Bickersteth Room, Hart House, University of Toronto, Canada 2010

Realms of Knowing is a collaborative site-specific performance in one of the reading rooms of Hart House at the University of Toronto, (the alma mater of both artists.) Its architecture, paneled walls wooden bookshelves, and hushed, almost sacrosanct atmosphere represents a kind of bastion of the old university establishment, a place of calm, order and power; it creates an ideal location, in which to investigate different orders of knowing and of truth.
Rubin-Kunda sits at the large table stacked with a pile of classic books and engages physically, intimately with the books – drawing and erasing, marking, stamping, licking, adding seasonal materials gathered from the immediate surroundings, attempting to bridge the gap between two paradigms of knowledge.
Moffat’s reads, in a quiet voice or a whisper, a text by a woman poet, about embodiment, engendered knowledge, sensation and sensuality. Her verbal delivery uses conventional articulation as well as exaggeration, deconstruction, word reversal and utterance to explore sound and sense.

Presented by: WIA projects, Centre for Women’s Studies, OISE, University of Toronto, Canada.

"Realms of Knowing: Performing Books"
Text of catalogue of exhibition at the Centre for Women's Studies, Ontario Institute of Education, University of Toronto September-October 2010

What is the relationship of the printed word, the written text, to lived experience: and between the theoretical disembodied truths learned through these books to truths gleaned from the day-to-day life, where understanding comes through the murky complexity of acting in the world. I grew up in a generation that had a deep respect for the printed word- it represented the voice of authority, of formal learning, of accumulated tradition. And yet often, there was a deep divide between these texts and my own experience, a chasm that only grew with the years. Both in form and in content - the static, formal laying out of truths, the unyielding imparting of information does not resonate with the complex and nuanced dimensionality of 'knowing'. And so, with both a respect and a desire to mend, to fuse these differing realities, I revisit these texts, as part of my performance practice.

By actively and intimately engaging with books I am no longer a passive receiver of information. Adding or dismantling, dissolving the hard print, demanding of it a broader perspective, an inclusivity, a fusion of male and female principles of apprehending. This intervention into books developed naturally from other site-specific live art. As in those works, here, with book as site, I respond to the physical as well as its cultural, metaphysical, historical and personal dimensions.

To deface a book, particularly in the Jewish tradition, is considered a sacrilege, a deep taboo; in some places a dangerous questioning of the powers that be. But being personally invested in books and in reading, my engagement comes from a desire to revitalize and broaden.

Depending on the nature of the book, the context, the dialogue takes on different characteristics. In an early work, not for public exhibition, My Own Prayer Book, I took on the Jewish prayer book. Steeped in early religious education and living in a place where religion is a real force, I felt the need to find some points of intersection. I add external texts or images, or search out parts of the existing text that I can hold onto.

Topographical Readings, a live sited performance from 2007, took place in the library of the home (now preserved as a museum) of a well-known local Jerusalem landscape artist. Sitting at a large table for several hours, I move through the books on the city's history, drawing, disrupting, in an attempt to access the underlying landscape beneath the centuries of conflictual dualities that cover both the land and the books. Using charcoal, ink and pen I reach back to some mythic non-differentiated state under the transient historical realities. At intervals, I stamp the pages with a kind of 'third eye' attached to my forehead. In a related book, Holy Places of Israel, I add earth and drawing to open up concept of what might constitute a 'holy' place.

The Consolation of Philosophy, 2008, deals with the same materials of the current work in the reading rooms of Hart House, at the University of Toronto. Similarly, I add spices, local foodstuff to the old philosophic classics studied in my youth: I rub the materials into the text, or lick the pages, in a somewhat absurd attempt to merge the two paradigms of knowledge. In other books, I cover the pages with graphite, and then expose small sections, or dissolve the print, uncovering layers, fusing the boundaries of order and chaos, known and unknown.

Reading into the Landscape, 2009*, was carried out in the village of Ein Kerem, an Arab village, now suburb on the edge of Jerusalem. For two days, from midday till dark, I sit in the valley, at a table with books of the early Zionist thinkers who envisioned a return to the land, an idyll where culture and nature, local and transplanted were fused. Immersed in the complicated realities of the place, I add local materials to the books, and read aloud from the texts, explaining this vision to the unyielding environment.

And in my own backyard, as part of an ongoing series of interactions with the concept and possibilities of 'Home', I pile old books into the crook of an orange tree, fusing nature with culture, looking for ways to feel deeply 'at home'.

*For an event at Mamuta, Experimental Art Centre in Ein Kerem, "What is Hidden behind the Pastoral".