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DOES WORK EVER FEEL LIKE IT’S SUCKING YOUR LIFE AWAY?
Day after day, night after night, sometimes work can grind you down. Fortunately if not ironically, the travails of what you might call “soul-sucking work” can lead to incredible artistic reactions… such as this combination of graphic work and poetry about life behind a sewing machine. Take a look below for the description, and test your German (and German script reading) skills!
Click on the images above to see enlarged versions for easier viewing/reading.
At the Sewing Machine (from Songs of the Ghetto)
Poem by Morris Rosenfeld (1862-1923) with translation from Yiddish by Berthold Feiwel (1875-1937). Illustration by Ephraim Moses Lilien (1874-1925).
Berlin, Benjamin Harz Verlag ca. 1902.
Collection of Yeshiva University Museum (1996.023). Gift of Michael Cohn.
A haunting image from the famed and groundbreaking Zionist artist Ephraim Moses Lilien sits next to a poem about what it was like for workers in one of the most common occupations for Jews at the end of the 19th and into the early 20th century: sewing. Work at the sewing machine, “Day after day,” and “Year after year” was indeed an occupation, but certainly not a healthy one, as poet Morris Rosenfeld and Lilien seem to argue. Rather, it was a way of working that ultimately robbed the body of its spirit, its vim and its vigor! This piece appeared in the intensely beautiful book, Lieder des Ghetto (Songs of the Ghetto), a poetic and graphic piece of from a Zionist point of view against what they saw as the spiritually and physically impoverished state of Jews in the Diaspora.
This book is currently displayed in YU Museum’s exhibition here at the Center, Trail of the Magic Bullet: The Jewish Encounter with Modern Medicine, 1860 – 1960, on view through August 2012. Click here to find out more about the show.
Submitted by Zachary Paul Levine, Yeshiva University Museum.
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Or basically ‘“The End is Near’”, this was the caption provided by the Day-Glo color spectrum imprinted upon a sign wheeled by a haggardly old gentleman. You know on any other day I would have basically walked by & thought nothing of this gentleman. However many questions in my head had been plaguing me about certain things in the last week. So I had to confront him & ask him what he knew. I mean these guys are of weird society, who you can usually find outside most airports, city halls & most heavy metal concerts. Yet nobody I knew ever really talked to them asked about ‘the way’, so to say. I mean they claim to know. It’s almost as if by disseminating what they know it acts like reverse psychology. Also I am pretty sure the Day-Glo colors are used as well to enhance the repellency of any one actually asking them anything. So I walked up to him & was quite surprised to hear that he was also in fact muttering his signed statement. I derived this was part of his disenchantment scheme. Though I still walked closer & asked my question. “So where is it?” He looked up at me very sternly & aggravated. I knew it was gonna be hard to get a clear answer so I repeated again “where is it?” “Where is what” he said as he stood back acting as if I had the gall to ask him anything. So decided to start taking this in a more direct approach ‘look old man I know you know…Now where is it!’ “Where is what, what ya talk’n bout?” ’ The End… where is it you say it’s near but for the life of me I can’t find it. Do I take a boat? Can you walk there? If I was to fly where would I book the flight to?’ He gave me a perplexing look & remarked “boy I’m talk’n bout the end of the world!” ‘I know… where is it’, I retorted in which he followed by “Yew can’t find it…it comes to yew boy, & is coming; Now Getts!” He started stamping & not like a normal stamp but like a stampede crossed with a jig but in one place. Plus he started throwing rocks at me. This gave me quite the incentive to getts, so I gott & not to long after I had gotten had I heard a “pfff”. Then next I heard a “psss” then I heard them together “Pfff, psss” followed by the someone yelling as quietly as they could “over-here” “psss pfff hey over here” Behind the voice that was a head of me. Was a short staunchly little woman who seemed to peer out of the shadows of this corner alley. ” I won’t help yew” she gaped. ‘Well that’s great… with what” I said in deep short breathes remember I had been getting. “U know boy, I won’t, won’t cant juss can’t boy” she stammered. You know it was about this time I was kinda getting offended by being called boy. I mean the haggardly guy & now this staunchly little woman ‘look I don’t think I need’ ” Ok I’ll help ya boy” as she blew smoke in my face (which was very odd cause she wasn’t smoking anything). She leaned into her carpet fluttered bag before saying “here you goin need dis, oh yeah & dis is good too, ya like fush boy never minds you’s might as well take it, any ways it will help with dat odor.” Before it was all over she had handed me a can of tomato soup, five pencils, a whole red hearing wrapped in news paper, four marbles & a commode plunger. Then finally she looked up at me squinting one eye and winking the other “you definitely are going to need dis here book boy too. It’s going to show you da way.” I thought here we go; the book was the regular leather brown binding & cover a little worn like it had been perused threw & read everyday. I sifted through the pages most where highlighted in those awful Day-Glo highlighters in green red and yellow plus the occasional blue. Needless to say I tried to hand it back to her I mean I could almost recite a lot of it I don’t think I have ever really known any body who hasn’t read it when they where growing up or had it at home. Though for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why anybody would use highlight markers to highlight anything in the ‘Three Little Pigs’. Nevertheless the staunchly woman told me to go home take the can of soup empty it into the toilet. Take each of the pencils & to put them in each one of my pockets the two in the front then two in the back and one in my shirt pocket. Next I should put the plunger on my head & put the four marbles in my mouth. Then I should proceed to read ‘The three little Pigs’ in Pig Latin Backwards while sitting on the toilet with feet on each side of the rim of the seat. All this whilst flicking the bathroom light off & on by intervals of three then four then three again. In her words “perty soon boy ya should get a sign an when you does boy yews hold onto that plunger for dear life!”
I guess I should explain that earlier in the week I had struck up a conversation with this person who happened to be into Platygæanism. Platygæanism is the scientific hypothesis, which holds that the Earth is flat or planar in topology. Of course this person was a member of a group which met on every other Thursday at the local community center. Of course the name of the group was the “Flat Earth Society”, & of course I was invited & handed a poorly photocopied flyer which gave a brief synopses. For some odd reason this intrigued me not because I actually believed the world was flat. But more so I was curious as to what their proof was? The phrase came to mind ‘well he fell off the face of the earth’, I guess I figured that if I ever wanted to do so, then they could point me in the right direction. That being “The End” of the world which is probably quite a site to see if it was to exist, & if existed I wanted to see it.
The Flyer expressed a great admonition to not enter the meeting room any time before 6:30 PM. Walking in I was 5 minutes early but I thought it was no big deal seeing as if there was 12 other peoples already there. Twelve other peoples whom noticed me walking in. 12 peoples who seem to turn hysterical & were horrified at my arrival? They squirreled in their seats for about 12 second’s & bolted for the door leaving me perplexed as well as alone. As I was getting ready to leave I ran into a gentleman who introduced himself as the leader of this faction of the Flat Earth Society, he asked if I was the newly he had heard might be attending? I elucidated that it would be awful hard to attend seeing as if everybody had just left. He asked me what time I had arrived? I told him… and then he just kind of twitched & garbled something like “the flyer explicitly says Six-Thirty.” He then explained that I had walked in on the organization, which met before the Flat Earth Society. A gathering that happened to be a support group for triskaidekaphobiacs, or people who fear the number thirteen. I walked back in the meeting room with Bob the head of FES (Flat Earth Society). Bob looked over at me with the look your principal gave you in High school “Are you sure you want to be here son?” ‘I think… I mean I don’t know’ his question did throw me a loop. “I mean if I was you I would leave. Leave before you can’t!” Okay this was kinda bothering me ‘hey aren’t you suppose to be convincing me of something here I mean telling me of ?’ “of what the world is flat, let me put it to you in short it isn’t. Look son if you believe then that’s fine but I got to tell you that none of these members actually believe they just need something to argue about. It’s gives them fulfillment somehow. They argue about the government about religion & they are about 25 cents short of becoming your next Montana freedom fighters.” He also explained that he was a government employee & that well the expenses for this program have receded & they really couldn’t handle watching another member so I should just leave. I was disappointed to say the least. Bob inferred ” know you’re looking for something but it ain’t here.” I walked out sullenly which is where I ran into the Haggardly gentleman. Then the Staunchly little woman which has brought me to this point. With a plunger on my head, four marbles in my mouth a can of tomato soup in the toilet underneath me to which I am sitting on. Plus a pencil in each of my pockets flickering the lights on & off saying
‘nd-Eay he-Tay’--- 1 year ago --- ---