Benyamin Zev’s Succos Spectacular! A Gregg Bordowitz Production The Rabbi
Benyamin Zev’s Succos Spectacular! A Gregg Bordowitz Production
September 18, 2021
Benyamin Zev’s Succos Spectacular! is a three-part performance lecture taking place over a weekend after the High Holy Days in Judaism (also known as the Days of Awe) and a week before the celebration of Succos (also known as the Feast of Tabernacles). These three separate but interlocking performances—come to one, two, or all—are performed by Gregg Bordowitz under his Hebrew name, Benyamin Zev, an infamous Jewish entertainer and tummler (a Yiddish word for a person who encourages guests and audiences to participate). In honor of the upcoming holiday, Benyamin temporarily resides in a uniquely constructed Sukkah (a highly decorated temporary dwelling constructed for the Succos holiday) and performs a fantasy variety TV program from the structure along with a small cast of guests and the house band, klezmer ensemble Isle of Klezbos.
Bordowitz adopts the persona of a stand-up comedian as what he terms a "ready-made form,” noting that “artists feel like failed comedians—at least this artist does.” “Any laughter is purely accidental. My performances disturb, upset, and resist the pressures to conform and align genders and ethnicities within a fascist phantasy of American nationalism.”
In each of the performances, Bordowitz, through the character of Benyamin, inhabits a number of unstable conjugations of religious, ethnic, and diasporic identities at the intersection of gender and sexuality, exploring archetypes that have been formative to the artist’s own coming-of-age:
The Rock Star (September 17) Glamorous androgynous promiscuous bisexuality mixed with borough realness
The Rabbi (September 18) Erudite gourmand dark eyes peering through thick lens eye glasses pale skin bearded wearing satin and fur in somber colors championing the invective
The Comedian (September 19) Quick angry socially relevant humor accompanied by a gross overestimation of responsibility rendered powerless by morbid self-loathing
Benyamin will dwell upon the joys and tribulations of queer and Jewish diaspora as he weaves together the holy spices of Yiddishkeit, punk-rock, scholarship, and comedy—all examples of culture that enabled him to turn a life as a nebbish into a glamorous show host.
Benyamin Zev’s Succos Spectacular! draws inspiration from cultural theorist Stuart Hall's book Fateful Triangle: Race, Ethnicity and Nation, a study of the interrelated effects of multiple identity claims. The book features lectures delivered by Hall in the 1980s, but it was first published as Bordowitz was developing these performances in 2017. Initially developed as part of Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon (2017) at the New Museum, the performance is now in its fourth iteration and continues to shift with each enactment.
The improvised scripts of past performances have been adapted into a new book, published by Triple Canopy. Signed copies will be available at these upcoming performances and in the Artbook @ MoMA PS1 bookstore.