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By the rivers of Babylon 

fabric cyanotype prints stitched on paper with written text, 15" x 22.5", 2024.  

By the rivers of Babylon (2024) is inspired by Psalm 137, a poem written following the destruction of Jerusalem and the beginning of the Babylonian Exile in 6 BCE. The poem follows an author who finds themself in exile, taunted by their captors as they yearn for Zion, their home which lies in ruins. The psalm opens with the relationship between water and the body – “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat, sat and wept, as we thought of Zion.” The second half of this psalm is a staple in Jewish communities, most notably sung at the conclusion of marriage ceremonies.

 

It reads, “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither; let my tongue stick to my palate if I cease to think of you, if I do not keep Jerusalem in memory even at my happiest hour.”

I wanted to pair these words with a potent image that would capture the embodied feeling of longing, of diaspora, of yearning for home. I chose to express this through a series of cyanotype prints of which during the exposure process, I used water in an attempt to disrupt the image. The result is something that both captures and evokes the feeling of being submerged in water, the coldness of foreign waters. While initially interested in using water as call back to the psalm, I realized that the relationship between the water and the photoreactive chemicals represented something much more interesting. From the moment the print is exposed to the sun, these elements are working against each other, one trying to solidify while the other intends to wash away. This is the experience of displacement, of diaspora, of assimilation, of trying to hold on in the face of active erasure.  

These are not new concepts to the Jewish experience. As a Jew in the diaspora, I exist in a space between two worlds. I am forced to confront my lineage in order to continue a tradition that I feel responsible over. Yet removed from my original context, I make art in an attempt to explain myself and my culture while I search and yearn for home - a place where I am understood.

Psalm 137 

By the rivers of Babylon,
there we sat,
sat and wept,
as we thought of Zion.

 

There on the poplars we hung up our lyres,

for our captors asked us there for songs,
our tormentors, for amusement:
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion.

 

”How can we sing a song of the LORD on alien soil?

 

If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand wither;

let my tongue stick to my palate
if I cease to think of you,

if I do not keep Jerusalem in memory
even at my happiest hour.

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