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Video portraits on multiple screens. 2017

03:15 minuets, Loop

This video experiment documents people’s reactions to sounds associated with the three major cultures and religions in Jerusalem today. 

During its creation, I approached people from a wide range of cultural backgrounds and asked them to participate in a short experiment. Each person that agreed sat in a dark room and listened to a similar soundtrack of three well known religious prayers, while I filmed her/his physical reactions. I later conducted a short interview with each one to learn about their background and approve their participation. 

In the final installation, the video portraits are displayed on multiple vertical screens and are played in sync, with one identical soundtrack. The viewers receive no information regarding the background of the participants, who may be Muslims, Christians, Jews or individuals with a mixed or complex religious background and upbringing. 

While many of the participants were unaware that they were making any gestures during the experiment, their bodies displayed visible physical responses. These reactions reveal a deeper subconscious layer of their complex and at times contradictory fabric of thoughts and feelings, that perhaps could not have been expressed in words.


As a collection, these responses of fear, surprise, approval or rejection, reflect the complexity of inter-cultural life the the challenges of inter-religious co existence. The spontaneous set of reactions of rejection or approval, which appear in almost every video, create a new common denominator that ties together individuals defined by diverse identities.

Installation View
Click to enlarge

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Exhibition at Casula Powerhouse Arts Center, Sydney, Australia. 2018

THING New exhibition 19.10.22_3000px.jpg

Current exhibition at MUZA Museum, Tel Aviv. September 2021 - November 2022

The Work Process

The work You Don't Have To Do A Thing explores the various reactions that people have to sounds associated with their own as well as others’ cultures and religions.


The idea for this artwork was inspired by the reactions I have received to an earlier work that included religious scenes. These diverse dramatic and emotional reactions which I have witnessed led me to consider the extent to which preconceived ideas related to cultures and religions as well as to historical, political and cultural contexts exert their power on our consciousness and drive our emotions and behavior.


My work is created at the heart of Jerusalem, a city that is largely defined by its interfaith character. Over the course of two years, I came regularly to the area near Jerusalem’s New Gate, one of the gates leading into the Historical Old City, and asked residents and visitors of diverse cultural and religious backgrounds to participate in my art project. The people who were approached were told that they would be filmed while they listened to sounds, without knowing in advance what these sounds would be.


People who responded positively were then invited to a nearby studio for individual sessions, during which each person sat alone in a dark space facing a camera. They were told they don't have to do a thing but sit on 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.

The result is a series of distinctive video portraits in a vertical format, which depicts the unique set of bodily gestures captured during each individual’s session. The videos are displayed on a series of TV screens, allowing for a closer and intimate examination of their uncontrolled gestures and reactions, revealing a wide range of feelings such as fear, surprise, approval or rejection.The screens are synced, thus presenting simultaneous reactions to the same sounds. 


The participants’ various religious and cultural backgrounds remain unknown to the viewers, allowing for a wide range of interpretations. The spontaneous set of reactions of rejection or approval, which appear in almost every video, create a new common denominator that ties together individuals defined by diverse identities.

Short Clips

14 different participants, 1:50 minuets

Full Length

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

Dafna Tal Installation_copyright FOTOGALERIE WIEN, photos MICHAEL MICHLMAYR.jpg

One-channel video exhibition, FOTOGALERIE WIEN, Vienna, Austria. 2019

Photo by Michael Michlmayr 

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