July 25, 2014

Skirball Cultural Center presents "Fallen Fruit of the Skirball," May 13-Oct. 12, Free Admission

 

A centuries-old ketubbah (Jewish marriage contract), human rights, marriage equality, and love serve as inspiration for the artists’ latest public participatory art commission.

LOS ANGELES, CA—The Skirball Cultural Center presents an exhibition project with Los Angeles–based art collaborative "Fallen Fruit" by David Burns and Austin Young, opening May 13.

"Fallen Fruit of the Skirball" is the latest in the artists’ ongoing series of community-based projects that use fruit as a medium to explore social engagement. The exhibition will feature a “commitment document” co-authored by "Fallen Fruit" and the public and inspired by an illustrated seventeenth-century ketubbah (Jewish marriage contract) in the Skirball’s museum collection.

Over the course of the six-month artist residency, the document and a selection of portraits of couples and weddings—all collected through public participation—will become part of an immersive art installation that features specially designed wallpaper created from photographs of pomegranate fruits and trees in Southern California. "Fallen Fruit of the Skirball" will be on view in the Skirball’s Ruby Gallery through October 12, 2014. Admission to the exhibition will be free.

Prior to the opening, on May 4, "Fallen Fruit and the Skirball" will host a pomegranate tree adoption event, designed to inspire new forms of communal life based on generosity and sharing. Up to 150 young trees will be distributed to recipients who pledge to care for the tree and, if possible, plant it near the sidewalk where the pomegranates can be easily shared with neighbors and passersby. Details about the tree adoption event are included below.

In addition, during the run of "Fallen Fruit of the Skirball," the ketubbah that inspired the project will be on view in the Skirball’s core exhibition, "Visions and Values: Jewish Life from Antiquity to America."

Evolution of the Project

This collaboration began with "Fallen Fruit’s" investigation of the Skirball’s permanent collection of Jewish cultural artifacts, one of the largest holdings of Judaica in the world. The research uncovered an ornate Italian ketubbah dating back to 1677 and richly decorated with floral and animal motifs, zodiac signs and biblical scenes. In Jewish tradition, the ketubbah is a marriage contract signifying mutual commitment and partnership. Both the cultural ritual of marriage—especially in the context of contemporary struggles to achieve gender and marriage equality for all—and the symbolic meanings of the pomegranate are the inspiration for "Fallen Fruit of the Skirball."

Native to Persia (modern-day Iran), pomegranate trees were planted throughout Africa, Asia and Europe over the course of many centuries of trade and world exploration. The pomegranate tree was initially brought to California through Mexico by Spanish missionaries about 300 years ago. In cultures worldwide, the pomegranate appears as a symbol of fertility and signifier of good relationships. During some Persian wedding ceremonies, pomegranates are placed on a ceremonial cloth to symbolize a joyous future. After a wedding in Turkey, a bride may break open a pomegranate and the seeds that escape are believed to represent the number of children in her new family. In some Greek customs, the groom hands his bride a ripe pomegranate as she enters their new shared home.

In Jewish tradition, the pomegranate is a pervasive symbol from biblical times relating to the garments of the priesthood and royalty, the architecture of the ancient temple, and Torah ornaments of the synagogue. According to one rabbinic tradition, a pomegranate contains 613 seeds corresponding directly to divine commandments in the Torah.

Inspired by the symbolism and beauty of the pomegranate, which grows abundantly in Southern California, artists Burns and Young have begun to research the emotional, cultural and intellectual “ingredients that make for a great relationship.”

Using social media, they have engaged the public in answering a series of questions including: “What is the best ingredient for true love?” or “What is the most important thing your parents or grandparents taught you about love?” People of all ages are invited to submit their responses to info@fallenfruit.org.

Through the responses, "Fallen Fruit" will collaborate with the public to co-author an updated, gender-neutral “commitment document” that is inspired by the Skirball’s ketubbah, rooted in Jewish heritage and expressive of contemporary approaches to unconditional love and long-lasting relationships.

“We are interested in marriages of all kinds: the commitments people make to each other and the commitments these partnerships make that build vibrant communities,” remarked Burns.

“The collaborative artwork is more about people and about how love is an impulse that changes the course of our lives,” echoed Young. “The work is vital; it’s a celebration of people—of the way we learn to share the best part of ourselves with another.”

About the Artists—"Fallen Fruit" is an art collaboration originally conceived in 2004 by David Burns, Matias Viegener, and Austin Young. Since 2013, David Burns and Austin Young have continued the collaborative work.

"Fallen Fruit" began in Los Angeles with creating maps of public fruit: the fruit trees growing on or over public property. "Fallen Fruit" uses cartography and geography as an indexical platform to generate serialized and site-specific works of art that often embrace public participation. The work of "Fallen Fruit" includes photographic portraits, experimental documentary videos, public art installations, and curatorial projects. Using fruit as a method of reframing the familiar, "Fallen Fruit" investigates urban space, ideas of neighborhood and new forms of citizenship. From protests to proposals for new urban green space, "Fallen Fruit’s" work aims to reconfigure the relationship of sharing and explore understandings of public and private, as well as real world and real time. They consider fruit to be many things; it’s a subject and object at the same time it is aesthetic. Fruit often triggers a childhood memory; it’s emotional and familiar. Everyone is an expert on the flavor of a banana. Much of this work is linked to ideas of place and family, and much of these works echo a sense of connectedness with something very primal—our capacity to share with others. "Fallen Fruit" uses fruit as a common denominator to change the way you see the world.

Exhibition-Related Programs

Sunday, May 4, 11 a.m.–2 p.m.
—visitors are invited to the Skirball to adopt a pomegranate tree. Burns and Young will be on site to distribute up to 150 young trees and encourage recipients to plant them in public space or along the borders of private property, where the fruits can be shared and enjoyed by the community. Each recipient will be asked to sign an adoption form promising to plant the tree immediately and care for it for three years. Planting instructions and care taking tips will be provided. Reservations are recommended: info@fallenfruit.org.

Saturday, July 26—Burns and Young will greet and engage Skirball visitors at a “Lemonade Stand.” This ongoing Fallen Fruit project offers a cold glass of lemonade in exchange for visitors’ self-portraits (created on the spot using black ink on lemons) and their stories of sadness and disappointment, or happiness and positive self-reflection. Hours and other details to be announced. Additional related programs may be scheduled.

"Fallen Fruit of the Skirball" and related public programs are presented in part by generous support from: POM WONDERFUL.

About the Skirball—The Skirball Cultural Center is dedicated to exploring the connections between 4,000 years of Jewish heritage and the vitality of American democratic ideals. It welcomes and seeks to inspire people of every ethnic and cultural identity. Guided by our respective memories and experiences, together we aspire to build a society in which all of us can feel at home. The Skirball Cultural Center achieves its mission through educational programs that explore literary, visual, and performing arts from around the world; through the display and interpretation of its permanent collections and changing exhibitions; through an interactive family destination inspired by the Noah's Ark story; and through outreach to the community.

Visiting the Skirball—The Skirball Cultural Center is located at 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90049. Free on-site parking is available (except during Sunset Concerts, Thursday evenings, July 24–August 28, 2014); street parking is strictly prohibited. The Skirball is also accessible by Metro Rapid 761. Museum hours: Tuesday–Friday 12:00–5:00 p.m.; Saturday–Sunday 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.; closed Mondays and holidays.

Admission to "Fallen Fruit of the Skirball" is free. Admission to all other Museum exhibitions: $10 General; $7 Seniors, Full-Time Students, and Children over 12; $5 Children 2–12. Exhibitions are always free to Skirball Members and Children under 2. Exhibitions are free to all visitors on Thursdays.

For general information: (310) 440-4500 or visit skirball.org. The Skirball is also home to Zeidler’s Café, which serves innovative California cuisine in an elegant setting, and Audrey’s Museum Store, which sells books, contemporary art, music, jewelry and more.