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Rachel Moses
Creation's Details
Title: Dairy and Meat Dishes
Year: 1995-1998
Dimensions: 6 plates, 26.5 cm or 28 cm diameter each
Material: Decal on porcelain and ceramic plates

 

Statement

The three sets of dishes in my work preserve the Jewish ritual of separation between dairy and meat while simultaneously representing a personal, visual and critical interpretation of the laws of kashrut (the Jewish dietary laws detailing the separation between dairy and milk, laws of ritual slaughter, forbidden foods). The plates present questions as to the concept of kashrut which I see as a metaphor for a discussion of the forbidden and the permitted in Judaism and reflect my relationship to Judaism (I grew up in an observant home) - attraction and rejection, love and hate towards the commandments. This ambivalence is expressed in the impetus to relate to the taboo and confront it; the taboo is the most loaded material, and accompanied by fear of sin and punishment. I put the taboo on the table but my design is courteous, mannered. My commentary on the laws of kashrut that appear on the backs of the different plates is taken “from the kitchen”. The religious commentaries that women gave throughout Jewish history and today as well were barely included in the rabbinic discussion that occurred in the traditional framework of the beit midrash, which women were not allowed to enter.
The set of dishes “the shrimp and the pig” is about the feeling of terror that many religious people feel toward the non-kosher animals found in the bible. The bible only forbids eating these animals or touching their carcasses but the fear has extended beyond the biblical prohibition; in the ultra-orthodox world, any visual or verbal representation of an impure animal evokes the fear of sin. In the set of dishes, “the shrimp and the pig” I am not suggesting eating the meat of non-kosher animals, but rather a kosher way to “eat” the meat of a non-kosher animal. A “flirtation” with the sin, a game of playing with, but not transgressing borders, is successfully non-threatening to the social-ethical structure of the halakhic community that I am appealing to with this set of dishes. I relate to the yearning for the transgression and to the aura around the prohibition. As soon as there is a law, the desire for transgression begins. The law is experienced as a barrier, a claustrophobic closing off. Eating – an empirical experience – from plates illustrated with the picture of an impure animal, may enable the religious community to confront its fears of sin, which may be therapeutic. This proposal for confronting and overcoming the fear of transgression also gives voice to the process that I experienced.
The set of “before and after” dishes expresses and describes the dichotomous foundations of milk and meat: giving life and nourishment versus taking life and killing. A slow flow of nourishment versus a quick and sudden slaughter; harmony and tranquility versus pain; peace and pacifism versus violence; the pastoral versus the open wound; the sphere of kindness (compassion) versus the sphere of justice (law). I discovered this last dichotomy in the Zohar. Every individual has two foundations, the pacifist/passive foundation (symbolized by milk) and the violent/active foundation (symbolized by meat). These two foundations are necessary for humanity. Meat and milk when eaten together are absorbed in the body as opposing energies. According to this commentary, separate meat and milk consumption facilitates optimal absorption of the two energies in the body.
The set of dishes “meat/dairy heaven” is about the separation of meat and milk through an associative description of two opposing atmospheres of meat and milk.

 

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