Ethica : Ordine Geometrico Demonstrate
Men believe themselves to be free, simply because they are conscious of their actions, and unconscious of the causes whereby those actions are determined.
– Baruch Spinoza
This durational video installation combines qualities of a still image with very minimal movement over time. Commissioned for ONE BILLION RISING, an international campaign addressing gender violence, it was screened at the ONE BILLION RISING 2013 event in Tel-Aviv. The work is challenging in that it incorporates elements of a familiar Jewish religious ritual – one with positive connotations, namely, the release of a people and the individual from bondage – in a context that suggests oppression and slave-master relationship. The piece uses the image of a woman winding a ribbon over her body as an allegory of bondage and release, and the dominion of mind over body. More specifically the work is a deliberation on the oppression of women in society as an aspect of a general repression of libido.
The historical origin of the Tefillin ritual in ancient past is unclear, but Uraeus, the jewelled snake, symbol of the Cobra Goddess, which was worn by the Egyptian Pharaohs on their head and arms, was a sign of divine authority. The obligation of laying Tefillin, is mentioned four times in the Torah, when recalling the The Exodus from Egypt:
And it shall be for a sign for you upon your hand, and for a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth; for with a strong hand did the LORD bring you out of Egypt.
— Exodus 13:9
The Sefer ha-Chinuch (ספר החינוך: “Book of Education”) explains the commandment of laying Tefillin in that man, being of matter, is naturally driven by desires, it being material nature to seek pleasure, “and the one who indulges is like a horse or a mule, without comprehension”. In these four passages, more than in any other passage in the Torah, the main issue is the acceptance of divine rule, and the matter of the Exodus, “in that it necessitates a belief in the restoration of the world and an observance of God in the lower regions…”
I find that there is in the acceptance of ‘divine rule’, and the denial of ‘material nature’ and ‘desire’, and the necessity of the ‘observance of God in the lower regions’, much to clarify the point which I am dealing with here. The practice of Tefillin is intended as a symbolic imprinting onto the body, through an act of binding that has fetishistic elements, the supremacy of the will over instinct, and I would like to ask: what is the price we pay, and are willing to pay, as a society that seeks to redirect our creature desires into creativity; and what role this repression plays in creating a reality in which a man in his mind strips and covers, in his heart binds and releases. In this reality, where the female body is under attack from Cairo to Jerusalem, and in which sexual liberation does necessarily mean freedom from gender oppression, I am seeking the union of the Will and Material Nature as does Spinoza, after whose writings I have named this piece.