Melissa Shiff is a video, performance, and installation artist whose work is engaged with Jewish cultural memory and the relationship between religious ritual and performance art. Shiff has exhibited her work internationally at such institutions as The Israeli Center for Digital Art, The Contemporary Jewish Museum San Francisco, The Jewish Museum New York, and The Jewish Museum in Prague.
Melissa Shiff was appointed as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Art at the University of Toronto for a three-year term in recognition of her innovative research on the collaborative project Mapping Ararat: An Imaginary Jewish Homelands Project for which she serves as the primary investigator. This historical and artistic project was awarded an Insight Development grant from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada in June 2011.
Mapping Ararat has been exhibited at the Israeli Center for Digital Art-Holon in the spring of 2012 and it was the feature exhibition at the American Comparative Literature Conference in April 2013. With her collaborators Louis Kaplan and John Craig Freeman, Professor Shiff has presented this project at many prestigious venues including the Harvard Humanities Center and Centre for Jewish History in New York.
Her Postmodern Jewish Wedding toured Israel in the exhibition With this Ring: Jewish Wedding Ceremonies in Contemporary Art where it visited five venues in total including Beit Hatefutsot in Tel Aviv. Previously, it was shown at the Spanish Synagogue at the Jewish Museum in Prague, (Spring 2006), Off the Wall: Artists at Work at The Jewish Museum NY, (Spring 2008) and The Center for Jewish History as part of the colloquium Objects of Affection: The Jewish Wedding in Media and Material Culture (Spring 2008).
In the spring of 2011, Shiff's art activist Passover installation The Medium is the Matzo was exhibited at Concordia University with the support of a generous grant from The Jewish Community Foundation of Montreal.
In the fall of 2007, Shiff created Iconoclash, an interactive multi media rave with a 40 foot screen that was hung in one of Toronto's main downtown parks. This project was commissioned by the City of Toronto for the all-night art event Nuit Blanche.
Her highly acclaimed work ARK was the keynote project for the Jewish Museum in Prague's centennial year celebration in 2006. Bruce Jenkins, Dean of The School of the Art Institute of Chicago reviewed ARK in Curator: the Museum Journal, and compared this project to the work of Chantal Ackerman, Bill Viola and Mary Lucier.
Her video sculpture Elijah Chair is in the permanent collection of The Jewish Museum in New York where it was featured in a special exhibition at the Goodkind Media Gallery, (Spring 2004) and in the group show, Repairing the World: Contemporary Ritual Art (Fall 2007).
Shiff received her artistic training at The School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and holds a degree from Tufts University. She has given public lectures about her artwork at such institutions as The Jewish Museum New York and Brandeis University and she was honoured as the Roberts Lecturer in Jewish Art at Fairfield University in 2009.
Her work has been reviewed in such publications as Afterimage, The Prague Post, C Magazine, Nashim, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, NOW Magazine, The Jewish Quarterly, Zeek, Boston Globe, Tikkun Magazine, The New York Times, The Forward, Canadian Jewish News, and The Walrus among others.