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Contemporary Art

In That Case: Havruta in Contemporary Art—Helena Keeffe and Jessica Prentice

Jan 22, 2015–Apr 14, 2015

Based on the Talmudic study principle of havruta—the study of religious texts by people in pairs—In That Case at The CJM encourages learning through fellowship for Bay Area artists, established professionals, museum staff, and the entire CJM community. Capitalizing on the unique Jewish perspective, inherent to The Museum, this program takes the practice of havruta and repurposes it for the contemporary art community. Each local artist invited to participate in In That Case is given the opportunity to work with an established writer, scientist, thinker, or academic in a field of their choosing. The resulting collaborations are presented in the Sala Webb Education Center.


Keeffe and Prentice’s havruta installation—A Menu for Recognizing Invisible Forces—utilizes the case in a dynamic way, showing evidence of their experiments and explorations around all the unseen but powerful processes that weave through our food system and our community life—from traditional practices that "cultivate" the wild food sources, to microorganisms in our guts and in the soil, to world views that draw connections between seemingly disparate "facts." Objects included range from ceramics and textiles to recipes both actual and conceptual.

Of her choice of Prentice as collaborator, Keeffe says, “I’ve been working with food and the social space of a meal in my work for a while now and it seemed like partnering with an educator so passionate about foodways would be a great way to deepen my own practice. Jessica has been a pivotal force in raising awareness about the importance of supporting local food systems and is the co-founder of Three Stone Hearth, a community supported kitchen in Berkeley. I can’t think of a better study partner when it comes to food as a topic for inquiry.”

They began their collaboration by reading The Ohlone Way together and following threads related to gift economies and traditional ways of meeting physical and spiritual needs. Keeffe envisions the final exhibition as a combination of objects intended for domestic use—including drawings on large ceramic platters and naturally dyed textiles—and writing by Prentice that takes the form of recipes as metaphor and poetry.

gallery photos
ABOUT helena keefFE

Helena Keeffe is a San Francisco based artist, teacher, and cook who brings these identities together in projects that invite others to step with her into unfamiliar territory. Past examples include hospital uniforms and linens designed in collaboration with long-term care patients; city bus route maps annotated with drivers’ portraits and anecdotes; a twelve-course meal for twelve people based on their family immigration stories; and The Upturned Table—a series of workshops leading up to a day-long restaurant conceived in collaboration with and run by kids. She received an MFA from UC Berkeley where she co-organized a conference with Shannon Jackson, director of the Arts Research Center, on the subject of valuing labor in the arts.

ABOUT Jessica Prentice

Jessica Prentice is a professional chef, author, local foods activist, and social entrepreneur. Her book Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection (Chelsea Green, 2006) mythopoetically explores the connections between the environment, human communities, and traditional cycles through food. She is a co-founder of Three Stone Hearth (, a community supported kitchen in Berkeley that uses local, sustainable ingredients to prepare nutrient-dense, traditional foods on a community scale. Prentice is also co-creator of the Local Foods Wheel, coined the word “locavore,” and is a regular contributor to Edible East Bay.


Helena Keeffe and Jessica Prentice discuss their In That Case: Havruta in Contemporary Art collaborative installation, A Menu for Recognizing Invisible Forces, which explores the themes of food, community, and the intricate networks and cycles that connect them. Artist talk is moderated by Claire Frost, Curatorial Associate at The Contemporary Jewish Museum. Filmed on Thursday, January 22, 2015.

What is Havruta?

Nathaniel Deutsch, professor of literature and history and co-director of the Center for Jewish Studies at UC Santa Cruz, introduces the practice of havruta.


In That Case: Havruta in Contemporary Art is organized by The Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco.

Major support for The Contemporary Jewish Museum’s exhibitions and Jewish Peoplehood Programs comes from the Koret Foundation.

Image Credit

Helena Keeffe, Untitled (Tableware), 2013.