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LABA: Opening the study of NIGHT

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During the first week of January, we hosted our first LABA session with our new NIGHT cohort. For me, night can mean many things. But the thing that resonates with me most, in the context of night, is being alone with yourself.

We tend to wear different faces in different spaces: different costumes, identities, appearances, and opinions. But when night falls, after our mind stops running around and we manage to exhale our day-to-day, we enter a whole new realm of existence.

She’at Ratzon

This is the “She’at Ratzon” (שעת רצון), or “Hour of Want.” This is the hour when the heavens open. We are no longer in full control and can experience some kind of elevation we cannot describe in words. This uncontrolled and unpredictable space is the perfect soil for nurturing meaningful art.

Calling for inspiration is like asking a snail to come out of its shell. We cannot use force. We need to lay the ground, provide moist leaves, quiet, and love. We also need to believe this snail can feel this love. And then, if you are lucky, it will come out.

In Israel, children would sing, ברלה ברלה צא החוצה אבא ואמא יקנו לך עוגה, meaning, if you come out of your shell, mom and dad will buy you a cake!

Or Ganuz

We opened our first LABA session with some text studies about the story of creation, where God creates the darkness and light on the first day. Then, on the fourth day, He creates the sun and the moon. Light on the first day and sun on the fourth?

Something doesn’t quite compute. And that’s why we love it so much, because art grows in the space left by the question.

Next, we skipped to the Talmud, discussing the exact same question. The Talmud suggests that perhaps the light of the first day is something that is not familiar to us in our time, something dear and precious called “Or Ganuz,” translated as “secret light,” or “archived light.”

When we come to sit around the LABA table, we come with the intention to access this archived, secret light–that unknown moment of inspiration. We cannot forcefully summon that, just like we cannot force the snail to come out of its shell. So, we put our effort into setting up a safe space for listening, creating, and setting the right intentions while being open to whatever may emerge.

In 2023, we witnessed, over three incredible evenings exploring TABOO, 10 artist presentations of exquisite, strange, humorous, and beautiful work. The artists also created beautiful relationships with each other and Jewish texts—a relationship that will keep on morphing, evolving, breaking, and building.

This year, 13 incredible new artists will be sitting at the LABA table–not knowing exactly what is going to happen–but trusting the process and dedicated to coaxing the snail out of its shell.

To learn more about our artists and their creative explorations, please visit the LABA website

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