For The Time Being

For The Time Being

Sandee is the arts and culture editor at the Jewish Week.

So what do we mean when we talk about Jewish time? Always late by ten minutes? Days divided by requisite prayer services, weeks punctuated with the slowing down of Shabbat, years marked by yahrtzeits? Or is Jewish time always set in different time zones, as the Jewish people are dispersed throughout the world? Or, as my grandmother would ask, Are you keeping time with anyone? To her, time meant sharing hours and it meant being together, in sync.

That time is so precious — that we never seem to have enough of it — echoes through the lobby of The Jewish Museum and is felt especially strongly at this beginning of another new year.

Valeksa Soares’s installation piece, “Time Has No Shadows,” is part of an ongoing series at the Museum, “Using Walls, Floors and Ceilings,” in which artists respond to the space, either architecturally, historically or culturally.

The scene is of times past, with a richly-colored vintage Persian carpet in what was the entry hall of a stately mansion from the early 1900s laced with Jewish history. Twenty-four antique pocket watches hang from above at varying heights with each set at a different hour. Even though one hand is missing from each, time is always moving on. It may move in cycles, like the coils of poetic phrases inscribed into the patterned carpet, but those cycles project us forward.

Soares, who was born in Brazil and lives in Brooklyn, has created a visual reminder of the ways we think about time and space, and how intertwined that is with Judaism.

Corresponding to each of the gold watches — and to the hours in a day -– the twenty-four brief texts refer to time, including “Time has no shadows” as well as “Meanwhile,” “The moment after the moment,” “Not so long ago,” “Ask me tomorrow” and “Acquainted with the night.” The piece also speaks of transition. When families would move, whether across the globe or across the street, they’d roll up a carpet like this one and unroll it in their next home, as if it were a family scroll, transplanting their stories. Like the timepieces, it might be passed from one generation to the next, each time a bit more faded or worn, and even more precious.

“There’s a lot going on,” Kelly Taxter, assistant curator, tells The Jewish Week. “The elements are very engaging visually. There’s an inherent beauty to them.”

Visitors to the installation can feel free to walk on the carpet, handle the watches and linger in the lobby for more than a New York minute.

“Time Has No Shadows” is on view at The Jewish Museum, 1109 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, through April 21, 2016.

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