Gay City and TimeOut New YorkRose Bond

“Gates of Light”

Versions of this review appeared in Gay City News and TimeOut New York

Eldridge Street Synagogue 

The Synagogue tells its story.  The stained glass windows are illuminated by an animation that flickers with the passage of years, and the aspirations of generations of immigrants.  Rose Bond’s outdoor media installation at the Eldridge Street Synagogue, “Gates of Light,” tells the story of a New York Street, and a New York neighborhood, but more broadly, it tells the New York story: the great joy, the great sorrow, is that everything changes.  Every fifty years—taking as markers the economic crisis of the 1850s, the 1890s, the 1930s, the 1970s—the city has rebirthed itself, reincarnating into forms unrecognizable to past generations.  For city dwellers, that is the tragedy—not just the lost favorite restaurant, but the sense of identity that roots in a home, a place of origin, that remains largely the same.  But, for city dwellers, it is also the boon of New York: that we may change, and accept change, and remain plastic to tomorrow.

In 1887, when the Eldridge Street Synagogue was erected, Manhattan’s Lower East Side was, growingly, a Jewish enclave in the city.  Supplanting the German and Irish immigrants who were previous to the neighborhood, the Jews were the latest population to have made the city a part of their dreams.  Today, the neighborhood is stocked by a generation of Chinese, though now, in a reversal of decades, even Chinatown is shrinking.  Bond’s twelve-minute film, installed as if through the stained glass of the synagogue, captures this ongoing emotional history of the city.  To stand in the street and look up at one of the evening screenings, is to be guided in a moment of reflection.  The prayer is that of a nation: we have all come here in search of our futures.

The Eldridge Street Synagogue, itself a national monument, welcomes the opportunity to speak to us.  Bond sagely allows history to paint its own portrait, and her installation is a memory that, no matter how the city changes, will stay with the New York that you carry in yourself.