Podcast / On The Nose
On the Nose is our biweekly podcast. The editorial staff discusses the politics, culture, and questions that animate today’s Jewish left.
On the Nose
Duration
0:00 / 41:25
Published
April 9, 2021

The cover of the Spring 2021 issue of Jewish Currents features a photograph that has proven controversial, eliciting a wide array of reactions, from disgust to accusations of antisemitism to schnoz pride. Editor-in-Chief Arielle Angel, Publisher Jacob Plitman, and Managing Editor Nathan Goldman sat down with Rachel Stern, the artist behind the photograph, to discuss the image, the response, and what it all might mean.

Thanks to Santiago Helou Quintero for producing and to Nathan Salsburg for the use of his song “VIII (All That Were Calculated Have Passed).”


Transcript

Arielle Angel: Okay, welcome to the Jewish Currents’ not-a-podcast, maybe just a conversation, we’re still figuring it out. I’m Arielle Angel. I’m the Editor in Chief of Jewish Currents.

Nathan Goldman: I’m Nathan Goldman. I’m the Managing Editor of Jewish Currents.

Jacob Plitman: I’m Jacob Plitman. I’m the Publisher of Jewish Currents.

AA: And we’re also here with Rachel Stern, who is the photographer responsible for our most recent spring 2021 issue cover. Rachel is an artist and also a teacher. And we’re really, really glad to have her here with us today to talk a little bit about this image. Rachel, I just wanted to start by thanking you for entrusting us with this image, in a context that was not the context that you initially intended for it. So I was hoping you could tell us just a little bit about where it came from and what the process was like there.

Rachel Stern: Yeah, of course. Well, I’m glad to be here to talk to you guys about it. It’s a really good question, because it’s been such a fascinating process for me to watch the photograph change because it had a whole previous life before it became this image in this context, which is very different. So I actually made the photograph in 2016. And it was part of an artist billboard project with an organization called 14 by 48, that grants public billboard projects to artists in New York City. So it was originally installed at 181st Street and Broadway. And it was part of a larger image that was like a fake perfume ad. So it was this giant, 14 foot tall nose and then there was like a cascade of hands spraying all different perfumes at this nose and this kind of like overwhelm of smell. And then it was installed above a fish market and a flower shop. So it kind of had these like additional smells of the neighborhood sort of wafting up. And it’s this really funny process for me because, you know, I don’t really think of my work as being overwhelmingly shocking or controversial. But there are sometimes naked bodies or whatever expressions of gender that people aren’t totally comfortable with. And because this image had to be presented publicly, it had to sort of make it through the qualifications of what can be printed on a billboard. So there were actually like, multiple versions of this idea of a perfume ad that wound up with this giant nose, that passed the censors, and was publicly displayed in the winter of 2016. That was really fun and exciting. And then it was actually also part of a show in St. Louis, by the same title, where it was just a big print, it’s been part of a Valentine’s zine that I made once. So it’s had a few different iterations and lives before it wound up where it is with you guys.

AA: I mean, I saw it — my friend Will Heinrich, who’s a New York Times art critic sent me that image, no context, just on Instagram. And I immediately stole it and mocked up a cover for us without even really knowing what, you know, what was going to be an issue or what we were even talking about. I just was really attracted to the image and everybody flipped out on the slack and was like, we have to do this, you know. But it actually turned out to be really perfect for the issue because the issue is engaged with all these ideas about tropes — about anti-semitic tropes — and part of the argument that we make in in the editorial that leads the issue is that some of the idea of tropes — or like some of the approach to anti semitism through the deployment of the idea of tropes is a little bit empty, like what do these tropes actually mean? What is their actual content? Did they have different content, when they originated in different contexts, in different countries, in different time periods than they do now? And so, part of what developed was the idea of the nose itself as being a sort of trope without content, especially behind a piece of fabric where the rest of the face is obscured. What does it mean on its own? And I think that we’ve seen a lot of wrestling with that and the responses to the work. I mean, Nathan, Jacob, I don’t know if you guys want to speak to some of the things that we’ve seen thus far.

NG: Yeah, I think it’s been really interesting to see what the response has been because I think we knew when we were all on staff very excited about the image and thought it would work so well for a cover. I think we had a sense of it as provocative in some way, or both aesthetically bold and sort of... that it would provoke a response in some ways. But it’s been interesting to see, I think I’ve at least been, in some ways, surprised by the, by the veracity, and and in some ways by the range of some of the responses. I mean, one of the kinds of responses we’ve seen, has been a kind of, I mean, just to put it bluntly, has been sort of the accusation that the use of the image is anti-semitic, or is in some way, if not accusing us of being anti-semites is in some way self- hating, or a use — a sort of naive Jewish use of imagery that because it exists within a lexicon of anti-semitism is to the benefit of anti-semites or something. One of the most kind of striking responses was a tweet that that redid the cover, but replaced the title of the magazine with Der Stürmer, suggesting that, you know, that it’s an image that would appear in a Nazi magazine. So there’s been this response, one of the prominent responses has been this kind of sense of being angry or upset by the idea of a Jewish magazine doing anything to play with the image or iconography of the nose. Which I think in some ways, it’s a little hard for me to say to what degree is this kind of a response to the use of the image in itself? To what degree is it people who already feel a certain way about the kind of thing we do projecting it? But it is interesting to the latter point, I think interesting, the ways it also ends up segueing or being of a similar kind to the kind of accusations that tend to come up against Jews with particular politics around Israel. This idea of self-hatred or alignment with Nazis or anti-semites.

JP: Yeah, I mean, one of the most interesting things to me about this image, I mean, there was going to be from the beginning a kind of Rorschach relationship of the viewer to an image — in the way that all images, you know, reflect to some degree, the viewer. I mean, that’s far from an original observation. But there’s this very interesting, intense relationship to this picture, that I think the emotional heat of the reactions to it actually lifted the image sort of out of the sort of calm and collected viewer that one might imagine and viewing this photograph, for instance, in a gallery. You know, there was a very different relationship to the thing as appearing under the word Jewish, in Jewish Currents and appearing within an explicitly Jewish context. And there was one fixation that I found to be like, the most interesting thing, which is people were so upset about the pores on this nose —were so upset about the pores — and, and, and reflecting on the how, like, there were so many comments, mostly from self-identifying conservative commentators who dislike us for other for other reasons. But like, wow, this really needs a poor strip, or, you know, can someone get this get this nose a facial. And there’s just this real interest in the nose being ugly. Which is ironic, because, I mean, for a number of reasons it’s ironic — also, first and foremost, because several of us have noses which resemble that nose, you know, and lots of the people who are detracting us have noses that resemble that nose, they resemble it so much that the people who are not, in fact, demographically related in a direct way to the model actually saw their own nose inside the nose. And I just think there was sort of like a spider man meme thing of being like, “Look at this ugly nose. How dare you, you know, while I wear one that’s not dissimilar, you know, on my face?” And just the second thing I want to say is the obsession with the pores, it reminded me of trypophobia, which is the fear that some folks have —

AA: I have that.

JP: — with holes. Okay. I’m curious if you felt that looking at it.

AA: No, I did not.

JP: Okay, because, so trypophobia, for anyone who doesn’t know: some people have a fear and/or revulsion to something that looks like a wasps’ nest, you know, like and image or object with a bunch of holes in it, or a lotus seed pod, which sort of looks like a bunch of eyes on an object. And I just thought there was something interesting and sort of phobic about the pores of the nose as a fixative thing for people’s anxieties and even anger about the picture. Which I think — not to go completely, you know, Frankfurt School or psychological on the image — but what is the hole that they are afraid of? I think there really is a hole that is causing fear in many of the observers, but it’s not the holes in this nose.

NG: Just to add to that, one thing I was struck by in terms of the detail of some of the responses, I felt like I saw a number of people who were sort of upset about the nose hairs that you can see. And in the same way there were, you know, pore strip comments there is this “the model needs to be shaving their nostrils” comment which was interesting to me in two ways, one of which is just — I think one of the things that actually attracted me to the image aesthetically most when Arielle first first brought the image to the staff was the way the interplay of the visible nose hairs and the texture of what appears to be this almost furry texture of the cloth that overlays the face, had this kind of interplay, that really brings out — in one way feels like to me it brings the hairs into contact with the kind of artifice that the cloth is providing and, in the way that Arielle was talking about, the way it frames the nose and sort of removes it from the flesh context and makes it this symbol that feels like the hairs are doing something in regard to that. And on the other hand, it feels like the cloth really serves to highlight the hairs such that it feels really fleshy and alive in this way that feels like it really captures my attention and keeps me invested in the image. And so it was interesting to see the kind of flipside of that reaction in terms of this kind of like gross-out reaction.

AA: Right, just to focus on the bodily revulsion or like —

RS: It really made me think about early on after the election of Donald Trump, when there was this sort of fanfare around the size of his hands or the following critiques of his body, calling him fat, whatever else it is, that to me completely undercuts whatever political argument we’re trying to make. Like, we’re defending trans rights, but commenting on the size of his hands, as if that has some sort of relationship to his success as a masculine figure or a leader. And I really felt that way, when I was reading the comments about this nose, which I photographed in earnest, because it belongs to my most beautiful friend. And, you know, I thought he looked great. I’ve actually never even noticed that the nose looks particularly dirty; maybe that’s an artist thing and everyone I know is covered in schmutz and has pores.

AA: I didn’t think about it either.

NG: No I don’t think so.

RS: And so it was fascinating to me to see this argument that’s sort of like, “You’ve gravely offended me, and I’m going to body shame you right back” or something. Like it didn’t — it doesn’t ring as sort of a well-thought out approach to me.

AA: Well I will also point out that on one side we’re talking about this like gross-out reaction to a feeling of like pore representation, people feeling like we were intentionally presenting a grotesque image to represent Jewishness when I don’t think any of us when we saw the image saw a gross nose or something. But there is also the flip side of that representation. We have at least one person on our staff who really felt like “Oh, this is my nose, this represents me,” you know, and has taken pictures of the cover in front of his nose and stuff like that. And that is another kind of way of relating to this image. Which is also interesting. I didn’t necessarily — I mean, certainly my nose could be in the place of that other nose. But I didn’t necessarily think like, “This is me,” or not me; I really felt like there was a symbology or, you know, a set of ideas that were being evoked without embodiment. So I found the other impulse interesting as well. And I will also note that there were — that I saw, for example, Black Jews online, basically saying, “This image doesn’t represent us; this is an idea of Jewishness, or Jewish physiognomy, which doesn’t take into account our physiognomy.” Which really, to me, also reinforces this Rorschach thing that Jacob was talking about, in the sense that if your experience is one of exclusion, then this image represents exclusion. If your experience is of feeling like an in-group, then your experience of this image is a reinforcement of that. If your experience is one of embattlement around ideas of anti-semitism, that’s your relationship to it. But I think that what is interesting about it is the assumption too that all of that was intended by us. That everybody feels very certain that we were attempting to provoke them in exactly the way that they were provoked by this image. I don’t know, I mean Rachel, you said something when we talked on the phone about it initially when I checked in on you when this whole thing started about the way that people approach photography in particular, and I was hoping you would share a little bit about that.

RS: Yeah, I mean, I think this idea of it being a Rorschach test is really true of most photographs, right. And something that I’ve talked about with this image, and images that I make like this in general, which I’m often sort of, including I’m a part of a body, which is something that photography is inherently, right? It’s cropping, that’s what photography is. That cropping can be exquisitely violent, and it has been. And it can also be the way to honor something or celebrate something, which is certainly not important to me to be true of all photographs. But it happens to be the way that I approach photographing the people in my images, all of my sitters are friends, family members, loved ones; I’m approaching the people I photograph with, yeah, a sense of honor and respect. But I think what’s exciting about photographs is that they then just become images out in the world. And from that experience, we can derive any number of conversations. And obviously, in this case, the context matters a whole lot. So this idea that some people look at this image and feel quite celebrated. Like there was one really beautiful tweet about “My high school self, who was desperate for a nose job feels like so seen in this cover.” And then obviously, people who felt, as we discussed, grossed out or gravely offended. And then there’s also this question about ethnicity, right? And what type of ethnic nose is being presented. And for me that’s where we get to the question of the photograph that is the most exciting and the most compelling, which is that it doesn’t actually matter who that’s a picture of, right? That person happens to not be Jewish, they happen to be mixed race, they happen to have a beautiful nose, like, that’s the situation the picture was made. And then we put that picture out into the world, and suddenly, it becomes a picture about whiteness, which it maybe literally isn’t, but it also can function that way, if that’s how it’s being read. The idea that we had talked about on the phone was this idea that in other types of art, we are able to accept villainy or complexity or slippery-ness or whatever one of those ideas we want to take as being a narrative trope. But let’s think about Lolita as an example, right? Where we can read that book and I don’t think we walk away thinking, “Wow, this protagonist was my guy, good thing this book is out there to celebrate what this guy did.” We read that book and we see it as an obvious critique that’s not doing the work for us, which I think we appreciate as readers.It’s allowing us to come to that critical position through the experience of the artwork, which is reading a novel. I think we can think of any number of movies that function that way. And somehow or another with images, and I think with photographs in particular, because they relate to the real — and you mentioned this, like, “Whose nose is that?” becomes an immediate question. Like, “Which person was selected to be this nose and why?” We are unable to often have that kind of narrative trust, maybe, where we’re expecting to learn something through an artwork and instead want to know what happened and where. It’s something that comes up with my students a lot and we were actually talking about this yesterday: I feel like young people have this terror of the exploitative potentials of photography. Which are very real, but it also completely eclipses the potential of photography to be revolutionary to our own means and an important tool in our own conversations. And it gives all the power to the surveillance potentials and the exploitative potentials and doesn’t embrace its potentials to also forge our own conversations.

NG: That’s so helpful and so interesting to me, and the way that you’re seeing that as this particular feature of a photography Rachel, and really resonates with how I feel like I saw a lot of the response of many people both positively and negatively like they were not treating the cover necessarily as an artwork. Which is interesting, because, I mean, people don’t necessarily know this encountering it in the wild, but all of our covers — the covers of the magazine feature works of art. But I think you’re right, that because of the way it functions as a photograph and maybe in some ways because of the specific subject matter, a lot of people online were assuming or asking — I don’t know how jestingly — if it was a photograph of a member of the staff, which you know, in some ways, obviously plausibly it could be, but that would be a very different thing if we were taking a picture of ourselves to put on the cover, versus putting this work of art. I think what you had said to Rachel about the kind of fear that you are sensing in your students, it feels really interesting to me too — this is outside the context of photography and in the literary medium — but one of the things some of the members of the staff have talked about a little bit, it’s been interesting having this happen at the same time as there’s been a lot of a lot of renewed discourse around Philip Roth, because of the release of this major biography. And so there’s been a lot of reviews and it’s been an occasion to think about him as a figure. And so it’s kind of put me in mind of the particular Jewish communal responses and the relationship of fear to hesitancy around certain aesthetic choices. This reminder of the history with with him as a figure in which there is, in response to his early work, a kind of broad outcry from Jewish institutions, from American rabbis to, like, Gershom Shalom, the scholar of Kabbalah who was living in Israel, about the idea of his work as anti-semitic because of its portrayal of Jews. They felt like, though they’re very different contexts, there was this interesting linkage between that kind of response and even thinking about the way some people are upset about this image now in this kind of fear-based response within a community — meaning of the Jewish community — that can kind of be an inhibition on certain forms of what we might see as transgressive art, or even not particularly, in itself, transgressive art. But we might be surprised about how transgressive it seems, in the way in which there’s this fear of a kind of representation of a quote-unquote anti-semitic image, which even under the most credulous reading of the idea of just the image of a nose next to the word Jewish is anti-semitic. It feels interesting to me that that is a persistent communal response in a moment of such an American context of great Jewish security, especially for white Jews, which obviously is very different even than the moment Roth was working in, which was much closer to a time of great peril for Jews.

AA: I think what’s so interesting about this is that a lot of the attacks on Roth initially at that moment were kind of conservative or establishment attacks. And I don’t think we’ve gotten like a ton of like left-wing attacks. But I do think that there’s been a very notable silence among like some of our kind of usual defenders or people who are the most kind of “with” Jewish Currents on politics who are involved in communal life. It’s sort of significant actually that people who are more on the activist-y Jewish left were kind of quiet about this image and really stayed out of it. It speaks to what Rachel was talking about, about the inherent fear in the students: that because there’s no roadmap to exactly what this image is, because this image is art and not a document of a specific position, then it was hard for people to know whether they should or should not defend it. Like the terms of the debate were not clear enough to basically say, “Well, I’m for this” or “I’m against it,” there was not a lot of — I mean, what really upset me about it is that I didn’t see a lot of confidence on the part of the average viewer to say, like, “I have the tools that I need to interpret this as a work of art and to make a decision for myself about what it means.” And that was really disheartening.

RS: I actually think that’s a really exciting, important point to bring up, which is that so often — so I have, you know, a lot of degrees in art from fancy places. And I think all the time about how what those degrees are was just me investing money and basically getting language and context to alienate people from my work to elevate its value so that I can participate in the art world.

AA: I went to art school, too. So I totally relate.

RS: You know, right? And so, that’s the opposite of what I’m interested in. I always think about, you know, I’m a community college professor, when I think about my ideal audience member, I’m thinking about my students. I want like the work to be accessible to young people, old people, people from art school, people studying, whatever, it doesn’t matter. And I often get this comment that’s like, “Oh, well I don’t know what that’s about, ” if I show work to somebody. And I don’t know, it makes me laugh. I think well, “I don’t know what it’s about. I’m not the audience. It’s about whatever you look at it, you tell me right? Like, it’s for you. I just put it on the wall. You — you can think about it literally whatever you want to think about it. That’s art. That’s what’s happening.” And I had all of these completely other anxieties about the release of the nose. I mean, obviously, I did think that people would find it anti-semitic in some context, that was a foregone conclusion. But I was thinking much more about how I’ve spent the past year of my life hiding my nose. And that if I’m out in public without a mask on, I feel extremely self-conscious. I mean, it’s probably happened once by mistake. And it’s actually a terrifying moment. That image for me, I had this other major context shift where it went from obscuring a face to revealing a nose. In 2016, I was hiding a face to show a nose. And in 2021, it looks like a nose that is defiantly being revealed. So I think that is what images do when they’re at their best, which is to say, shift and mean different things to different people in different contexts. In that sense, the outrage isn’t exciting to me, and I wish people weren’t whatever, racist or bodyphobic or whatever issue they’re having. But I do think I make images to have conversations. So if that’s what’s happening in light of the image, that it’s doing its job.

JP: Well, I just want to latch on to the tools idea, the idea that what’s missing is a set of tools to understand this image. Because I think the problem is worse. I think it’s worse than that. And I actually think that the crisis and sort of, like, painful reaction that people have had to this image and have lots of images isn’t just that there isn’t — that they haven’t read Sontag or something, and aren’t prepared with a sort of equipment of ideas with which to relate to the thing. I think there’s actually a real deep — this exposes, and this to me was one of the most interesting things about this image, it exposes a deep and painful crisis of authenticity, or sense of self-ownership that I think exists among many people, and many people that were reacting to this online. Because for an individual to look at this and feel the ownership of their own retina, necessary to view the thing, react to it, interpret it, and then have some relationship to it. The breakdown I don’t think occurs at the last part where you would be using rhetorical tools, I think it’s actually much closer, scarily, to your retina, to the actual feeling that this thing is coming from outside of you. And that it’s sort of like, it — because of the swirling cloud of connotations of anti-semitism, or whatever, or beauty, in the case of the pores, particularly —

AA: Race.

JP: — race, right. I mean, just this whole cloud of like, this violent cloud of of connotations makes it impossible for a person to literally look at the thing. And that’s a very scary thing. In a Jewish context, we encounter that all the time, not just — and it’s funny, because not just with images, which I do think, as you pointed out, have, if not a unique, then especially powerful ability to provoke or expose this kind of lack of confidence or sort of spiritual emaciation that prevents someone from wrestling with an object — but it happens with all sorts of ideas that that we deal with. I mean, even on the left, there’s a deep resistance to the vulnerability that thought requires. And a fear of a grappling with — not just with the external forces, which are dangerous to us, of which there are many (whoever you are, there are things that are after you, whether it’s your boss, or racist or anti-semites, etc.) — but to engage in the process of actually trying to understand the world so that we may react and change it, that the same kind of emotional and intellectual constipation occurs at the very site of interaction. At the very first step, there’s already a panic attack occurring about the most important topics and this nose, which is, I think, such a — to me also funny — little firecracker, into this thing.

AA: Well, again, and I just think that it hinges on the idea — just to put a really fine point on it — that there is inherent content that is there to be uncovered. And if we just knew what it was, we could respond to it. Just the idea on its own, that this has one specific meaning, and that if we could extract it, we could know what to do with it. Of course a nose doesn’t have, you know — when you say that this nose is anti-semitic, what is the thing that is being pointed to? What is the connection between the nose and some kind of anti-semitic content? Is it just the idea that Jews are ugly? Is that the content in and of itself? And if so, are you conceding that you believe that this is an ugly nose? Once you actually dig into it, there’s no inherent content except a nose behind a velvet screen, if you will. So, anyway.

NG: I think there’s also — I think it’s really interesting and I wonder if there’s thinking of that in combination with some of what Jacob was talking about: if there’s a kind of almost displacement of the viewer in some ways. It’s interesting, because it feels like part of part of the accusation of putting the nose on Der Stürmer — and I feel like this is something that comes up with like the cartoonist Eli Valley, who is someone who publishes with us a lot and who gets these kinds of accusations often as a Jewish cartoonist for his often very self-consciously grotesque caricature representations of mostly right-wing Jewish figures — there’s this idea that’s like, “Even if I, the viewer, am not saying this is anti-semitic, I think anti-semites could use this,” or something. Or it might — there’s this kind of imagined viewership, which is interesting because it both seems like, in some ways, a reasonable thing to think about, as you’re confronting an image, to think about: What are the uses and misuses? What are the ways it can travel in the world and become a different thing? What are its various possible meanings in the world? All of that seems valid and interesting to think about. But it also feels like it can function as a kind of displacement of part of what Jacob was talking about the act of like, “Well, what do I think about this?” To say, like, well “I’m actually only reacting to this in terms of what I am going to surmise others might think about it or do with it.” And I think there’s a much softer version of that, which may be as inevitable in some ways, that I feel is common to feel interpreting works of art, which is a kind of displacement into a communal reaction in terms of: What’s the right way to fall on whether this is good or bad, or appropriate or not appropriate? And I think one thing that’s often hard to navigate, and maybe feels like a potentially or a particularly difficult to navigate thing in the contemporary context and on the left is how to negotiate between a responsibility to make up your own mind or have your own reaction in response to a thing and mediate that through what you imagine a general reaction would be. Which is also not to say that, I guess at least I think that we should rely only on our own reactions. Because part of the work of what’s interesting about communal conversations, and criticism, and criticism from perspectives that are not our own is being able to complicate and enhance our own interpretive abilities with other possibilities. But the model of that kind of ideal critical community feels very different, obviously, than a kind of total abdication of the responsibility to say, “I’m going to wrestle with this and come out with something about what I think about it.” I would also just say, I think it’s okay to say, if people were looking at the image and saying, like, “This makes me feel fear,” or “This makes me feel like bad in some way,” or “This makes me feel like — it feels to me like this is actually a harmful image in some kind of way,” that’s okay, too. We’re not saying — I don’t think any of us in this conversation is saying those feelings should not be a part of it. It’s more about recognizing that feeling and trying to understand it, and trying to understand why a certain image creates that feeling. That’s the process of engaging with art, you know.

JP: Yeah, we’re not saying, “Love the nose, or else.” That is not the only reaction — we’re saying, “Be alive with us.” That’s what we’re saying, “Just be, and exist—” It’s not even as simple as saying, “Have a conversation with us.” There are ways of communication that are not just like, a round table or whatever about the nose. But there’s this fear, so much fear that gets displaced on these things that in our current context, for reasons that I don’t feel like I totally understand, seems for a lot of people expressible only in a kind of Christian hegemonic denouncement, you know, a condemnation of the sinful act of whatever that is, whether it’s putting a nose on a magazine or

AA: Sounds like you’re talking about cancel culture, Jacob.

JP: [Laughs] Yeah, you know, I guess so, a power-blind cancel culture anyway.

RS: As a person who makes stuff, though, that’s an interesting thing — and that’s just kind of what I was talking about before with the assumption of a positive intent within a photograph. But there’s this space, I think, where artists are put in a position where we have to be sort of moral experts in the production of our artworks. And I’m not saying that we’re not responsible; you can hurt people with art, that’s real. I’m not saying that’s not. There have been lots of irresponsibly made artworks. But I also think that, like, I am an expert in photography; I am not an expert in in geopolitics, in morals, in any particular history. I am an artist, that is the thing that is my expertise. And so, what I put into that work is just about me as a person, and I am a fallible being and I am wrong about a lot and I use my work as a way to learn about the world and engage in these very conversations that we’re talking about. And I just love art for that same reason. That’s why I like looking at art, because it tells something about how people have felt about the world — to your point, Jacob, about “Just be alive,” it’s just there, they are documents, but not of a particular person behind the curtain necessarily, more so of a way that we’ve felt or seen the world with all of our best intentions and all of our worst fallacies. That’s all in the photograph. And so, yeah, I wish that audiences were empowered to say, “I disagree, and here’s why,” instead of “No photograph, no conversation.” The point is to have the conversation.

AA: I think we’re getting close to the end here. But I did want to talk about one more thing that happened around this, Rachel, because you did just bring up the potential for harm in the photograph. And also the specificity of the model. So we did have a conversation, — there were some concerns that came up, even, among the staff, when we — when the entirety of the staff found out that this was actually not a Jewish and not a white person’s nose — about whether — about how the person, for example, felt about being in a different context, or being racialized in a different context. Also about basically whether that person should have been or should be tagged in to any social media, for example. There was sort of a concern about: if we have information from outside of the frame, if we start to bring in information that like isn’t intended by the author of the photograph, where does that leave us? And I just wanted to give you an opportunity to talk a little bit about that, if you have anything you wanted to say about it.

RS: Yeah, I mean, it actually ties back into this idea of how an audience is reading the image. And it’s been so interesting to me that — I mean, I’m also not on Twitter, but I haven’t heard like a peep about the cover. Not one little whisper has found its way to me, which really means that the conversation is stopping at “magazine cover” and not penetrating into “artwork.” It doesn’t — like, my ego is fine. That doesn’t bother me in any way. But I do think there’s an interesting thing there, which then also leads to this idea that who this person is, as a question, is a hot topic, but the answer to the question is not worth uncovering. My model — I think it feels like it’s a picture from half a decade ago that is his nose. And that’s it. I think there’s something sort of funny to him that he’s become this hot topic, but I also honestly just don’t think he’s overwhelmingly interested. I think it’s kind of not — I don’t think he feels like a piece of his body is on the cover of the magazine. And that’s actually, you know, it’s a different conversation. But I make a lot of self-portraiture and feel very similarly. Like, I am a relatively self-conscious human being, and I feel completely that any picture of me anywhere is kind of fine. Maybe I would feel differently about a snapshot than like something I made in the studio, but there’s some sort of space in that that is a disconnect. So it hasn’t been — it’s been more, for me, a fascinating exercise in the journey of an image through other people’s minds. So, seeing people recreating the image to celebrate their own nose, or recreating the cover to compare it to Nazi propaganda, or things I don’t even understand, which is why I’m not on Twitter. But I feel like a lot of the criticisms I’ve been like, “I don’t know what that means.” It hasn’t really come back to the individual in a very resonant way, which is also interesting. I think he felt the same way about the billboard. I think he wasn’t like, “My nose is on a billboard.” I think he was like, “My friend Rachel has a billboard project.” So.

AA: Well I think we’ve kind of done the thing. Have we done it? What do you guys think?

NG: Yeah.

AA: Alright.

JP: Thank you, Rachel.

AA: Thank you, Rachel. And if you’re listening to this, thanks for joining us on this journey into Jewish Currents audio.

End Credits: Can’t get enough Jewish Currents? Keep in touch with us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. And visit jewishcurrents.org to subscribe and see our latest. A very special thanks to Nathan Salsburg for providing us with the music from his album “Landwerk No. 2” and to Santiago Helou Quintero for producing this segment. Thanks for listening. That’s all from us.

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