A MERGER OF DOMAINS
A Merger of Domains is a landscape series about the tension between allowance and restriction found in two halakhic (Jewish law) prohibitions, driving and carrying outside of the home, that are major obstacles to attending synagogue for the Orthodox community in Los Angeles. Its subjects are the structures comprising an eruv (translation: a merger of domains), a ritualistic enclosure dating back to Roman Palestine that lifts the prohibition on carrying within its physical borders. The Orthodox community, spread over one hundred square miles of urban sprawl, requires some of the world’s largest eruvim, and the city’s automotive infrastructure – its overpasses, fences, and street lights linked by monofilament – offers natural eruv boundaries. Though freed from the house by eruvim, the prohibition on driving persists, so community members must walk a city whose long blocks are made to be driven. Thanks to Los Angeles’ automotive infrastructure, the Orthodox community is drawn together and yet is never further apart.
I have employed a compositing approach and magical realist aesthetic to relate the transformations taking place within an eruv on Shabbat – the unremarkable structures that determine whether a community enjoys its day of rest; the varied locations that, enclosed by eruvim, express the geography of the Orthodox population; the distances between places that become much longer on foot. Each photograph depicts a section of eruv like a Where’s Waldo; the walls, overpasses, and fences are drawn out by applications of light or, in the case of monofilament, one pixel white lines; cars, which disrupt a street’s true walking length, have been digitally removed. In documenting the infrastructure that brings the Orthodox community together yet pulls it apart, I hope to relate the degree to which our experience of the world around us, our connection to it, and our understanding of ourselves within it rely upon the commonplace things that help us leave the house.