An Invitation to Shed Some Ego Peel
(Originally published in Hebrew; Translated by Tal Haran)
In the space of the Petach Tikva Museum of Art, amongst works exhibited under the title “Set in Motion”, seven dancers form a circle, looking at each other in the eye. As the circle breaks up they enlace their hands with those of people in the audience and draw them into a new, larger circle, and to more circles being created. Then they send the spectators away from the circle and continue to communicate through movement, playing/acting, pantomime, yelling, singing, howling, whining and silence; at times wild and sensual, at others distanced and cold.
For a moment they seem to tear at their own bowels and slash the space with a scream or a frantic run, then for a moment they move as if mutely illustrating gestures (a wide-open mouth, a hand closed in a fist, a muscular arm). The transitions into the different modes of expression are jumpy, sudden and jagged. Just as a certain direction begins to form, it is unraveled suddenly, unformed and transformed. The gesture to invite identification with the dance, like rejection of it, is intense, swift and spiky.
The beginning of “Climax”, Yasmeen Godder’s work performed by her group, hints at the movement that would take place for the following three hours, typified by de- and re-construction. In the museum space, “works will be performed, created by choreographers for the first time to be shown in a museum space, as well as by visual artists for whom dance is a means of personal reflection or action in the community context” (Drorit Gur-Arye and Avi Feldman commenting on the exhibition). The space also contains objects from some of Godder’s previous works (a transparent room on which text is written in blood, an animal mask made of fur, a furry animal whose belly is slashed open, and out of which bowels made of soft material and beads hang out). The sound echoing in the space during the performance is a mixture of the various sounds used in works shown throughout the space.
The spectator is invited to an exhausting viewing that will not enable any kind of escape inside some dark, still, soft-seated hall to some enchanted, fantastic or other kind of world. In this work, the audience – body and gaze – chases the dancer moving from one place to another, alternately standing and sitting on the floor, body odor, sweat and breath exuding at a range that breaks the habitual safe comfort zone. The spectator views the dancer, all the while being the object of close observation by dancer’s gaze, at times even his touch.
The viewer-viewed model is shaken and power and control relations between the onlooker and the looked-upon blur. Object-subject identities collapse into each other and the spectator turns from subject into object, just as does the dancer. Dividing lines that have become blurred between the static artistic object and the dynamic subject-object lead one to and awareness “that shifts emphasis from the object to its performance and performer: namely, to the creative process taking place here and now as well as to the creator-subject him/herself”. This collapse forces the viewer to confront his own sense of unease, in both mind and body, startled at times by the dancers’ yells, fearing their imposed closeness and restless as a result of the intense dynamism and deconstruction of habitual modes of representation.
An Invitation to Shed Some Ego Peel
From its onset, the performance hints to the spectator that not only an aesthetic movement experience is to be expected, but that oneself will have to be confronted as a peel of one’s own ego might be shed, just as the choreographer has surrendered the exclusivity of her work and negotiated with a space of images, sounds and other works. Thus too her dancers, whose multiple identities, their splitting and changing expose and deconstruct the illusion of a unified, linear and consequent “I”.
Evidently the Godder company’s modes of action lie in the dimensions of the (physical-sensual-experiential) semiotic and the symbolic (structures and sign systems that serve as a basis for a social order). Julia Kriesteva argues that the interaction of these dimensions is a necessary condition for possibilities of signification and significance. The interaction of semiotic and symbolic promises the constitution of society and its symbols, while subverting them at the same time.
The dance work “Climax” aspires towards structure and order which anti-structure and chaos invade and erode. The spectator’s coping with extreme shifts, dynamism and superfluous “noise” is helped by the way the dancers bond with each other. The pleasure they sense from their body and movement and their human ties are the anchor on which one may rely throughout the swift and spiky shifts among pain, death, joy, wildness and sensuality.
In the second part of the work, the dancers stand in a row. For a moment there is a sense of order having been restored as the dancers move one after the other in linear sequence. However, suddenly chaos reigns, bodies swirl and an image emerges of a single body with numerous limbs. This state, however, does not last long, as from the line couples break off of which a male body is carried by a female one, a male body lies on the floor as a female body flails over it in heart-beat rhythm, men are led and dead-like women’s bodies turn in an instant into feline animals licking their wounds as a soundless shriek fills the space. Couples lie, moving as if masturbating on the floor close to the spectator. The couples unite into a trembling horizontal clump reminiscent of helpless animal cubs, becoming a vertical bunch of dancers. Towards the end of the work, the audience follows the dancers as they scatter through the museum spaces, and forms a funeral-like procession towards the breathing death.
“Climax” seems to be dedicated to the small, un-heroic body. The perfect, ideal body which we idolize morphs into the living-dead body, sweating, vibrating, trembling, breathing, masturbating, warped and animalistic. The dance does not celebrate the hierarchical-binary values that are at the core of western society, such as the male/female body, strong/weak, beautiful/ugly, but rather the vibrating that lives in between. The combination of live and still art and the white square, and the moving, howling, wallowing and licking dancers is a thrilling experience that nourishes the soul with it darkness, an experience created by the vision and daring of Yasmeen Godder and her group and of Drorit Gur-Arye, the museum’s director who created a unique, radical, groundbreaking, inspiring event that instills hope.
Curators of “Set in Motion”: Drorit Gur-Arye and Avi Feldman
Choreography: Yasmeen Godder
Dancers: Dalia Chaimsky, Shuli Enosh, Dor Frank, Yuli Kovbasnian, Uri Shafir, Edu Turull Montells and Ofir Yudilevitch
Dr. Orna Oryan is an artist, lectures on contemporary art and creative education at Sapir College and the Kibbutzim Teachers College, and facilitates workshops in combined arts. She has written Your Body’s Blood published by Resling.
 Dror Harari, Performance of the Self, Performance Art and Representation of the Self, Resling, 2014, p. 26 (Hebrew)
 Julia Kriesteva, “Revolution in Poetic Language” in Kelly Oliver (ed.), The Portable Kriesteva, New York: Columbia University Press, 1997