Dusk 'til DAWN: Dengue Fever plays in the all-night all-media celebration for the opening of San Francisco's Contemporary Jewish Museum.

Contemporary Jewish Museum's DAWN

Miriam Wolf May 30, 2008

Looking for something meaningful to do Sunday morning at 2 a.m.? SF360.org offers key notes of the all-night Dawn festival—art, film, ideas—at the Contemporary Jewish Museum’s new digs.

Fourth and Mission is the intersection of two blockbuster Jewish cultural events this weekend: June 7th brings the opening of the Daniel Libeskind-designed Contemporary Jewish Museum. To celebrate, it’s hosting the all-night cultural arts festival Dawn ’08. Held annually, the Dawn festival commemorates Shavuot, the Jewish "festival of weeks;" it’s an arts-based take on the Shavuot tradition of spending the entire night studying Torah. Except instead of the scroll of learning, Dawn-goers will be studying psychedelic grooves, chewy films, relevant authors, and live performances. This particular Dawn features gripping 1926 silent film Benya Krik, based on a story by Isaac Babel about the impact of the Russian Revolution on the Jewish gangsters of Odessa, and presented with an original score, commissioned exclusively for Dawn ’08.

Dawn ’08 also offers a sneak peek at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. The 63,000 square foot facility is dedicated to art that explores contemporary perspectives on Jewish culture, history and ideas. The opening exhibitions include a John Zorn-curated series of sound pieces that explore the Hebrew alphabet by artists ranging from Laurie Anderson to David Greenberger, and a retrospective of the work of William Steig (was anyone else traumatized by the extraordinarily poignant but creepy Sylvester and the Magic Pebble?). What follows are a few highlights.

1. Dengue Fever: This popular Cambodian-American psychedelic pop outfit, which headlines the festival, usually resurrects Cambodian pop sounds from the 1960s, but we have it on good authority that for the Dawn ’08, the group will also run Yiddish songs through the psych-pop blender. Cultural remixing at its finest.

2. Benya Krik: Come for the gripping 1926 silent film—based on a story by Isaac Babel—about the impact of the Russian Revolution on the Jewish gangsters of Odessa; stay for the original score, commissioned exclusively for Dawn ’08.

3. Re"Jew"venate: (play-on-words courtesy DAWN) Heaping Portion, a storytelling series that reinterprets Torah portions for a more modern context, presents this performance. The Book of Ruth is the topic at hand, and performers Josh Radnor of How I Met Your Mother, Jill Soloway, writer/producer of Six Feet Under, indie film director Julie Hermelin and journalist Christopher Noxon will explore the insider/outsider plight of Ruth, a Moabite who marries an Israelite, and declaims, to her mother-in-law, one of the bible’s most famous lines: "Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God."

4. "Smashing": This video and sound installation is a collaboration between artists Tiffany Schlain and Ken Goldberg. It explores the breaking of glass both ritually during the Jewish wedding ceremony and tragically when German Jews were terrorized and rounded up on 1938’s Kristallnacht.

5. Jonathan Safran Foer: The author of Everything Is Illuminated—written when he was 25 and the recipient of a buttload of awards—appears to still be all that and a side of lox and bagels, too. See for yourself when he appears in conversation at Dawn.