Margins: Contemporary Art Unraveling the Dead Sea Scrolls

Margins: Contemporary Art Unraveling the Dead Sea Scrolls
  • Closed
August 1, 2009 to March 28, 2010
  • Level 3, Third Floor Centre Block


The Institute for Contemporary Culture (ICC) and the Koffler Centre of the Arts proudly present Margins at the Royal Ontario Museum, concurrently with Dead Sea Scrolls: Words that Changed the World.

Margins is a newly commissioned installation and the first Canadian exhibition by acclaimed New York-based artist Joshua Neustein. Engaging visual art in a poetic reflection on writing, religion and archaeology, Neustein's project shapes a dialogue with the historical and cultural contexts of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Among these ancient manuscripts are the oldest-known copies of the Hebrew Bible, hymns, prayers and other writings providing a link to the origins of Judaic, Christian and Islamic faiths.

Positioning the themes of the Scrolls within a contemporary discourse, Margins references prominent Jewish thinker Edmond Jabs and his critical texts concerned with the nature of writing, of silence, of God, and the Book. Jabs's mysterious meditations, the revealed knowledge of the historical texts and Neustein's own visual vocabulary converge in an installation that conveys the passion and impossibility of writing.

Through drawing, sculptural and textual elements, Neustein's installation re-enacts the emergence of the word piercing the silence with luminous presence. A sumptuous chandelier embedded into the gallery wall radiates as the core of the work - a strange archaeological relic excavated into visibility. Unraveling towards its brightness, transparent acrylic sheets lay collapsed on the floor, bearing shimmering texts. Drawn out by light, handwriting becomes typography, coalescing words into crystallized form. The script escapes the page, crossing margins into the space where writing struggles to uncover the unwritten.

Archaeology unearths dormant traces of history. Writing pushes at the edge of silence to bring forth the unsaid. Similarly, Margins explores manifest and concealed ideas of the Dead Sea Scrolls, exposing them to the light of our times.


About the Artist

Joshua Neustein was born in Poland in 1940 and currently lives and works in New York. He is known primarily for his environmental installations and Post Minimalist torn paper works, as well as his series of large-scale map paintings. After immigrating to Israel in 1964, Neustein made a significant impact on the local cultural scene, being considered among the founding figures of Environmental and Conceptual Art in the country. In 1995, Neustein represented Israel at the Venice Biennale with a monumental intervention that encased and intruded into the contents of the state's national library transferred overseas. He has exhibited in museums and galleries around the world including the Grey Art Gallery NYU (New York), Chelsea Museum (New York), Jewish Museum (New York), Barbican Arts Centre (London England), Mary Boone Gallery (New York), Israel Museum (Jerusalem), SECCA (Winston Salem North Carolina), Albright Knox Gallery (Buffalo, New York), Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles, California), MOCA (Los Angeles, California), MAK (Vienna Austria), Museo D'Art Contemporani (Barcelona Spain), Museum of Contemporary Art (Tokyo Japan), Rose Art Museum (Waltham, Massachusetts), Tel Aviv Museum (Tel Aviv), Zacheta National Gallery of Contemporary Art (Warsaw Poland) and Gropiusbau Museum (Berlin, Germany).

Authored by: Kait Sykes

Authored by: Kait Sykes