Passover Seder – Artist’s Cut
A full-length participatory show, ceremony, ritual, feast, celebration | 2016-2018
Performed several times at The Red House, 2018 | Artist-Talk was given at Binyamin Gallery.
The "Passover Seder” is a jewish ritual feast celebrating and retelling the story of the Exodus of the Israel people from Egypt. Families read together the Haggadah book, execute the written actions, eat and sing together. “Passover Seder – Artist’s Cut” (referring to "director's cut") is a performative event in which the artist hosts in her inner world and functions as the hostess of a holiday dinner. The audience is invited to take part, give voice to words, give body to actions, get confused, understand, dine, dance and celebrate. The performance corresponds with Passover Seder, the Jewish ritual that also atheists conduct, embodying the tradition of "You Shell Tell Your Son". But instead of reading the original Haggadah book, here the audience reads from Savyon's Haggadah - autobiographical paragraphs, prophecies, fragments of dreams, fears, hallucinations, prayers, mathematical concepts that are being pulled out of their original meaning into spells.
It is a fragmentary play that presents the associative fragmentary element of the mind - built as fragments of text and a fragmentary narrative. The text is characterized by feminine writing (Écriture Féminine) - writing that is complex, fluid, intimate, dynamic, with intentional internal contradictions. The body, apart from being an executor of the actions, is present in the text as a source of writing and as a motif in the text.
The directing instructions, to which we are commanded by the Passover Haggadah (cutting the Matzah bread, uncovering the Matzah, raising it, pouring wine repeatedly, tasting it, drinking while leaning aside, washing hands, etc.), are being replaced by actions that correspond with them, as well as with the new contents. The physical gestures operate on the symbolic register, the psychological register and the cultural register, between the logic of expression and the logic of presentation. As in religious or shamanic ceremonies, here too, both the action and the word are cosmic, both redeeming the soul. Sama as we are required to say "Pesach, Matzah , Maror", otherwise we would not have fulfilled our obligations, as if we didn’t come out of Egypt - same here in the new ritual, the words constitute reality. Like the body, the text is also a perfumer, it performs itself and thereby acts on reality.
In Hebrew “Seder” means order, so the Hebrew name Passover - “Lail Seder” - literally means “Night of Order”. In his book "The Order of Discourse" Foucault asks what is the object of discourse? What are the rituals of discourse? Who is allowed to talk? What are the mechanisms of exclusion and removal and what are the mechanisms of preservation and distribution? If so, the question arises, what is the order (“Seder”) on Passover Seder and what is the legacy we are passing on to future generations? What are we celebrating? What is the correct order and who decides what it is? This performance revolves around the personal, familial, emotional sphere and looks for a feminine point of view, matriarchy of movement, aesthetics and content. The temporary community that emerges in the performance is a community that elevates the singular subject.
Who or what performs - The text? The ceremony? The participating audience? The host of the ceremony? Something unvisitable like memory, spirit and the practice of art making? The piece moves on a continuum of complex relationships between the performer who sometimes guides the audience, sometimes reads the Haggadah like the audience and sometimes is an object of observation, and between the audience who sometimes observes the happening and sometimes acts and performs.
One of the topics the Jewish Passover Seder deals with is freedom. The people of Israel leave Egyptian slavery to the desert, to the vastness, to the unknown, to the infinite. It is not about freedom without obligation or purpose, but freedom that also has duties and limits, "Let my people go and they will serve me". Even on Passover Seder itself there are laws and imperatives. If so, freedom is within a certain set of rules. The question of freedom also arises in the subtext of the work: What are the limits of freedom in a family situation? What freedom does the audience allow itself and the artist? What is the freedom that a creator allows for the audience and herself? Furthermore, the dramaturgical logic that leads the work is a coming-of-age ceremony for the audience, slowly gaining more and more freedom of action, independence. Whilst at the beginning of the show the creator is the one who directs the whole event, then gradually more and more powers pass to the audience. The mechanism that drives the ritual is a frequent transition between reading around the table and "realization", a physical performative act. This creates a feeling that there is a routine (the reading of the Haggadah) and from time to time reality strikes and then immediately things get back to order. Sometimes there is a threatening feeling, as if something terrible might happen, but the routine is stronger and continues. These occurrences are in fact the encounters of the audience with reality, the process of growing up, the journey of the audience whitin the creation.
As a performer Savyon worked in this piece with qualities of vulnerability, mental flexibility, transparency, confusion to the point of disorientation between Kafkaesque randomness and the desire to dominate order and organization. Themes she researched in this work (relationships between interior and exterior; tension between randomness and determinism; name as an agent of meaning; modes of gathering and more) as well as practices she developed in this work (moving the spirit; words in the body; containing forms) continued with her to the following works.