If Ever Before From Far Away You Heard My Voice - And Listened[i]
Shoshanah Ciechanowski’s works engage with words that become structures by way of movement, rhythm, and sound. The piece take shape through a performative action that produces a sacred space, one that has its own rules.
The exhibition was inspired by language, culture, identity, and nationality. The conversations, which were a central part of the collaboration, have led them to focus on actions that involve ritual and prayer.
The exhibition relates to the time in which it is held – the Hebrew month of Elul, the month of mercy and forgiveness – and consists of five separate pieces. Each piece represents a letter, which together form the Hebrew word סליחה – Forgiveness. The arrangement of the works on the Artist’s Wall offers a route that allows introspection and private reading.
The piece The Round Line represents the letter that opens the exhibition – ס – a closed, circular letter, with no beginning or end. This piece was created via a performative action in which the artist’s hands examined the boundaries of her body, serving as a compass. Later, the line of the circle was incised. This monotone action gave the shape a new structure, which calls the ס to open itself to change, and is conducive to clearing one’s mind, allowing the artist to be fully present in the moment.
The second letter is ל, associated with learning that comes about in the wake of a change. This letter is represented in the video work Listen, accompanied by a text by the Mediaeval poet Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179). The ל invites us to listen to the story, and in Hebrew Gematria – to the heart that “getteth knowledge.” The knowledge is between emotion and the intellect, connecting both worlds.
The next piece, שֹׁלֶם | Reconciliation is a porcelain cast hand, which stands for the letter י. The smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet. The piece alludes to the age of innocence, childhood, gesturing the common children’s reconciliation sign.
The next piece, Chet, stands for the letter ח, life. With is stable legs, it allows a respite before the Epicenter, the last piece. In this piece, which stands for the letter ה, the artist repeatedly writes the word הוויה – being – over and over again, writing with two hands at the same time. In this performative action, the word acts as the mind’s means of expression, and the body as an emotional means of communication, portraying a state of being in which everything exists simultaneously, like a seismograph of a changeable moment. The act of drawing, like any action, requires full presence in the moment, in the present. The word exists as a formal fabric, undergoing transformation from content to shape, a reminder that content often changes while the shape lasts.
[i] Sappho, I Have Not Had One Word From Her, 7th century BCE.