Being There: about my traumatic subjectivity

By figuring memory in “trauma art” as lived and felt in relation to a whole series of interconnected events and political forces, rather than as embodied in an atomized subject, we are able to move trauma into a distinctive political  framework. Instead of seeing trauma as a condition we might mimic or appropriate from an aesthetic standpoint, or analyzing the appeal of traumatic subjectivity… we might now begin to plot this mode of subjectivity on a larger global picture. (Bennett, 2005, p. 18)

Being There is a three-piece video series. The videos are a non-specific representation of an identity that is at the same time personal and political, foreign and local, present and absent. The footage is shot at several locations in Ireland and Israel, two countries in which I have specific interest.

The machinery of the world as community has, then, its basis in a humanitas that must be educated into willing harmony, rather than dwelling in the infectious, ghastly, terrible, and immane features of the misguided multitude. Ultimately, the interest of everyone… is to limit self-interest in favor of the interests of the public weal; this will oil the machinery of community spirit. (Khanna, p. 117, 2009)

In the three videos there is a depiction of real life moments when the routine act, such as those that make the base layer of each video, are disturbed; moments of sudden shifts in focus, when thoughts appear to remind one of the dissonance between identity and presence: This is not where I am from, these are not my problems, but how can I ignore them? Am I truly part of this community? How could I distance myself from my home and its problems? What should worry me first? It could be said that these questions ask how much of my self-interest can shift when I relocate from the community which forms a part of my identity? The identities found in the project, both political and personal ones, are hidden in the layered content of each piece. It is my own identity, as well as the viewer’s, that is being touched upon through inserts of sound and visual references to personal moments and cultural elements that create the complexity of the relationship between an individual and the community.

Scream-walking is the first piece in the series, which portrays my bare feet walking on a Dublin footpath, overlaid by a stream of text originating from newspapers published during the week of the video’s production. Each foot is layered with one country’s News “feed”, one in Hebrew and the other in English. As in all the pieces in the project, the sound in this video is as meaningful as the visual, giving a weight to the images and fine tuning the atmosphere of the piece. The audio is a remixed, re-edited track by Gaelic Doom Metal band, Mael Mordha, which is low in tones, and its editing into a  distorted and fragmented soundtrack destabilises the viewer’s perception of the otherwise clear composition of the visual elements.

A 1-minute version of this piece:

In the second piece, Swallowed the footage of the feet sinking in the sea sand was shot during a visit at a sunny and sandy beach on the south coast of Ireland, a somewhat rare occasion. The other footage was shot on the Jaffa coastal boardwalk, in between a Jewish wedding ceremony and a Muslim Muezzin’s call for prayer. The soundtrack is a mix between the sound of the waves from both locations, mixed with the sometimes overwhelming sound of the religious ceremonies. While in the first video the culture and politics interfered with the routine and demolished its flow, in this piece they are an inseparable portion of the identity constructed in the moving image. The sense of alarm communicated by the interference of the feet footage is complementing while clashing with that of the calmness possible when standing on a beach, sinking in the sand.

A 1-minute version of this piece:

The third piece, Counting Steps, currently under production,   is in some sense a post-process video, bringing sentiments that came up in regard to the impact of the other pieces, in particular in short conversations with Israeli emigrants who reside in other countries. More than the other pieces, this video comprises directed, indoors footage, with layered text which acts as a stream of consciousness, taken from the texts I wrote in the various dialogues about this project with other Israelis. This video challenges one’s ability to feel at home when home is away, when communication is often long-distance, and the way of presenting the self to an outside crowd often entails adopting an appropriate role out of the local array of characters. Being at home becomes a learned skill, the obvious becomes surprising and the comforting confrontational.

A 1-minute version of this piece:

The investigation that led to the production of this series is of my ability to belong to political and social circumstances and allow them to belong to me. Am I the identity of my cultural origins or is it part of my identity, and how is the size of the portion determined? Can one detach from their origin? Is it possible to remain detached from the society within which you live as a foreigner? Does your reading of politics shift when you change your geographic location? These issued are being raised by a foreigner who chooses her status, not a refugee or an immigrant’s child, they are an internal echo of my everyday actions in Ireland and of political and creative discourse I involve with both in Ireland and in Israel.

The one-minute long versions were originally created and edited as submissions to an online portion of an art project, Toothache Duets, and are/will be paired-up with other moving image work on the project’s website:

Scream Walking’s duet entitled paperman:

http://www.toothacheduets.com/01-06-13-paperman

Swallowed duet entitled Swallowed in Picheleira:

http://www.toothacheduets.com/21-9-swallowed-in-picheleira

Counting Steps duet entitled oriental steps:

http://www.toothacheduets.com/17-08-13-oriental-steps

The project’s website:

http://www.toothacheduets.com/

Bibliography

Bennett, J. (2005) Empathic Vision: Affect, trauma, and contemporary art. Stanford, CA: Standford University Press

Khanna, R. (2009) ‘Technologies of Belonging: Sensus Communis, Disidentification’, in: Hinderliter, B. et al. (Eds.) Communities of Sense: rethinking aesthetics and politics. Durham & London: Duke University Press, pp. 111-132

Mael Mordha’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/maelmordhaofficial?ref=stream

Toothache Duets Project Website: http://www.toothacheduets.com/

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