Tobaron Waxman: Amidah

  • ©, Tobaron Waxman






Artist Statement:

    The Amidah is a central part of a prayer performed three times daily, standing in silence. The prayer consists of 18 steps, including a slight bowing movement, meant to indicate respect and reverence, that occurs when certain references in the prayer are privately recited.
    I trained the actors in the choreography of this embodiment of reverence, while they were both costumed as a prayer quorum of religious Jews and in various states of undress. I then photographed the group in long exposure with a large-format camera. The result is a triptych of large-format prints named after morning, afternoon, and evening renditions of the Amidah. The figures ignore the nudity in their group, fixed as they are on their task. This Javascript animation includes the central panel of the triptych, Mincha, the afternoon prayer, which is perhaps the most difficult, because it requires an interruption of the workday in order to remove oneself from the banal and enter a modality of sacred contemplation.
    Beneath the clothes, perhaps the prayer-body is more audible. The vocal accompaniment employs Jewish metatext and a “Queering” of sung text. The audio is a recording of me singing the shecheckyanu prayer backwards. Shechekyanu is a prayer recited at the recovery of an illness, the conclusion of a fast, or the end of a voyage. The inversion is performed as a new supratext.
    I was taught that the movements and structure of the Amidah are meant as a physical nemesis to evoke Moses’ ascent of Mount Sinai. Much of the underpinning of my work is informed by my multilingual experience of inhabiting two worlds at the same time: engaging a feminist, post-queer, post-Zionist politic while revering the sacred and ancestral.

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