404 Shay Lesher, Tal Baba and Lipaz Shechter with the fabric Megillat Ester. Photo: Ido Kenan, Room 404

Published on March 10th, 2015 | by Ido Kenan


A Softer, Pixelated Megillat Ester

It’s seven meters long, one meter wide, folds almost like a Torah scroll and has the entire Purim story embroidered on it, but you’ll find it hard to read. Four Shenkar students made this machine-embroidered Megillat Ester in a bid to explore the concept of preservation, and of transferring information between media.

The crafters are third year students, Tal Baba and Shay Lesher of Visual Communications and Lipaz Shechter and Avinoam Maman of Industrial engineering. They made the Megilla while attending a workshop called “Remake – conveying data and messages clandestinely and openly between material and texture”, a part of their academic institute’s annual “Concoction Festival”, an engineering and design faculties cooperation.

Shay Lesher with the fabric Megillat Ester. Photo: Ido Kenan, Room 404

“Although the Megilla was allegedly expropriated of the kohanim and the religion and handed over to a format of mass production and to the masses, made accessible to the masses, it’s not about cheapening of the object”, said Avigail Reiner of the Visual Communications department, who co-supervised the workshop with by Dr. Eyal Sheffer of the Plastic Engineering department. “It was interesting to see that the students respected the Megilla, and could not separate the emotions and their own traditional importance of the Megilla, they wouldn’t put it down or let anyone step on it, and from afar, you instantly realize it is the Megilla, even though it is embedded in the knitted fabric”.

“In this work we were asked to talk about a transference of images, how they are made one way and what happens to them when they’re embroidered. To talk about what is lost of the information and what is preserved”, says Shechter. It started with photos of a traditional Megillat Ester, painstakingly scribed by a Sofer ST”M on a klaf, or a parchment. Those were converted to a digital file in a format readable by an embroidery machine, which in turn embroidered the pixelated, unreadable text to the fabric to create the soft Megilla.

The fabric Megillat Ester. Photo: Ido Kenan, Room 404

Lesher explains that the pixelated letters are a result of the embroidery machine’s limited resolution. “As part of our concept, we chose letters that would be recognizable, when you stand in a distance of 1-2 meters you can tell it’s ancient Hebrew letters, but as you get closer, there’s an effect of information loss. “. There’s a message there, explains lesher, who compares the work to the illusion created by wearing a purim costume: “When you look from a distance, you might mistake it for a Megilla or ritual objects, but when you get closer you see it’s just a piece of fabric with dots embroidered on it. There’s nothing sacred, no religious article, just knitted strings. We liked the fact that it’s recognizable but unreadable, so when the viewers gets closer, they don’t get an answer but more question marks”.

Shechter sees the Megilla’s gibberishness as symbolic. “You can call it a process of secularization. I can attest, about myself and people close to me, that each year we lose a different item of Judaism, it blurs, we know it exists, just like the Megilla, you can see it but not give it consideration, you prefer not to”.

Published on JPost.com, 5 Mar. 2015

About the Author

Ido Kenan is founder of Room 404, a longtime Digital Culture journalist and a raiser of two cats

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