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Gender Cuts

 In the video installation Gender Cuts/The Jew Under the Knife, 

Shiff investigates how religious/cultural identity is inscribed onto the body

of the Jewish male subject at the age of 8 days and asks leaders of the Jewish community to comment on the relevance

and gender distinction inherent in this ritual. 

    In Gender Cuts, Melissa Shiff projects video footage of a Jewish ritual circumcision onto a ceremonial pillow. In Hebrew, this ritual is called Brit Milah — The Covenant of Circumcision. The viewers are invited into an enclosed ritualistic space to watch the procedure, while an audiotape of six prominent leaders of the Jewish Community from Toronto and Prague accompany the video and express different stands with regard to this most contentious issue. By juxtaposing the image of the bris with the audiotrack discussion, Shiff strives to get the viewer to engage in his/her own critical inquiry. The title of the piece alludes to two cuts, the male is literally cut with a knife, while the female is cut out from a covenental relationship with her God on account of her gender. Therefore, this inquiry is not merely an examination of the ethical underpinnings of this most ancient blood rite, but it also exposes how this ritual sets up gender hierarchies from the age of 8 days in Jewish cultural/religious practice.



Command-J: Jewish Laws, Digital Art

XPACE, Toronto, ON

October 21 - November 20, 2005

Project for Rejewvenation Conference

Distinguishing/Distinguished Jewish

Starr Gallery, Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center, Newton, MA

December 13, 1999 - February 20

Curator: Louis Kaplan


Artist: Melissa Shiff

Builder: Bruce Lynn

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