He Almost Forgets That There is a Maker of the World

“He Almost Forgets That There is a Maker of the World.” Illuminated video by Nazlihan Eda Ercin, Caroline Gatt, Agnieszka Mendel, and Ben Spatz. Edited by Ben Spatz. University of Huddersfield (2017).

In this ‘illuminated’ video essay we observe thirty minutes of uncut practice in which song, action, text and image are woven seamlessly together. There is no predetermined script or choreography. The quality of flow that permeates the video arises from the accumulated bodies of knowledge of the four contributors. Although not planned, what happens is anything but random.

This moment of practice took place during a work exchange hosted by Ben Spatz’s AHRC Leadership Fellow project, ‘Judaica: An Embodied Laboratory for Song-Action’ (2016-2018). Spatz is author of What a Body Can Do: Technique as Knowledge, Practice as Research (Routledge 2015) and editor of the Journal of Embodied Research. N. Eda Erçin, currently an advanced PhD researcher in Drama and Performance Practice at the University of Exeter, is a long-term theatre artist and social researcher who has specialized in practice as research, physical auto (biographical) performance, and everyday performance of gender. Agnieszka Mendel is a singer, actress, voice and theatre teacher, traveller, ethnologist, and photographer who for fifteen years worked closely with the Gardzienice Centre for Theatre Practices in Poland. Since 2001 Caroline Gatt has been developing methods by which to establish collaborative avenues between the epistemic practices of laboratory theatre and anthropology. In her current research within the project Knowing from the Inside (ERC 2013-2018) she has explored the liveliness of books as partners in studio practice.

In the video essay, we see and hear a full-bodied engagement with critical texts ranging from ancient to contemporary, offering a portrait of Judaism that juxtaposes the Hebrew Bible, the Hasidic tradition, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the birth of new Jewish identities in Africa. The methodology requires long periods of studio practice and videographic documentation. This mode of sustained inquiry through ‘practice as research’ generates a distinct kind of research document and artistic work.

BOOKS CITED

Buber, Martin. Tales of the Hasidim. Translated by
Olga Marx. New York: Schocken Books (1991).

Carruthers, Mary. The Book of Memory:
A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2008).

Kushner, Tony and Alisa Solomon, eds.
Wrestling with Zion: Progressive Jewish-American
Responses to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
New York: Grove Press (2003).

Sobol, Richard and Jeffrey A. Summit.
Abayudaya: The Jews of Uganda.
New York: Abbeville Press (2002).

Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures. The New JPS Translation
according to the Traditional Hebrew Text.
Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society (1985).

ALBUMS CITED

Abayudaya: Music from the Jewish People of Uganda.
Compiled and with album notes by Jeffrey A. Summit.
Washington, DC: Smithsonian Folkways Recordings (2003).

Fried, Avraham. The Baal Shem Tov’s Song.
New York: Sameach Music (2010).

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This video was recorded with a Nikon D750 camera

in Rehearsal Room 1
Centre for Psychophysical Performance Research
Sir Patrick Stewart Building, University of Huddersfield

The title is from Buber (1991: 69).

Support was provided by:

‘Judaica: An Embodied Laboratory for Song-Action’
UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (2016-2018)
University of Huddersfield

‘Knowing from the Inside’
European Research Council (2013-2018)
University of Aberdeen

Contact:
Urban Research Theater
urbanresearchtheater.com