Jew-ish is a series of images that elaborates on my perspective as a modern individual reconnecting with his Jewish roots. The images document various religious rituals, Judaica and traditions, evaluating my relationships to them and within my family. In any ethnic group, unconscious decisions are made as to what aspects of culture are carried on to the next generation. Jew-ish elaborates on this notion, documenting the aspects of Judaism I’ve inherited and the ones I believe are worth continuing. This brand of diluted Judaism however, is somewhat stigmatized. Someone who doesn’t abide or believe Jewish law like myself wouldn’t constitute as Jewish in the eyes of the orthodox Jews. Yet in the eyes of everyday society, my upbringing makes me inherently Jewish. Despite my aversion to these religious beliefs, I still believe myself to be a member of the Jewish community. The religious traditions of Judaism have evolved beyond the heretic purposes, and have fostered community within the Jewish people. I find myself drawn to this culture as these traditions reconvene communities and families like mine. Jew-ish is not only me reconnecting with Judaism but me commemorating its role within my family.
Q & A with Jared Miller
Q. Could you tell us about any current projects that you are working on?
A. I’m currently working away at my winter thesis, and sadly the last project I’ll complete in the program. The project expands on similar ideas from a book I produced in 3rd year, questioning the nature of our capitalist consumer culture in regards to clothing, and the redundancy of these collections of clothes. My current project complicates these ideas, exploring other forms of collecting like jewelry, furniture, etc. My goal is to introduce further nuance to the nature of collecting, sentimentality, inheritance, aesthetics, factors that all complicate the redundancies inherent to collecting.
Q. Describe your project in its current state and what you’d like it’s final outcome to be.
A. I’m still currently in the research stage but I’m beginning to formalize my ideas into a viable project. In the BTS photos I’m attempting different methods of displaying these collections, my goal is to find an arrangement for each collection that retains their personal aspects while exploring their inviability through the formal qualities of repetition. I’m currently approaching this project with the intent to exhibit but deep down I would love to make another book.
Q. How did you reach the conceptualization of your current project?
A. I was initially working on a completely different thesis but I realized this project was demanding my attention. I typically root my work in the real world and social activism and I had always had the intention of revitalizing my series overdressed, thus this project just seemed like a natural progression. I began conceptualizing my new approach while researching for the earlier project actually. I was sitting at my computer looking around the dining room hoping the furniture would tell me how to move forward and this was one of the rare instances it did. I thought about the teacups in the vanity and I thought about how my mom dedicated 2 shelves in a hefty armoire to a couple of dozen teacups that barely get used. I immediately began to think of other examples in the room, tablecloths, bells, wine, all these redundant and barely used objects occupying space. I began connecting it to my earlier project and started research.
Q. Are there any artists that have inspired this work? If so, why?
A. Some of my inspiration for the project include Joachim Beuckalaer, his series The Four Elements he touches on formal aspects of abundance. Another inspiration of my mine is the work of Taryn Simon, in specific, her book Contraband has always been one of my favorite photo books. Additionally, I’d mention Tehnica Schweiz.
Q. Describe any challenges you have faced and any solutions that you have found to be helpful in the creative process.
A. My biggest challenges in the creative process are overthinking and sourcing inspiration. Overthinking is my biggest challenge by far, I find distilling the calamity of thoughts to be challenging and unproductive, and it also results in constant indecision. Settling on a direction is difficult when you’re trying to resolve multiple ideas with one project. I’ve realized that writing everything down by hand is the only way to organize my thoughts cohesively, and it forces me to formalize my ideas into words. Taking notes by hand was a challenge at first but I’ve tricked myself into liking it by practicing my cursive, and it helps with memory. Finding inspiration is tough as well. The majority of my inspiration comes from sources outside of visual arts, it’s hard to employ a similar practice to people in a completely different field.
Q. Have you had any success in getting your work out into the world? Do you have suggestions for other artists?
A. It’s tough! I’ve gotten a few achievements at Ryerson, the First Edition Photobook award, some magazines at school but nothing without the aid of the program. I’m pretty apprehensive to put myself out there honestly, confidence in my work is something I struggle with like any artist. If I can suggest anything for anyone who might feel the same way it’s to do things for yourself and try to keep it that way. At the end of the day if you’re passionate and proud of what you’re doing then it’s hard to feel like you’ve failed.
Work In Progress
Winter Thesis, 2020