Tobaron Waxman

Fellow 09-10 (Term III)

Performance, Video, Installation, Sound


With a background in portraiture, performance, and Hassidic Judaism, my current practice considers flesh as a working material of mutable meanings, to inscribe both with and upon. Beyond fixed notions of body, gender, and 'home', my practice contextualizes gender, embodiment, and the physical experience of time as systems of inscription. My work includes elements of Diaspora experience and traditional Jewish texts, music, and philosophy, as well as politics and desire. My live art practice is articulated through various time- and lens-based media: photography, video, voice, tissue engineering, internet, biofeedback processing, performance, and social interventions. In my work, I interrogate how citizenship makes moral and ethical claims upon our bodies.

ICI Project (2010)

Mechitza 7.1

The project I have proposed is called Mechitza 7.1. It is an interactive sound installation, and part of a currently untitled tryptich of works. A mechitza is the separation architecture between women and men in a Jewish prayer space. ‘7.1’ is both a Jewish metatextual reference about nation and destiny as well as indicative of this piece being composed for surround sound with seven channels. Mechitza 7.1 will manifest a separation wall in focused sound. An elision is made between sacred/taboo space, and ‘ethnically cleansed’ space, using interactive audio, as a way to interrogate the notion of border. With Mechitza 7.1 I pose a question: could I design a different way to mark the distinction between places or sites; in a manner which didn't require one site to determine itself by way of constant abrasion by its alleged 'opposite'? This conceptual piece reflects on the segregatory architecture that controls public and private space, imposed by the state – both in the obvious case of the ‘separation fence’ between Israel and Palestine, and other more systemic examples like military check points, and the currently re-enflamed violence in Gaza of December 2008.

The content of the composition is derived from three groups of field recordings:

1. various private and domestic locations in Palestine and occupied territories I visited during the war in Lebanon 2006

2. the voice of my young friend, as he walks through his neighbourhood which is the fireline between Jerusalem and Ramallah -- recorded December 2008

3. sacred prayer spaces for ultra Orthodox Jewish men in various parts of New York Chassidic communities in which I have participated and lived.

The sounds are all from spaces which are in each case segregated, behind an explicit separation architecture. The piece does not make a parallel between the enforced borders of the separation fence (which is aggressively imposed) and the gender partition in a Jewish prayer space (which is coercively chosen), rather the spectator is invited to consider what ideological devices they uphold in order to maintain borders.

My approach for this installation is to take the surround sound layout and turn it on its side, making it perpendicular to the earth. In this way, I will create a wall of sound, not unlike a waterfall -- a wall that demarcates 'here' from 'there', while remaining permeable.  I anticipate the spectators will be drawn to stand 'within' the wall, and by participating in the social sculpture will be moved to consider the obsolescence of binaries in social space. The outline of the surround of 7 speakers with the subwoofer at the root also traces a similar outline to Jewish meta-text of the creation cosmology. Sound as evocative of memory, nostalgia, physical sensation and association expands the performative nature of the work, and makes connections between the humanity of each spectator, inclusive of their different backgrounds.

Through my practice, I make a critique of Israel/Palestine conflict through traditional Jewish texts and meta texts. My conceptual pieces employ the language of architecture and engage the gendered notions of space in Judaism, onto which I impose a Queer, anti-occupation, Torah-aware dialectic to address issues of Israel/Palestine conflict and the trauma of ‘border’.

My project, currently untitled, is a triptych of works exploring tensions between inner experience, embodied experience and perception.  Part I, ‘Techiat Ha Metim’ is a suite of 9 photographs installed with audio activated by movement and proximity sensors.  Part II, ‘Mechitza’ is a 7.1 surround sound installation. Part III, ‘Still Life: Israel eats itself” was a performance installation / action painting which is now viewable as video. Links to online simulations of Part I and Part III can be seen here:

Techiat ha Metim:

Still Life:


Tobaron Waxman was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. He currently lives and works between Toronto and Brooklyn. Waxman studied traditional Jewish texts, liturgy, law, chaplaincy, music and ritual practices in various Orthodox Yeshivas from 2003 to 2007. He received his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2002.


Waxman’s work has been exhibited at international venues including Palais de Tokio, Paris, Videotage Hong Kong, Artneuland Berlin, Kunsthalle Vienna, Sonic Radio Copenhagen, Vdance International Video Dance Festival. Tel Aviv/Ramallah, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Toronto and Peacock Visual Art Centre, Aberdeen, Scotland, and in the USA at Intermedia Arts Minneapolis, COCCA Seattle, Madison MoCA Wisconsin, Women in the Director’s Chair Chicago, and in New York at MIX Queer Experimental Film Festival, Dumbo Arts Center, Harvestworks Digital Media, and Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music Biannual International Electroacoustic Music Festival.


His works have been featured in several publications including Time Out New York, Fuse, Canadian Dimension, Afterimage, Times UK, GLQ and LTTR.  His writing, performance documentation and photography have been published in various volumes including Carte Blanche: Canada’s first juried photography compendium, Post Porn Politics (bbooks, Berlin. 2010), Balancing on the Mechitza: Transgender in Jewish Community, Noach Dzmura (ed.), North Atlantic Books, forthcoming 2010. Shimmering: Towards a Trans-Erotic Film Aesthetic, PhD dissertation of Eliza Steinbock. Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis, forthcoming 2010. The Ambiguous I: Photography, Gender, Self , PhD dissertation of Jordy Jones. University of California, Irvine, Spring 2008.


Waxman has been awarded grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, Toronto Arts Council, Henry Moore Foundation for Sculpture, Experimental Television Center, NY, is a Van Leir Foundation Fellow, and is a recipient of the Franklin Furnace Performance Art Award, NYC.  Residencies include Harvestworks (2007), Atlantic Center for the Arts (2006), Hong Kong ACO Art and Culture Outreach Artist Residency (2006), PAVED New Media artist residency, Saskatoon (2005) and Parsons School of Design, Internet co-lab visiting artist (2003-2004). This year, 2010, Tobaron is the recipient of the first ever Audience award at the Jewish Museum of New York for his performance installation ‘Opshernish’.Smiley


← Back To New Website