COMMAND J: JEWISH LAWS, DIGITAL ARTS at Xpace (303 Augusta) to November 20. Artist talks by Simon Glass and Melissa Shiff, Sunday (November 13), 3 pm. Tour by curatorial assistant Heather Diack, November 20, 2 pm. 416-978-7986, www.rejewvenation2005.com. Rating: NNNN
Command J is the visual art program of ReJewvenation, last month's conference on contemporary Jewish culture and identity. The show brings together four internationally renowned artists who address various aspects of Jewish laws in their work. Local artist Simon Glass 's 10 giclée prints, each inspired by one of the Ten Commandments, are repetitive despite their stab at sacrilege. Each features traditional illumination of Hebrew text in gold leaf and either a handgun against red floral tapestry or a knife floating before the palm of a hand. His statement is more interesting on how law can be both a protection from and a source of violence.
Activist piece Gender Cuts, by Melissa Shiff , also from Toronto, takes a critical look at ritual circumcision. A white tent covered in prints of knives houses a chair and a pillow on which a video is projected. Shots of a circumcision are intercut with text and commentary on the tradition's meaning. Some see the ritual as a blatantly patriarchal, brutish habit picked up in Egypt, but for others it becomes significant precisely for these reasons.
The most technologically intriguing piece comes from Australian digital art pioneer Jeffrey Shaw . In his interactive work The Golden Calf, a white plinth holds a flat-screen monitor that comes alive as you pick it up. On the screen, a shiny 3-D golden calf sits on a virtual plinth identical to the real one. Incredibly, you can walk right around the calf and even see in it the reflection of the wall behind you. Virtual idols still draw real idolatry.
Like Shiff, New York-based Helene Aylon explores the role of patriarchy in Judaism. Scrolling text from the Torah in both Hebrew and English is projected onto and distorted by a sheet of thin white cloth. Aylon has highlighted in pink any lines "where patriarchal attitudes have been projected onto G-d." A computer facilitates a dialogue, allowing you to enter comments, answer questions posed by Aylon or read thoughts posted by others.
Don't miss the upcoming talks. The underlying value of the shows comes out of the dialogue it opens on the issues the artists raise.