Inside the Artist's Studio: R. Justin Stewart in Bed-Stuy 

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R. Justin Stewart's installation Distorting (A Messiah Project, 13C) takes over the ground floor of the Invisible Dog Art Center (51 Bergen Street) on March 10 and remains on view through May 5

What is the installation at Invisible Dog based on?
The piece at the Invisible Dog is based on the 18 months of research I did into the idea of the messiah, so this is actually the messiah map. This is 3,000 years of the knowledge that I gained. When I started researching I knew nothing. I grew up Lutheran, I married a Jewish girl, and when I started I had a basic set of knowledge about Judaism, but it was like Sunday school knowledge. But there's this whole underlayer of history, theory, case law. The text is very much like case law, building one piece after another after another, all building their argument off of previous things that were written. But when I started, the first book I read took me six months, because I had to read it three times. I was trying to figure out who Jacob was; I was talking to this rabbi, and I said, "I'm just trying to figure out who Jacob was." And he's like, "Yes, who is Jacob?" He was talking metaphorically, but I'm just wondering who's Jacob related to, what did he do; there's Jacob and Joshua, and they sound very similar so I'm trying to keep them separate in my brain.

So that's where I came from, and I don't remember all of this, but when I start reading over it I start remembering bit of it and how they interconnect. but this is basically the data set that I gathered over that 18 month period and it's not perfect, I'm not a scholar, I'm an artist. It's accurate enough, and it's accurate through a specific kind of lens. One of the elements in here might be perfectly accurate to one person but then you talk to a different scholar and it's a completely different story. So it's a lens through which I gathered the information. Everything I gathered here I took from books. The Invisible Dog takes this slice, the 13th century, and it's going to be a fleece pod installation that'll fill the entire ground floor. You'll actually be able to walk under it, around it, through it, and there will be 118 pods. Some of them will be big—some of them will be person-sized—and some of them will be a little bit smaller. And each pod will represent a bubble on the messiah map. The map is built out like a Harvard outline, with subject, sub-subject, and then the item, so each pod is either a person, a category or an idea. And there will be a little QR code embedded on the pods that you can scan that will give you this information on your smartphone, if you have a smartphone.

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