YOU DON'T HAVE
TO DO A THING
Video portraits on multiple synchronized TV screens. 2017
03:15 minuets, Loop
In this work, my aim was to delve into the intrinsic subconscious layer of various individuals who constitute a diverse intercultural population.
Over two years, I conducted a video experiment near the Old City of Jerusalem. Individuals from different backgrounds were invited to participate and were filmed while listening to three traditional prayers. While many believed they had remained still, their bodies unconsciously responded, revealing genuine emotions in response to the audio—approval, rejection, smiles, and tension.
The result is a series of vertical video portraits on synced TV screens displaying the simultaneous reactions of different participants to prayers, without supplying any information regarding their background. Each screen captures unique expressions, inviting viewers to engage in in both individual examination as well as a comprehensive view of the video portraits.
Click to enlarge
Exhibition at Casula Powerhouse Arts Center, Sydney, Australia. 2018
Current exhibition at MUZA Museum, Tel Aviv. September 2021 - November 2022
The Work Process
What constitutes the emotional and conceptual perception of different residents and civilians living within a complex and tense intercultural and interreligious environment? In this project, I aim to delve into the intrinsic subconscious layer of various individuals who make up the diverse intercultural population of the Jerusalem area today.
The inspiration for this artwork stems from the dramatic and, at times, tense and unfavourable reactions I received to an earlier work that featured familiar religious scenes. These diverse emotional responses surprised me in their intensity, and prompted me to explore the influence of preconceived notions related to cultures, religions, and historical, political, and cultural contexts on our consciousness, emotions, and behaviour.
Following this experience, I wished to capture such reactions with my camera to further observe, document, and examine these questions and the underlying theme. Thus, over the course of two years, I conducted a video experiment near the Old City of Jerusalem, a city renowned for its interfaith character. I frequently visited the area near Jerusalem's New Gate, one of the gates leading to the Historical Old City, and invited residents
and visitors from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds to participate in my short art project. I informed them that they would be filmed while listening to sounds, without revealing the content of the sounds they will encounter.
I invited the ones who agreed to a nearby studio for individual sessions. In these sessions, each person sat alone in a dark space facing a camera with a single instruction in line with the project's name: 'You Don't Have to Do a Thing.' They were only asked to sit in the chair for a few minutes and listen to an audio track. They were then filmed as recordings of traditional Christian, Muslim, and Jewish prayers played in the background, while I refrained from any interference. Afterward, I conducted a brief interview with each participant to learn about their background and gain their approval for participation.
Although many participants believed they remained still and didn't move, their bodies naturally responded to the emotions they experienced, without them noticing. Through gestures of approval, rejection, smiles, boredom, tension, or grins, their body language unveiled deep, authentic, and uncontrollable layers of hidden emotions.
The result is a series of distinct vertical video portraits displayed on multiple synchronized TV screens, portraying the participants' reactions to each prayer simultaneously, with one identical soundtrack. Each screen showcases the unique facial expressions and bodily gestures captured during each individual's session, allowing for both a comprehensive view of the collection as well as the ability to examine them individually and intimately.
Viewers are provided with no information about the background of the participants, who could be Muslims, Christians, Jews, or individuals with mixed or complex religious backgrounds and upbringings, making any specific affiliation impossible and allowing for various interpretations. As most participants are secular, their reactions to the religious sounds speak more to their connection with cultural or national groups associated with these religions, rather than the religions themselves.
The information about the participants' origins is intentionally obscured in several ways. First, many participants share a similar physical appearance. Second, apart from a general explanation, viewers do not receive specific details about any participant, such as their name or origin. Another crucial choice was to include participants with complex or mixed religious backgrounds, like individuals with parents who each practice a different religion or someone who grew up in a family of one religion while studying in a country and a school closely affiliated with another. This multicultural background leads to responses to religious sounds that are more intricate, with some participants expressing similar reactions to multiple religions or exhibiting complex and unexpected responses through the soundtrack.
By blurring these details, the artwork prevents viewers from associating each participant with a particular community. It strips away layers of religious, national, and ethnic affiliation, emphasizing the human aspect and commonality among everyone. At this deeper human level, uncontrolled subconscious reactions and emotions are exposed, transcending our defence mechanisms. A new common denominator emerges, revealing the fragile, reactive nature of our subconscious being.
Finally, as a collection, these portraits unveil a deeper subconscious layer within the complexity and challenges of intercultural and interreligious coexistence, revealing the tangled and sometimes contradictory fabric of thoughts and feelings that may be difficult to express in words in these intricate situations.
14 different participants, 1:50 minuets
Simulation of three screens in full length, 3:00 minuets
2021 - 2023 “FOTOMENTA no 1 - 2021”, MUZA Museum, Tel Aviv, Israel
2020 Vienna Jewish Film Festival, Vienna, Austria (screening)
2019 “Jerusalem: A self-Portrait”, Museum On The Seam, Jerusalem
“Ceremonies”, FOTOGALERIE WIEN, Vienna, Austria
“Futures/Intersections”, Photography Symposium, Nida, Lithuania
2018 Casula Powerhouse Arts Center, Sydney, Australia
2017 ENCONTROS DA IMAGEM Photography festival, Braga, Portugal
Israel Photo Festival, Tel Aviv, Israel
LOFT project ETAGI, Saint Petersburg, Russia
One-channel video exhibition, FOTOGALERIE WIEN, Vienna, Austria. 2019
Photo by Michael Michlmayr