In this image from Lynne Avadenka’s section of The House Is in the Book: A Collaboration in Isolation, titled “Folio 1,” she refers to winter as one of the four seasons, Rachel as one of the four matriarchs, west as one of four directions and the four phases of the moon. There is a four-sided kite to present the idea of the element of freedom still available to some extent while in confinement.
In this image from Lynne Avadenka’s section of The House Is in the Book: A Collaboration in Isolation, titled “Folio 1,” she refers to winter as one of the four seasons, Rachel as one of the four matriarchs, west as one of four directions and the four phases of the moon. There is a four-sided kite to present the idea of the element of freedom still available to some extent while in confinement.

From jewelry to installations — and discussions to go along with different segments — this year’s program considers relevant questions, such as the creation and/or display of artistry in private domains.

Even before the Fifth Jerusalem Biennale opened new artistry to the in-person and digital public Nov. 11-Dec. 30, a specialized award was presented for a project created by a Michigan artist and distanced teammates. 

The 2021 Isaac Anolic Jewish Book Arts Award of $1,500 went to The House Is in the Book: A Collaboration in Isolation, jointly developed by artists Lynne Avadenka of Huntington Woods, Andi Arnovitz of Jerusalem and Mirta Kupferminc of Buenos Aires, with consultation provided by Emily Bilski, a Jerusalem-based curator-author exploring the interface of art, cultural history and the Jewish experience.

The piece, in a limited-text book format, fit right in with the Biennale theme, “Four Cubits,” the ancient designation of personal space, which is thought to measure not far from 6 feet in today’s terms, the measurement suggested for social distancing.

Some 300 artists, working in different media for display in venues across the city, have expressed various approaches to the subject so recently on the minds of people worldwide. From jewelry to installations — and discussions to go along with different segments — this year’s program considers relevant questions, such as the creation and/or display of artistry in private domains.

“The title of our piece comes from a poem by Edmond Jabès, an Egyptian Jewish poet who wrote about books,” said Avadenka, who is also director of Signal-Return, a nonprofit Detroit letterpress print shop and community arts center.

“We thought it was evocative in the sense that we were working collaboratively but all in different houses. Other connections to the title include having the book’s pages being housed together in a box.” 

In keeping with the Biennale theme, four pages were allotted to each of the three artists engrossed with the new book, an inspiration for a six-minute video titled Threshold to be shown at the Biennale. Because the collaborative piece also will be accompanied by individual book projects developed earlier by the artists, the joint initiative becomes part of an exhibit in its own right.

Bringing the Idea to Life

The team project began at the behest of Arnovitz, who met Avadenka years ago at an artists’ gathering in Italy. The originating idea was to use the book format separately while sharing common themes and interests to provide continuity. The resulting book is printed in a limited edition of 15, each kept in a custom portfolio box.

Lynne Avadenka
Lynne Avadenka

“We started talking over Zoom of what we might do together,” Avadenka recalled. “We defined the size and the shape of the book pages and also built an online archive of imagery to show common visual elements of measuring.  We were thinking of personal space, community space and cosmic space — all included in each of our works.” 

Avadenka, whose projects over time have covered the physical and philosophical idea of the book, is represented across international collections, including the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., the British Library in London and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

Arnovitz, who has created more than 25 artists’ books, also is represented in the Library of Congress as well as the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem and Yale University in New Haven. Her work challenges the boundaries of what a book is, adding objects and materials.

Kupferminc, the daughter of Holocaust survivors, has addressed themes of exile, migration, human rights and memory through some 100 solo exhibitions. Her works reach from the Library of Congress, through the Israel Museum and into the Shanghai National Museum.

“The artists gave visual form to the emotions engendered by the [COVID-19] crisis,” Bilski said. “As accomplished book artists, [they] understood how the inherently collaborative qualities of the book format could be harnessed for their joint endeavor.”

The artists’ collaboration started with weekly Zoom meetings before moving into discussions every other week. 

Alone in her studio, Avadenka lighted on the idea of four with her pages including images relating to the four seasons, four Jewish matriarchs and four phases of the moon. 

“I also have structures created to look like kites,” she said. “The idea was that they were four-sided figures open on the sides so you can have structure but you can also have freedom within the limited space provided to you.”

In contrast, Arnovitz attached a paper-constructed form of a collapsible dwelling, which requires reader assembly, and Kupferminc gave visual expression to shifting perceptions through an accordion-like rendering of a domestic interior.

“What impressed me about working with Andi and Mirta is how very different their work is from mine and from each other’s,” said Avadenka, whose team wants to use the award money to travel the exhibit after the Biennale. 

“While we began the project with shared maps, diagrams and shapes, they were used in different ways. This certainly links our work together, but our individual voices as artists remain distinct. This was the joy of the collaboration.” 

Details

To get more information and experience the “Fifth Jerusalem Biennale,” go to jerusalembiennale.org. For more information on the individual artists of The House Is in the Book: A Collaboration in Isolation, go to lynneavadenka.com, andiarnovitz.com and mirtakupferminc.net.

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Suzanne Chessler’s writing-editing career has spanned many years, and her articles have been featured in secular and religious publications across the state and around the country. There was a period of time when she maintained three regular columns in three different publications – one appearing weekly to spotlight metro volunteers, another appearing weekly to profile stage enthusiasts in community theater and a third appearing bimonthly to showcase upcoming arts programs. Besides doing general reporting, she has had continuing assignments involving health, monetary subjects and crime. Her award-winning work builds on majors in English-speech and journalism earned at Wayne State University, where instructors also were writers-editors on Detroit’s daily newspapers.