Zodiacs in the Lower East Side
Cynthia Beth Rubin, Kris Tonski, and Yona Verwer
Zodiacs on the Lower East Side is an interactive web work weaving stories of past and present in imagery evoking the former immigrant neighborhood of New York’s Lower East Side. Exploring the union of a time forever gone and the current neighborhood, we create a narrative from existing and lost architecture, tenement buildings and synagogues, mixed with traditional signs and motifs from medieval manuscripts, portraits of immigrants, scenes of Eastern Europe. Symbolism adapted from Zodiac murals in the neighborhood’s Stanton Street synagogue provide links to cross-cultural folklore, deeply rooted in centuries of tradition. Mousing over each screen reveals videos reflecting the wandering minds and imagined associations of immigrants who inhabited multiple worlds and traditions drawn from a culture of wanderers. In one, a Lower East Side apartment building morphs into an old European village, visualizing the thoughts of an immigrant standing on street corner, remembering one home and living in another. In another, the Zodiac symbol from the Stanton Street synagogue is linked to a medieval drawing of the same sign. The videos include commentary by historian Elissa Sampson, contemporary sounds by composer Bob Gluck, and traditional Yiddish songs sung by Sylvia Tepperman.