Simon Glass

Tohu Vebohu, 2002

Tohu Vebohu is a suite of seven giclee prints, 19”x38”, with 23.5k gold leaf. Each print shows the image of a dead bird on a gold ground and one letter of the seven letter phrase Tohu Vebohu. This ancient Hebrew phrase is often translated “unformed and void”. It refers to the earth in a state of chaos. In all of the Torah (the five books of Moses) and the writings of the Prophets (as seen by the Jewish religion) these words occur together twice, once in the book of Genesis (1:2) where they refer to the earth in an incomplete state during creation and again much later in Jeremiah (4:23) where they occur in a prophetic vision of the earth in a state of destruction.

The word tohu has the same root as the word meaning chasm or abyss. The first letter of the word, tuv, is the last letter of the alphabet and so relates to a teleology. The word bohu (ve is a prefix meaning ‘and’) appears not to share a root with any other Hebrew words. This has led it to be considered a nonce term, coined to rhyme with tohu. Its first letter, bet, is the first letter of the Torah, usually taken to be concerned with a beginning. The two letters heh symbolize the presence of God. The other three characters in these two words are the letter vuv. In scripture, the letter vuv is often employed to reverse the tense of a verb, changing it from past to future or vice versa, refering again to ending and beginning.

In this suite, the little disaster of the dead bird is juxtaposed with a symbol of the divine. How do we find meaning in the wake of disaster?