You Don't Have To Do A Thing

Video installation. 2017

This video work 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 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 tense, 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.

© 2019 by Dafna Tal. All Rights Reserved.