A huge body of my artwork in performance art, sculpture, and installation has been created in collaboration with The Notion Collective. We are a group of four NYC based artists that create conceptually driven art with equal agency. To get a sense of that side of my oeuvre please visit http://notioncollective.com
5000 Evenings of Myrrh and Doves, Version 1
Jason Bahling, video artist
This version of "5000 Evenings of Myrrh and Doves" was installed January 17-22 as a single channel video art piece at The Space, a pop-up gallery celebrating Katz Delicatessen's 125th anniversary. The text of the poem by Nora Brooks was displayed below a monitor looping the video. Version 2, with full sound, will be released later in 2014.
5000 Evenings of Myrrh and Doves
Nora Brooks, poet
- This is a year we are celebrating Chanukah. Sometimes we celebrate Christmas, but it is latkes we always return to. Those earth apples, those menorah cakes, those round gold coins. For a generous portion, grate approx. 1 russet potato per person. If you’re fancy, go ahead and peel them, or just let the long gold strands stay edged in rough skin. Our family is only my sister, me, and Mom since she doesn’t have a new boyfriend yet, so we need about four. It’s good to have a little extra for later.
- Line a bowl with cheesecloth, or a dishtowel if that’s all you have. Twist the potato shards hard inside the wet cloth, like you are wringing out something dirty. It will drain out, translucent and milky, leaving its sap behind. Mom tells us sisters the story again. How the Maccabee army rebelled against Antiochus Epiphanes, a king so big inside he thought he was a god. How he crept his army across the borders of Israel, thinking he could get over on us by changing our habits. Greek soldiers killed pigs on the Outer Altar of the Temple and forced us to eat the sacrificed meat. Most of us headed for the rough hills along the coast to stand up for ourselves. Chop up ½ yellow onion very fine, the sharper the knife the better. If your knife is dull, just use more muscle. My sister and I are lucky that Mom is back in town these days. Since we came to Dad’s house, we never get to do anything Jewish. Instead, we mostly keep Dad company in the living room with his Baudelaire and six packs and Rockford Files reruns. We don’t look at the place on the sliding glass door where he hurled the cat that one late shadowed evening. The cat looked dazed but ok. Onions will make you cry, so make sure to bite a spoon, or just get used to it.
- Unwrap your dishtowel and see what filmy white mess is left behind to work with. It’s the starch that really makes the cakes stick together. Mix in the onion until it doesn’t make you tear up anymore. Mom says the Maccabees were the world’s first guerillas. She takes a sip of her third glass of Manishevitz, hair crazy red curl around unfocused aqua eyes. Not even the Greek war elephants could get through the brush. She tells us the Maccabees sliced open the Greek’s bellies with ox goads like they were butchering something, guts and blood spilling into the soil. When the Maccabees entered the Temple to make it whole again, they found one clay jug of sacred oil for the lamps, enough for a day. Somehow the flame kept guttering in the sanctuary for eight long evenings, long enough for them to bless enough to keep going
- My sister gets the gas flame flickering under the oil in the pan. Use ½ inch at least, a good quality safflower or canola. This is not a time to skimp. Thicken up the mixture with 2 tbsp. flour, 2 beaten eggs, and enough salt and pepper to meld the flavors together. The batter will become firm, unwilling to fall apart. In my house, my sister is the fry queen. Precise and nearly silent while she works, she is the one that can raise the brittle crispy crunch along the edges of the pancake and leave the inside tender and moist. My sister rolls out each patty quickly between her cool palms and drops them in, one pale latke at a time. My mom says Israel is really a nation state of the mind. The Maccabees are gone, but we keep thinking of the oil lamps high over the Outer Altar where offerings burned of myrrh and languid white doves, pure and clean. The oil hisses the edges of each crisp cake. From the pan, a vapor rising, smelling only of heat. My sister looks up and her eyes retract in the light of the stove, cool dark brown, not letting anything in.