and performed in festivals and venues around the world, including the South by Southwest Festival, Apollo Theater, and Carnegie Hall. Socalled’s album Hiphopkhasene won the 2002 German Record Critics’ Award for Best World Music Album of the Year. As pianist or singer, he has performed with David Krakauer’s Klezmer Madness!, Toronto-based Beyond the Pale, and other bands. Using the gallery space as a studio and lounge area, Socalled will develop Pink Hamentashen, queer-inflected party music inspired by the Jewish Carnival known as Purim. Pink Hamentashen takes place on March 20, the eve of Purim—a time to let loose, to shift personas, and to pass as something else. Party to the funky, heimish holiday sounds of Socalled and his band of misfits Katie Moore, Allen Watsky, Michael Winograd, and surprise guests. Entertainment from the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus includes stiltwalker/juggler Philomena and the burlesque gyrations of Miss Saturn and her hula hoop. The evening will also include a spicy appearance by The Dazzle Dancers, a loosely organized performance collective unified by love, liberation, and glitter.

Evan Tapper is an artist based in Toronto. His video, animation, installation and performance work have been exhibited at the Tate Modern, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Carnegie Museum of Art, and numerous film and video festivals. For Off the Wall, Tapper will create a single-channel video critiquing misogynistic texts taught in Hebrew school and their impact on his participation on JDate. A split screen will illustrate a barrier that separates the artist from religious practice. One side will feature an animation of JDate photos. The other will feature a monologue by the artist.

Danielle Abrams is a performance artist of Jewish and African-American descent who has presented her work at the Bronx Museum of Art, Queens Museum of Art, Brooklyn Arts Exchange, The Kitchen, and other venues. On Sunday, March 23 in the Auditorium, Abrams will perform the character Uncle Bob within the framework of a Borscht Belt variety/talk show. The persona of Uncle Bob is based on Abrams’s grandfather, a social director (“tummler”) at a Jewish community in the Catskills. Bob also reflects the artist’s multiple identities: a black, Jewish, butch lesbian granddaughter. The talk show format will enable unscripted exchanges with guests and audience members that Abrams absorbs into Bob’s persona. Guests on “The Uncle Bob Show” may include an opera singer, a flower essence specialist, a challah baker, and Museum staff with special talents or skills.

Alicia Jo Rabins is a classically-trained violinist who performs in a wide range of fiddling styles including klezmer, folk, punk, and rock. She is one of a growing number of young musicians who, searching for an alternative to the commercialization of today’s popular music, have returned to acoustic, handmade music. She is a member of Golem, a band that reinterprets traditional Gypsy and klezmer tunes with a rock edge. Rabins is also an accomplished poet. Girls in Trouble is an original song cycle written in the voices of Biblical and midrashic women in dangerous situations: alone with the enemy general, stricken with leprosy, or on top of a mountain, about to be sacrificed by her father. Rabins and a small acoustic ensemble will offer a live musical tour of objects in the permanent exhibition, Culture and Continuity: The Jewish Journey, that address themes in Girls in Trouble. For those unable to experience a live tour, a downloadable version will be available from the Museum’s website.

Off the Wall: Artists at Work is sponsored by Bloomberg. Additional support has been provided by the Melva Bucksbaum Fund for Contemporary Art and Altria Group, Inc. Jewcy has provided media support.