April 30 2015

Once you’ve sat Shiva and worn your torn shirt for a few days or a week, what happens to your torn shirt? Is is trash, souvenir, neither, both, or other?

I am honored to be part of the artist in residence year end exhibit opening today at the Jewish Theological Seminary, curated by Tobi Kahn.


I participated in this residence and final exhibit three years ago, focusing on the Geniza concept with Remains to be Seen. One of the items I displayed was the torn shirt my father wore earlier that year as he sat Shiva for his older brother.

This year, I am displaying the shirts worn by my brother, sister and me as we sat Shiva for our father. Also displayed is the same shirt worn by my late father three years ago, and one more shirt worn by a friend and classmate here at JTS.

This archive of torn shirts serves as a memorial, and also as a possible place for acclimated public grief. Can there be a room where our Shiva shirts get collected over time? A Geniza of the gone but not forgotten?

I am grateful to Tobi Kahn, Gregory Gilbert and my teachers at JTS for enabling me to take part of this process of healing.

Amichai Lau-Lavie

April 30 2015


Artist’s Statement

Jewish Law requires certain mourners to tear a visible garment in symbolic demonstration of grief. The garment, often a shirt, is then worn throughout the period of Shiva – the week of mourning that follows the funeral.
Serving as both private meaning-maker and public marker of mourning status, Shiva Shirts are often discarded once the Shiva period is over. And yet, they retain liminality, both cherished and reviled as souvenirs of sorrow.

In displaying the shirts worn by me, my family members and friends during recent loss of loved ones I want to retain the ruptured sense of sacred in everyday materials and the beauty lingering in loss.

Celebrating the T of Transgender, Truth and Thanks - with Yiscah Smith at JTS.
Today we roll in ashes.