V’asu Li Mikdash (Build for Me a Sacred Space) | Mixed media with sound | Dimensions and duration variable, 2019

This work is one of my first focused attempts at unpacking the complex relationship I have with the Mourner’s Kaddish a Jewish prayer recited daily by mourners for 11 months after the passing of a parent, and again on the Yahrzeit, the anniversary of their death. In accordance to Jewish Orthodox law, this prayer may only be recited in the presence of a minyan, a prayer quorum of ten men, and even then there are many who forbid a woman from saying the prayer on her own without the accompaniment of a man’s voice. My memories of reciting kaddish are mostly those of frustration, confusion, and anger, with moments of clarity, divinity, and love sprinkled throughout.

As a woman reciting this prayer, I was often ignored and silenced while reciting this prayer during services, my voice like an offensive sound to the men of the minyan. This work is not to point fingers at the sometimes isolating and emotionally ignorant structures of my religion but rather to explore new ways in how this prayer can exist outside of this system. I want to reclaim my voice that was silenced by the patriarchal system of Orthodox Judaism during my time reciting this prayer.

I have created an intimate space for my voice to be heard, a space that inspires connection to the feminine God, an energy lacking in the traditional synagogue spaces, who uplifts and comforts the mourner. My voice can only be activated when the viewer enters the space. Because it’s a recording of my prayer instead of a live recitation, the emphasis is placed on listening instead of the anxieties that arise from reciting this prayer, worrying over how my recitation will be received in traditional spaces. By separating it from the system, I can begin to form my own relationship with this prayer, and explore how alternative spaces to the synagogue can offer new opportunities for spirituality connection and internal reflection.