Casey Carsel, (On Island Island) To Me You’re Beautiful
VIEW ON ISLAND ISLAND
Ashkenazi Jewish contributions to popular music over the last century have defined and redefined Jewish cultural identity in both the Jewish and goyish imagination. The use of, or lack of, cultural signifiers in songs spanning a range of genres traces a path upon which individuals and peoples push and pull between insider and outsider, assimilation and tradition.
Yiddish—the historical conversational language of Ashkenazi Jews—had about 11 million speakers before World War II. Six million or so of these were killed in World War II; many of the ones that were left, hoping for safety in a Western (American, Australian, etc) identity, became hesitant to speak the language too loudly. About 600,000 people worldwide know it now.
To Me You’re Beautiful combines the history of Jewish contributions to American music—with a particular focus on the 1937 hit Bei Mir Bistu Shein—with Yiddish language practice to unravel the ways historical, linguistic, and popular culture might be carried towards a contemporary Jewish identity.
Casey Larkin Mazer Carsel is a New Zealand-born, Jewish editor, writer, and artist. Her practice focuses on how communal narratives are constructed and passed down through generations and across the world, and how these stories shape identities and make connections. What is held onto? What is forgotten? What is lost in translation?
Recent solo exhibitions include Knobl Hearts, Co-Prosperity Sphere, Chicago (upcoming); Shum Klum, RM Gallery, Auckland (2019); When a poor man eats a chicken, one of them is sick (but we sing, we still sing), Blue Oyster Gallery, Dunedin (2019); and Rather owe you than not pay you, MEANWHILE onsite, Wellington (2017).
Casey received her BFA from Elam School of Fine Arts, Auckland (2016), and her MFA in Creative Writing from School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2019). In 2019 she co-founded Plates: An Experimental Journal with Unyimeabasi Udoh. She wants you to know that things that are funny and things that are sad, are often the same things.