Sea Level, 2010-2019

 

Sea Level is a body of work that explores notions of simultaneity and translation, particularly metaphorical meaning that gets lost through poetry translation.

I began working with these ideas in 2013, through a series of studio performances for the camera that were inspired by the poetry of Yehuda Amichai, and how the Judean desert and the Dead Sea, has been expressed in his poetry.  In these photographic works, I re-choreographed movement and gestures into constructed sequences. These works explore notions of topography, history of place, and poetry through objects, performance for the camera, and photography.


Amichai's poetry has inspired me since childhood, and his work became an influence on my work over the years. The particular aspects of his work are how Amichai utilized archeological and topological elements in his love metaphor and the way he applied sacred sources to modern poetry.  Amichai’s poetry has been translated into over 40 languages. However, It is known that his use of words and his rich metaphors are challenging to translate. His “Dazzling play on words”, causes meanings to disappear through translation. Amichai expressed his connection and love to the Judean desert and the Dead Sea in many of his poems, through metaphysical expressions, and the imagination of sight and location through the spirit. He was described as a “philosopher-poet in search of a post-theological humanism”.    In his poetry book Now and in Other Days, published in 1955  1974,  he wrote Once Great Love, a short poem that to me, emphasizes this mis-translation.   In this poem, Amichai poetically utilizes the term Sea-level to describe the vision and longing for his loved one. 

 

Once a great love cut my life in two.

The first part goes on twisting

at some other place like a snake cut in two.

The passing years have calmed me

and brought healing to my heart and rest to my eyes.

And I'm like someone standing in the Judean desert, looking at a sign:

'Sea Level'

He cannot see the sea, but he knows.

Thus I remember your face everywhere

at your 'face Level.'  

 

Along the drive from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea and Judea Desert, there are blue signs made of ceramic tiles along the curves of the mountains. These topographic signs mark the above and below sea level.   Another interesting meaning that is lost through translation is the term Sea level itself, as in Hebrew, that term pronounced as גובה פני הים, meanings the altitude of the face of the sea, which is different from Sea Level, and in Hebrew, it personifies the sea, giving the sea a human character.  When I think about Sea level, I think about base-line.  It is something that found you or ground you.


In March 2019, I returned to the Dead Sea to create a performance video that deals with notions of liminality, in-betweenness, simultaneity, and the perception of place, memory, and identity. Several aspects of spatial and topographical rearrangement are explored, with the intention to reference tangible traces of memory and time within the landscape. The place has dramatically changed over the years, as a result of the growing water shortage.  The movement and changes to the area are bold and apparent from both traveling along the desert, as well as by looking at various topological maps of the region that show radical changes in a short period.

 

In the fall of 2019, I traveled to the Sahara desert, my ancestral land and where my parents were born, to document the desert and to create another video performance that was a reiteration of the performance I created earlier that year at the Dead Sea. In both performances, I was interested to explore notions of place in relation to self.   Upon return to Canada, I created a short film of about 4 minute, that merges both places and performances into utopian imaginary new place. The video work shows the topological similarities of two different deserts that are connected in my personal history. The grainy quality in the film is intentional, and mostly untouched as these climate conditions are situated in both places, the Sahara desert and the Judean desert.  In the film, I am interested in exploring a particular quality of movement vocabulary that is less immediately apparent. The aesthetic of the movement is in relation to other static elements in space, such as metal posts and the blue strip that flatter towards south along with the water direction, and in relation to the body in the horizon. The video work is as much about the language of painting as it is about performance for the camera. The monumental landscapes with the act of being a body in space, the minimal composition and other elements are within the frame. The movement and changes in the water express these changes that we are witnessing when comparing topological maps over time.