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The Sukkah

A Fleeting House for a Jewish Festival

Photo of about 20 thatched booths on balconies

New York 2007
© Mimi Levy Lipis

Photo of a thatched booth in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin

Berlin 2009
© Mimi Levy Lipis

Photo of a thatched booth on a parking lot of a modern building

Berlin 2004
© Mimi Levy Lipis

Photo of a thatched booth in the backyard of a house

Boston 1999
© Mimi Levy Lipis

Photo of various thatched booths. In the foreground: palm leaves

Jerusalem 2005
© Mimi Levy Lipis

Photo of a thatched booth on a balcony (interior view)

Paris 2004
© Mimi Levy Lipis

Paris 2004
© Mimi Levy Lipis

The more than 1500-year-old construction guidelines are simple: A Sukkah must have at least two and a half walls and a thatched roof through which the stars are to remain visible. Contemporary Sukkah architecture in Europe, Israel, and the USA is the topic of this photography installation in the Eric Ross Gallery of the Jewish Museum Berlin.

Biblical in origin, the Sukkah is a ritual to build and live in. Erected in the fall, it is customary to dwell in it for one week, to eat, rejoice, and even sleep in it. Its architecture is paradoxical, addressing issues of diaspora and belonging. On the one hand, the Sukkah commemorates the temporary dwellings the Israelites lived in during their exodus from Egypt. The holiday Sukkot, on the other hand, celebrates harvest, and is, much like Thanksgiving, a symbol of settlement and residency.

Today, the booths are usually simple structures made of fabric, plastic sheets, or wood, which are constructed outside or integrated into existing spaces. Sukkot relate to existing architecture, contrasting or conforming to their environment. The photos, taken by Mimi Levy Lipis, display Sukkot plain and bizarre: A Sukkah on a truck parked in front of a restaurant in Manhattan, Sukkot on lonely parking lots in London, a Sukkah built for eternity in Berlin, criss-cross stacked booths in Jerusalem, Sukkot made of the same fabric in London and Tel Aviv. The photographed Sukkot present a tension between specific spaces and the abstract places of belonging, between individual architecture and collective ritual, between personal interpretation and historical influence.

Exhibition opens

4 November 2010 , 7 pm


5 November 2010 to 27 February 2011

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