‘New Lovin’ is David Bernstein’s (US, 1988) first performative exhibition at an arts institution in Belgium. In it he brings together three narratives, the common thread being the human desires for dominance and submission. Over more than 30 planned performances, he will activate the exhibited objects, emphasising the importance of physical presence, ritual and storytelling.
The exhibition starts with Synagoga and Ecclesia, referring to a mediaeval anti-semitic motif in which two women personify Christianity and Judaism. Ecclesia is usually shown as a triumphant figure, symbolising the victory of Christianity over Judaism. The blindfolded Synagoga is often depicted wearing a slipping crown, with a broken lance in one hand and the Tablets of the Law in the other, likewise slipping away from her. In a queer reading, Bernstein depicts the women in a lesbian BDSM romance in which Synagoga explores the power of her submissive role.
In the second part of the exhibition, Bernstein again reflects on how power relations are symbolised. Scattered in the chapel are pieces of watermelon, a symbol of the Palestinian struggle for freedom. Each piece is a wooden wedge that was cut away to fell a tree. Here Bernstein is referring to Israelis systematically cutting down olive trees on Palestinian lands. In contrast to ethno-nationalism and a return to a utopian homeland, Bernstein reflects on the Yiddish principle of doykheit, or ‘hereness’, arguing that we are at home wherever we are living.
These two narratives are brought together with a third in New Lovin, the central but closed altarpiece after which the exhibition is named. Only during performances will Bernstein reveal what lies within: the hidden blueprints for a new, utopian city in Belgium. Here, English is the official language, solving Belgian linguistic divisions; intercultural marriages are the absolute norm; and ‘combi-nationalism' appears to be the ideological goal.
Book a time slot via our website and find out what this utopian city is all about. With it Bernstein searches for a new universal order, casting a critical eye on the tactics of settlement colonialism and the strategies of Theodor Herzl’s Zionist manifesto.
Curator: Dagmar Dirkx
Artists: David Bernstein