(Article in the catalog of the ‘Embody’ exhibition by Chaja Hertog and Nir Nadler, Israel, 2008. I met Nir while I was a mentor at Das Arts, where I had co-assembled the block ‘Who is I?’. I fell in love with Nir’s work and we became friends, which is how I was introduced to his wife Chaja, whose work I found equally impressive. Thus, I gladly wrote something for the booklet publishe for their exhibition. // Bijdrage aan de catalogus van de tentoonstelling ‘Embody’ van Nir Nadler & Chaja Hertog. De tentoonstelling opent 8 augustus 2009 in Israel en duurt twee maanden. Nir leerde ik kennen toen ik in 2008 les gaf bij Das Arts in het semester ‘Who is I?’, dat ik had helpen bedenken en opzetten. Ik viel als een blok voor het werk van Nir en we werden goede vrienden. Ook Chaja’s werk vind ik ronduit imposant. Toen Nir me vroeg of ik iets wilde schrijven voor de catalogus van hun gezamenlijke tentoonstelling deed ik dat van harte, temeer daar hun thema was geïnspireerd op wat ik bij Das Arts had trachte n over te brengen. De tekst voor de catalogus is in het Engels en het Hebreeuws; hier de Engelse versie.)
There’s something utterly special about our bodies: we simultaneously are them and have them. They contain us, and yet they’re not a mere receptacle: they define us. Our bodies decide how we move, how we are treated, where we are socially peg holed, and even: how we perceive the world.
It is common – and weirdly seductive – to envision a split between mind and body: as if there’s an invisible ‘I’ somewhere inside, lodged in the brain or in the heart, an intangible tenant who inhabits the corporeal flesh. But whoever accepts such a split, reduces their body to an appendage; I cannot be separated from my nerves, my cells, my blood flow, my breathing, the batting of my eye.
Bodies are not houses. We don’t live in them in quite the same way as we do in buildings of bricks and wood. And there’s no ‘I’ who lives in a body, I is not mind. Again, that would reduce our bodies – us bodies – to a mere ‘it’, and reintroduce that same split between mind and flesh, between pure idea and cumbersome practice, between invisible thought and wet, messy physicality. There really is no such easy splicing. Please don’t. You’re killing us if you do, you’d be chopping I into pieces. After all, a mind without a body is a ghost, and a body without a mind is a corpse.
I is body. Our mind is carved in flesh, the mind is an organ that floods trough our veins and tickles our toes. My mind is an instinct, my body makes firm decisions. I is mixed from both, and whoever makes us choose is lethal.
I carry my parents in my genes. My mother resides in my nose, my father in my hair. I once lost a breast and I am still me, whole and complete. I once lost a lover, and the gaping wound in my side has never fully healed: there’s still a part of me missing somewhere and living in somebody else.
I is permeable. And so is you. After all, I live in you.
I extends. My voice reaches over waters, over woods, over deserts to whisper in your ear. When I shut my heart, that same gesture closes the door to my house for you. The musical instruments that I love and play inhabit me: I play the piano on my ribs, I tune the violin strings in my arms and legs by stretching my limbs until they hit C sharp. I am InstruMan.
Medical interventions fuse. No longer do I wear glasses that can be taken off: my eyes are lasered. My heart runs on a pacemaker. I need to have my batteries replaced every six years. I change my mood with uppers and downers, my fertility with pills that need to wear off for months before I can conceive again.
Sometimes my body isn’t. My immune system gets confused occasionally. It’s trained to attack alien intruders, but mine thinks that I-cells are X-cells. My body believes me to be my own stranger. Thus I attacks I. I implodes.
I swallow and digest what politicians tell me, I digest and regurgitate it. I am a jukebox politician. Press play, and we’ll dance to the ideology of your choice. I don’t need a name. I carry yours.
I reach for you when you are in another country, and I am carried towards you. I merge with my surroundings to speed up my travel. I don’t see where I’m going because I only have eyes for you, you, who is too far away to be seen. You’re pulling me to you through skies, dunes and meadows, time stops while we travel, and when we meet I am you and you is me, and we’re both stateless. Later, I am right next to you, we are so close that we can almost touch, your breath touches my skin, my hair dresses your face, but suddenly we can’t cross the ten centimeters that separates skin from skin and I from you. Mind the gap. I is not you. We are bound to ourselves when we least want to be.
When I am alone, I am cut off. When I am with other I’s, I become you, and then, slowly, me.
The world is our body. I is relations.