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Jewish Museum in Prague, Robert Guttmann Gallery, U Staré školy 3, Prague 1
February 24 – March 27, 2005

The presentation is a part of the exhibition series Places of Memory, which explores the potential of public spaces as loci for remembrance and the interpretation of history.

The project is also part of the cycle Jewish Presence in Contemporary Visual Arts, which is now into its third year at the Robert Guttmann Gallery. The series focuses on the relation between contemporary visual culture and Judaism and is curated by Michaela Hájková.

“Layered Histories” is the imaginary story of a 13th century illuminated Hebrew manuscript, today known as the “Marseilles Bible.” It is an interactive work that mirrors the many layers of the manuscript as a beautiful work of art reflecting the convergence of cultures in medieval Spain, and as a narrative text of layered meanings.

The history of this manuscript is only partially known, leaving undocumented imagined wanderings to diverse places and peoples. Created in Toledo, Spain in c. 1260, the Bible visually embodies the multiple influences of Jewish convergence with Christian and Islamic cultures. After the 1492 Expulsion of Jews from Spain by Ferdinand of Arragon and Isabella of Castillia, it was brought out of Spain by the Jewish refugees. It traveled to the Ottoman town of Safed in Northern Galilee, where it was amongst religious mystics seeking the means to repair the ills of the world (Tikkun ha-Olam). It subsequently disappeared until around 1894, when, mysteriously, three volumes of the Bible were discovered in the collection of the Bibliotheque Municipale of Marseilles, where they reside today (BM Marseilles, MS 1626, I-III).

Reflecting on the experience of culture as a phenomenon that evolves from influences of place and cross-cultural contact, the non-linear narrative of Layered Histories is drawn from the possible wanderings of the Marseilles Bible, as it is known today. The work brings together moving images and sound, shifting and changing in response to gestures by a viewer across a digitalized surface. Evolved from real world photographs and sound samples, the sources are manipulated to reflect the aesthetic experience of place, movement, and change, rather than direct documentation. The images are morphed together to create fluid moving clips, and the sounds cross-fade from one to the next.

As a collaborative work, Layered Histories reflects the differing layers of vision of its authors. Music and image are melded together in the viewer's experience, but each follows a separate course of interactivity, coming together in the moment. Both music and image were developed within the vision of reflecting the experience of a timeless object which has seen history, much of the world, and has many stories to tell.


Cynthia Beth Rubin is a visual artist who has been working in the field of digital media and computer graphics since its pioneering times in the 1980’s. For her work, widely exhibited and discussed around the world she received many grants and awards (the Connecticut Commission of the Arts, Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, New England Foundation on the Arts). She exhibited worldwide, namely at the NY Digital Salon, ArCADE, SIGGRAPH, ISEA, and Imagina by INA (Institut National de l’Audiovisuel, France). Rubin holds degrees from Antioch College and the Maryland Institute, College of Art, and teaches part-time at the Rhode Island School of Design. More information about her work can be found at www.cbrubin.net.

Robert J. Gluck is a composer, performer and educator. His compositions, often integrating sounds and music from the Jewish culture, have been performed in Europe and the United States. Gluck composes music for interactive performance and installation, directs the University at Albany Electronic Music Studio and is Associate Director of the Electronic Music Foundation (www.emfinstitute.emf.org). He studied at the Julliard, Manhattan and Crane schools of music and also holds degrees from the University at Albany, Yeshiva University, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Samples of his work and recording of his life performances can be found at www.electricsongs.com.


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