Eli Valley vs. The Sway Machinery at JOE'S PUB


cartoon by Eli Valley

The Foundation for Jewish Culture and The Forward present “Eli Valley vs the Sway Machinery in the Temple of Self Hatred” with special guests Girls In Trouble previewing their new CD, a reading from the winner of the Goldberg Prize for Jewish Fiction by Emerging Writers and other guests and surprises. The event will be held on Monday, November 2, 2009 at 7PM at Joe’s Pub.

Eli Valley, maker of mind-bending comics, teams up with Jeremiah Lockwood and The Sway Machinery, makers of mind-bending melodies, for an evening of neurotic superheroes, paranoid turtles, memories, music and mayhem.  Valley’s work has brought back a marauding sensibility to The Forward, the landmark Jewish newspaper formed in 1897 as a bulwark of secular Jewish culture in America.  The Sway Machinery has reinvented and reinvigorated cantorial melodies for a post-punk age.  Together, they play off each other like a rabbi and cantor of a synagogue on the other side of sanity.  Watch them mix and mash styles, share personal stories and narrate comics to a live, avant-semitic soundtrack, bringing a kinetic new spin to contemporary Jewish culture.

Girls in Trouble is the songwriting debut of multi-instrumentalist Alicia Jo Rabins, who performs all vocals, guitar parts and string sections for the album. Alicia marries her classical training and folk-punk sensitivity to her penchant for Jewish literature, mysticism and history. The result: pop hooks grounded in experimentation, subtle musicianship and a taste for ruminative lyrics.

Tickets are $15 and are available online at joespub.com, by phone at 212-967-7555 or in person at The Public Theater Box Office (425 Lafayette Street) Tues-Sat from 1:00pm to 7:30pm; Sun + Mon from 1:00pm to 6:00pm


The image above  is taken from one of Eli Valley’s comics commenting on Paul Buhle’s scholarly work Jews and American ComicsIn context, it is meant to humorously illustrate Buhle’s assertions about the European origins of the Jewish American comedic sensibility. Out of context it is a multivalent satire – both a representation of Valley’s personal comic sensibility and a comment on Jewish self-hatred. It is meant to amuse, attract attention and engage, hopefully spur curiosity among the target audience – young people – and entice them to come to the performance. The image, in a single panel, manages to engage many of the themes that Eli Valley explores in the performance.

“Eli Valley vs. the Sway Machinery in the Temple of Self-Hatred” is a humorous and moving statement on contemporary Jewish identity. Valley is the son of a rabbi, Lockwood the grandson of a cantor. They are staging the piece in such a way as to reference the interchange between these two roles. More significantly, Valley uses this presentational forum to explore his family history of coming from a house divided between religion and secularism, between piety and irreverence. For Valley, comic books became the artistic medium through which he explores this conflict. And by exploring the history of comic books he explores himself, deconstructing and re-contextualizing Jewish self-hatred as he examines his own relationship to his Judaism.

Both Valley and Lockwood see their Jewish heritage as a wellspring of meaning and a cornerstone of identity. At the same time they struggle to make it their own, to bring Judaism into the framework of their expressivity, to add to the ongoing conversation that is Jewish culture in a profound, personal and meaningful way.

The image and the performance are not intended to offend but to provoke questions, invite response and encourage dialogue. Valley’s fiercely intelligent satire is tempered with a human, moving and compassionate sensibility. His work, by intertwining personal narrative and public commentary, is a generational statement embodying Jewish pride tempered with ambivalence. Like all great artists he articulates the personal in a way that invites the audience to empathize and identify publicly; in so doing he creates opportunity for real, transformative change.

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