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Meru Foundation eTORUS(tm) Newsletter
Number 35 - 27 November 2006
Copyright 2006 Meru Foundation
Edited by Levanah Tenen

Thank you to all who answered my "mailing list update" query earlier this year, and for the words of encouragement many of you added. They make a difference! If you missed any issues of eTORUS due to bounced emails, past issues are posted on our website at http://www.meru.org/Newsletter/journalindex.html.

Now, a "heads-up:" We are expanding and revising our hand-assembled Meru Research Sampler album of essays and graphics, and are publishing it as a set of seven 8.5" x 11" softcover "broadside" volumes. Six volumes are in greyscale, and the seventh -- made up exclusively of our posters -- is full-color. As a set, they will be priced more affordably than the current hand-produced Research Sampler, even with the newly added material. Later this week, I'll send an eTORUS announcing their availability on www.meetingtent.com, and post some special introductory prices. In the meantime, go to http://www.meetingtent.com/MeruBroadsides-Covers.html for a preview of the contents.

You might also check out our growing library of "Meru video highlights" posted on Google Video. An index (with live links) is at http://www.meru.org/InternetVideo.html -- or just go to video.google.com and search on "Tenen". (We are also developing a new dedicated website for these video excerpts, and possibly other material that we call "Extreme Kabbalah", at www.extremekabbalah.org.) Each mini-video is a "nugget" that can intrigue new viewers; as we expand this library, we will also start to include excerpts from our archives of unreleased video material. Please share these Meru video links -- the more people who see and are attracted to our work, the better.

Three years ago, eTORUS published a short essay by Israeli artist and educator Dr. Menahem Alexenberg titled "A New Islamic Map for Peace," proposing a way to "re-frame" the Middle Eastern conflict that could open up the possibility of a peaceful solution. (See http://www.meru.org/Newsletter/SpecialNoticeAlexenberg.html) Today Dr. Alexenberg continues his work towards a positive future. Below is my review of his most recent book.

by Menahem (Mel) Alexenberg, Ph.D.
(c)2006 Intellect Ltd., ISBN 1-84150-136-0

Last month I had the pleasure of reading a new book by sculptor and artist Dr. Menahem Alexenberg, "The Future of Art in a Digital Age: From Hellenistic to Hebraic Consciousness". Dr. Alexenberg's premise, as I understand it, is that the participatory trend in contemporary art (often made possible by new technology) is a reflection of what he calls "Hebraic consciousness", and that this is replacing "Hellenic consciousness", which is the concept that a created artwork exists separate/independent from its audience/observer. "Hebraic consciousness shares with postmodernism a dynamic, creative, playful consciousness that promotes the interplay between multiple perspectives and alternating viewpoints from inside and outside," says Dr. Alexenberg in his Introduction. In succeeding chapters, he presents both underlying theory and examples from his own life-experience as an artist.

In addition to being a working sculptor, Dr. Alexenberg is also a teacher, and he devotes his first two chapters to presenting the background which will allow readers to appreciate the rest of his book. In the first chapter, he playfully and anecdotally introduces some of the Hebrew terminology and approach to learning he will be using later on. I found this material both entertaining and easy to follow (in part, of course, because I'm already familiar with much of the terminology he used). As I have no background in art criticism or the history of art, the material in Dr. Alexenberg's second chapter, "Semiotic Perspectives," was unfamiliar to me, and therefore it was slower going -- but understandable and well-presented. These two chapters together provide the perspective from which Dr. Alexenberg wants the reader to see the remainder of his book, which is a personal and feeling narration of highlights from his own teaching and artistic career that expand on and illustrate his point.

Since Dr. Alexenberg is also a friend, I have known about many of the major art projects he writes about -- the "Lights/Orot" project produced in coordination with the MIT Media Lab and Yeshiva University, for example; or his release of giant styrofoam Hebrew letters, with balloons representing the triple-tagin, to fly in the Israeli desert sky. But I had not known the story behind these works -- nor how these major, innovative projects evolved as a result of acts of the "audience". In particular, Dr. Alexenberg's experience when he was invited in 1983 to participate in a major Munich art exhibition, and how that exhibition painfully changed as a result of the actions of some who saw it, is something I would leave for him to tell. Suffice it to say that he and his wife and partner, artist Miriam Benjamin, are world travelers who over their lifetimes have taken their sense of fitness, rightness, and beauty with them literally to the four corners of the earth, and throughtheir works -- which are as diverse as sculpture on a desert hilltop to angels on subway walls -- they invite all who look, to join with them in seeing a world which can be healed through the loving insistence on truth.

So -- I would recommend Dr. Alexenberg's book, "The Future of Art in a Digital Age," to anyone interested in art, in learning, or in changing our world. (I mean this quite seriously.) I would recommend serious consideration of some of his ideas -- for example, his essay on the "New Islamic Map for Peace," which you can find on Meru Foundation's website at http://www.meru.org/Newsletter/SpecialNoticeAlexenberg.html. My only criticism of this book is that there are too few photos of his artworks, and none in color, but you can find color reproductions of the works Dr. Alexenberg writes about on his website, www.melalexenberg.com.


Thank you for reading this issue of the Meru Foundation eTORUS newsletter.

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