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Contemporary Art

In That Case: Havruta in Contemporary Art—Anthony Discenza and Peter Straub

Apr 30, 2015–Jul 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 repurpose it for the contemporary art community. Each local artist invited to participate in In That Case is given the opportunity of working with an established writer, scientist, thinker, or academic in a field of their choosing. The resulting collaborations is presented in the Sala Webb Education Center.


This installation features the work of Bay Area visual artist Anthony Discenza in collaboration with nationally renowned New York-based author of horror novels Peter Straub. Discenza is known for working with text, both in written and aural works. He is particularly interested in “disturbing the flow of information.” He approached Straub because of his interest in how reader interest can be piqued by the use of suggestion. Straub is a master at creating anxiety in his readers by hinting at horrible, disturbing elements rather than using direct or explicit language. The two artists are collaboratively conducting research into the history of an obscure late nineteenth-century artists’ movement known as “Das Beben,” focusing on an ill-fated exposition the group had planned to mount at a private estate in England.

image gallery
about Anthony Discenza

Anthony Discenza (b. 1967, New Brunswick, New Jersey) is an adjunct professor at the California College of the Arts. He received his undergraduate degree in studio art at Wesleyan University in 1990, and an MFA at California College of Arts and Crafts in 2000. His work is directed by a preoccupation with interrupting the flow of information in various formats. While his work has been primarily video-based, it has also taken the form of other mediums such as text, imagery, and computer-generated sound.

Since the late 1990s Discenza’s work has focused primarily on the omnipresence of mainstream media. Discenza’s solo and collaborative work has been shown at numerous national and international venues, including The New York Video Festival, The Pacific Film Archive, The Impakt Festival, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the 2000 Whitney Biennial, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. In addition to his personal work, he devotes a great deal of time to HalfLifers, an ongoing collaboration with longtime friend and fellow video artist Torsten Z. Burns.

about peter straub

Peter Straub works in horror fiction and has received numerous literary honors such as the Bram Stoker Award (several times), the World Fantasy Award, and the International Horror Guild Award. His most famous book is Ghost Story, published in 1979. He has also written two books with his friend Stephen King, The Talisman and Black House. Straub holds an honors degree in English from the University of Wisconsin, and an MA from Columbia.

artist talk

Artist Anthony Discenza and Peter Straub delve into the history of the obscure nineteenth-century artists' movement known as Das Beben. The duo researched this movement for their collaborative In That Case installation, Beyond the Veil of Vision: Reinhold von Kreitz and the Das Beben Movement


As a complement to their CJM exhibition Beyond the Veil of Vision: Reinhold von Kreitz and the Das Beben Movement, Peter Straub and Anthony Discenza compiled this collection of fantastic literature dating from the 1800's to the present.


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

Header image: Anthony Discenza, Coming Soon, 2014. Vinyl on aluminum, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist.