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Notes about Notes: Aleph

Aleph is an experimental portal, an imaginary performative installation created during my research residency at the Lilach Pnina Livne School of dance in 2021.

 

The Aleph explores notions of liminality, time, space and how they are experienced through the body and identity.

In this portal, there are four imaginary places. Each place contains various elements that appear\perform in all spaces simultaneously but in a different variation, such as moving images, bodily and painted gestures, objects and sound. 
You can enter the spaces via the Mozilla hub, both through VR Headsets and an internet browser. All the elements, temporalities, movements, and objects in these places are non-collidable, and so, you can pass through them intuitively and discover new places, new temples, hierophanies, and sacredness. The sound is a short segment from a zoom live performance by the amazing Debashis Sinha, performing Aveda.
I included his work, links, and other references in the portal where you can access and experience the work:

There is no particular opening or ending, no particular physical location, and the work is constantly changing and evolving with time.

The Aleph is a symbol that I have encountered for the past several years, and in which this virtual portal as my first attempt to consolidate and construct this long period of research into a visual experience.

 

 

Through performative research, the Aleph encompass various references from theology, numerology, philosophy, poetry, personal history, and subjective experience of embodiment. And so, in many ways, the Aleph became a conceptual choreographic device, embodied through viability and disappearance, movement, temporalities, and other spatial experiences.
Personified at times, Aleph is a dancer with a body, arms, and legs, often dancing alone in space; often, she becomes a place.

 

 

 

 

We embark on a journey, beginning with the Aleph, to examine some of the ways in which culture has chosen to march in the last fifty years. In its own way, does not the alphabet emphasize the Sisyphean dimension in an attempt to read different maps of reality and to bind them all in one bend? And perhaps quite differently: the alphabet demonstrates the inexhaustible combinations between the letters, between the words and the concepts. This is where the hidden message, hidden in the distance between A and B, may be revealed. This is the infinite multiplicity, the multiplicity that cannot be quantified. "A Thousand Plains" - formulated by Jill Deleuze and Felix Guattari ([1980] 1988, Deleuze & Guattari). Alice in Wonderland - Secretary Deleuze - moves from the land of deep things (in the first scene she falls into a deep hole, and meets the white rabbit there) to the land of the flat things that the cards mark. These create innumerable possible representations of the world (Gurevich, 1999;

I saw, close up, unending eyes watching themselves in me as in a mirror; I saw all the mirrors on earth and none of them reflected me.

I have been conceptually working with the symbol Aleph as a prop that functioned as a choreographic device for over a decade now. In a physical appearance, I have inscribed the symbol with black paint at the center of my studio floor, and it became a prop, a point of reference, between the body and elements in time and space. 



 

A Score:

The “indelible feeling of place”.   

 

What are your heels and water, corner and horizon of places, as marks that cannot be removed?





 

Borges writes about his experience with the Aleph, a point in space that allows you to experience all of space and time.  Borges imaginative interpretation of  time and space suggest a nonlinear sense of temporality. In his story “The Aleph,” which presents a point in space where all other points coexits, suggesting that time can be conceived as the “simultaneity of all possible outcomes of any given action”. 

 

Reflecting on other meanings of the term,  “Aleph” is also the name of the first letter of the alphabet of the sacred language In the Kabbalah, a source that I am familiar with, as growing in an orthodox Sepharadic family. Although both sources are different since the Kabala is an ancient sacred source, and the interpretation of Jorge Luise is a secular interpretation, both express notions of simultaneity in a meaningful way.

“The Aleph's diameter was probably little more than an inch, but all space was there, actual and undiminished. Each thing was infinite things, since I distinctly saw it from every angle of the universe”.  


 

“One of the points in space that contains all points.”

The Aleph signifies the En Soph (infinity), the pure and unlimited godhead.
It also has a personified qualities; its shape is that of a human pointing to the sky and the earth, to indicate that the lower world is the map and mirror of the higher’. 
During the Middle Ages, God and space were synonymous, thus making the Aleph, which also signifies God, a perfect candidate for the sacred encounter the story narrates. Represented as a human who points to, and is traversed by, a virtual space and its supposed original, the Aleph presents the world as a representation of mind, a map, a mirror, both an inversion and a simplification. The self being constituted by static flashes, fragments of space-time,, a sort of “angel of the past, the present and the future”. The Aleph also represents the ultimate space of spaces.
Borges conflates brain and mental space, omitting in the story a vital reference to the resemblance of the letter aleph to the brain. According to Bahir, Aleph the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, ‘looks like the brain, and symbolizes the continuity between human thought and the devine, human thought having no end, for as human thinks he descends to the end of the world’. In this sense the Aleph implies ‘following thought to ultimate infinity’. 

Borges was already aware of the Aleph’s equation with the brain, twenty years before he published the El Aleph. In ‘History of the Angels’, in The Extent of my Hope (1926) he wrote:: ‘The letter aleph corresponds to the brain, the First Commandment, the sky of fire, the divine name “I am that I am,” and the seraphim known as the Sacred Beasts’. As a metaphor of mind as the nutshell that contains the awesome and dynamic record of life-long neural activity, the world of mind being indeed a vast world which like the universe is still being mapped, the Aleph points to the infinitude of mind, which is ultimately unrepresentable.
 

Notes about Notes

Up until today, I have been thinking about it as "that idea" that is conceptual and comprising lots of ideas\fragments of impressions, literature\poetry\memories\felt\non literal experiences that are situated in my mind, and it all feels so coherent and yet so scattered. 

 

Can it be a moment of epiphany?

A hierophant? When one gets an insight into the whole universe and experiences the ultimate unity. The idea, which I would, for now, identify with the symbol of Aleph, represents the ultimate mystical initiation. 

 

We are the slaves of our own ontology. 

 

The color is warm, ochre, like an ancient palimpsest, with traces of rose Pink glowing under the light.

This is my subjective or embodied choice of color.

But in this imaginary exhibition, Colours are determined and perceived subjectively by the imminent\emotional condition of the body\subject in time and space.



 

Abstracted forms appear in the light, transparent and simultaneous - they look like faded graffiti, etching, engraving, the inscription of gestures, traces, palimpsest like elusive threads of forms, malleable feeling.

At first, the form didn't resemble anything, perhaps like fragments of images. But gradually, the eye is traveling in things (while other things are happening at that time, like the smell, like sound), and suddenly (it takes time, to meditate on the emptiness of the mind), these abstracted forms become personified, in-between botanical and human, merging and splitting, connecting with space that feels like a synopsis map, like cartographic or an archeological site.


 

צורות מופשטות מופיעות באור, שקוף ובו זמנית - הן נראות כמו כתובות גרפיטי דהויות, תחריט, חריטה, כיתוב של מחוות, עקבות, כמו חוטים חמקמקים של צורות, תחושה נרקבת.

בהתחלה הצורה לא דמתה לשום דבר, אולי כמו שברי תמונות. אך בהדרגה העין נודדת בדברים (בזמן שדברים אחרים מתרחשים באותה תקופה, כמו ריח, כמו צליל), ופתאום (זה לוקח זמן להרהר על ריקנות הנפש) צורות מופשטות אלה הופכות להתגלמות, בין לבין בוטני ואנושי, מתמזג ומתפצל, מתחבר למרחב שמרגיש כמו מפת תקציר, כמו cartography או אתר ארכיאולוגי.





 

The experience of simultaneity through bodies and materials, rendering feelings, memories, places, events, nature, past-present-future - all coincide. 


 

Two Movements

There are two movements\ elements in space, similar and yet different. Two forces interacting with each other, resonate with each other, are aware of each other, connect, split, emerge, stand still - All happening in relation to the mental\physical\emotional state of the subject\viewer in space.

This dialogue is sometimes a battlefield, sometimes a lovemaking kind of relation.

חווית סימולטניות, טיוח סימולטניות.

תנאים המעניקים חוויה של מספר מקומות, זמניות מרובה ... אולי עבר-הווה-עתיד - בבת אחת.


 

יש שני תנועות \ אלמנטים במרחב, הם דומים ועם זאת שונים, שני כוחות מתקשרים זה עם זה, מהדהדים זה עם זה, מודעים זה לזה, מתחברים, מתפצלים, מגיחים, עומדים במקום - הכל קורה ביחס למנטלי \ מצבו הפיזי \ הרגשי של המצולם \ הצופה במרחב.



 

How much of it is immaterial? Ephemeral? physical? tangible?

I have no answers.





 

The space has no corners, open with an illusive and panoramic surrounding. There is no particular distance but it is something that can be felt.

Break the distance

Drink the distance

Smell the distance

 

What is in-between?


 

It doesn't have a particular structure, it is fluid

 

Sacred experiences


 

The simultaneous and the transparent

The Unseen exist

“Transparency means a simultaneous perception of different spatial locations. Space not only recedes but fluctuates in a continuous activity” This overlapping and interpenetrating of figures conjures an ambiguity or contradiction of spatial dimensions.

The concepts and conditions of transparency parallel movements of Relativity theories and their implications; where space-time relativistic thinking allows for two objects to co-exist simultaneously in the same space and time, as such transparency is a space-time condition of betweenness, a simultaneous perception of space

Perceptual vs Conceptual Transparency: Eye vs Mind, Looking vs seeing





 

 

 

Performativity as essentially liminal

Dance as liminal concept

Liminality of space

In-betweenness of movement

all of these spaces act as bridges between locations, which is a physical embodiment of liminality.

What kind of gesture could be accessible ?

 

I am situated in these distinct experiences of simultaneity.

 

This is the Aleph, the point where everything is there in one place at the same time. I am in a window that opens onto the world and onto secret places, onto poetry that got lost in time and onto words that were forgotten in space. [...] I am standing in front of doors, which open for a moment and then close immediately, but show us what hides behind them: treasures, traps, unknown roads and journeys surpassing imagination. (Coelho 2011, 81-82) 

 

(L Borges)The Aleph’s diameter was probably little more than an inch, but all space was there, actual and undiminished. Each thing (a mirror’s face, let us say) was infinite things, since I distinctly saw it from every angle of the universe. 

 

 


 

הגוף יכול לחוש, לפרש ולהבין את הסביבה דרך החושים, והתהליך הזה גם משפיע על הסביבהֿ-חלל באמצעות הפעולה של הראייה. 


 

The house I grew up in is a house where the main wall of the house is shared with a synagogue. So I grew up with the sound of the prayers all my childhood, morning noon and evening, constantly humming prayers in between random activities in the house, like the song of the sea “shirat hayam” while washing the dishes”

The synagogue is family run and inhabited by immigrants from North Africa.As a child, I got used to hearing the synagogue prayers, which were scattered in several centers around our neighborhood.

Most of these synagogues are family synagogues, and they gather small groups of worshipers.

On Friday afternoons, the town begins to enter towards the Sabbath, begins to enter the quiet, silent cars, the smell of cooking and cleaning supplies. Then immediately after the Sabbath siren, the Shechinah descends in a tangible and clear way.

After a short period of time, the prayers begin. Singing in all synagogues is the same, except for minor differences between Tunisian, Moroccan and Tripolitan singing. Gathering for prayer in all synagogues is almost the same, and perhaps with a small difference of time.

I could hear the same chanting from several synagogues simultaneously, with minimal delay, like intervals, like polyphonic singing.

Sometimes the delay was a little more significant, and I could notice a number of different Friday prayer chants, all heard at the same time from different synagogues. This memory is very deep and meaningful to me, and it is imprinted in me very strongly.





 

Inspect your neurosis and run with it


 

Doubt - contemplation 

At first, I was very excited about the idea of creating an imaginary exhibition. I thought to myself, wow, there is no limit, and I can go wild with things I can imagine.

But after several days through the process, I find myself putting doubts in things I imagine, constantly asking myself “why”?

So the question of “how” became irrelevant, but why and what is the purpose of this performative experience that I would like to create.

The seeing? Or feeling?

I’m contemplating the visual vs the sensual, the ephemeral vs the tangible.

 

Maybe the imaginary exhibition is this particular process of writing.

Thirdspace and the Aleph

A knowable and unknowable, real and imagined lifeworld of experiences, emotional events, and political choices that is existentially shaped by the generative and problematic interplay between centers and peripheries, the abstract and concrete, the impassioned spaces of the conceptual and the lived, marked out materially and metaphorically in spatial praxis, the transformation of (spatial) knowledge into (spatial) action in the field of unevenly developed (spatial) power. (Soja, 1996, p. 31)

Thirdspace is a concept which is brought forward by Edward Soja in his book ‘Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real-and-Imagined Places’ which came out in 1996. To understand Soja’s concept of thirdspace, we first must refer to Lefebvre’s ‘triad of space’, which consists of three different concepts of space (Lefebvre, 1991, p. 33). The first is ‘spatial practice’, which is also known as ‘perceived space’. This is the physical space around us, which creates the material conditions for our society. The second is ‘representations of space’, which is also known as ‘conceived space’. This is space as we would describe in an objective way. The third is ‘representational spaces’, which is also known as ‘lived space’. This is the space where social relations take place and where we actively experience it in everyday life (H. Ernste, personal communication, 21 september 2010).

This is where Soja and his concept of Thirdspace come in. Soja defines Thirdspace as follows:

‘A knowable and unknowable, real and imagined lifeworld of experiences, emotional events, and political choices that is existentially shaped by the generative and problematic interplay between centers and peripheries, the abstract and concrete, the impassioned spaces of the conceptual and the lived, marked out materially and metaphorically in spatial praxis, the transformation of (spatial) knowledge into (spatial) action in the field of unevenly developed (spatial) power.’ (Soja, 1996, p. 31)

Everything come together in Thirdspace: subjectivity and objectivity, the abstract and the concrete, the real and the imagined, the knowable and the unimaginable, the repetitive and the differential, structure and agency, mind and body, consciousness and the unconscious, the disciplined and the transdici- plinary, everyday life and unending history. 

So Thirdspace is not exactly the same as the third concept of space of Lefebvre (the lived space), although it’s space that’s ‘not defined just lived’ (H. Ernste, personal communication, 21 september 2010). Thirdspace is also a combination of all of these spaces. It’s a space which is trying to get beyond discourses, it’s a space where creativity takes place and it’s a space which is open to others (H. Ernste, personal communication, 21 september 2010). Soja even compares Thirdspace to the Aleph, which is ‘the place where all places are’ (Soja, 1996, p. 54) Soja also clarifies that when he says:

‘Thirdspace, as I have been defining it, retains the multiple meanings Lefebvre persistently ascribed to social space. It is both a space that is distinguishable from other spaces (physical and mental, or Firstspace and Second space) and a transcending composite of all spaces (Thirdspace as Aleph).’ (Soja, 1996, p. 62)

Thirdspace is an alternative postmodern geography and the thirding-as-othering was designed to make this alternative possible and to break down the dichotomy.

 Thirdspace is derived from Michel Foucault and Henri Lefebvre’s notion of heterotopia, and also resembles Homi Bahba’s concept of cultural hybridity. Soja’s work employs a trialectics, rather than dialectics, of human geography–emphasizing the equal importance of history, contemporary social relations, and spatial constructs in understanding the urban environments around us.

“The Aleph” by Jorge Luis Borges, and  “The Trialectics of Spatiality” by Edward Soja are dealing with a notion of universality or transcendence of a binary or categorical thought. While “The Aleph” is a fictional telling of an author who encounters a magical “place where, without admixture or confusion, all the places of the world, seen from every angle, coexist (equivalent to the experience of my studio space),” Soja and Lefebvre are calling for a reconditioning to how we perceive and discuss the space surrounding us. We cannot see social space because it is plagued by a “double illusion,” or “the illusion of transparency” and the “realistic illusion.” This “double illusion” is constantly shifting and changing, and essentially hides the fact that space is a social product. His trialectics of spatiality is the resulting way in which we must learn to perceive space and is comprised of three essential categories, and combined with Soja’s essay the three parts are as such: first space (perceived space or spatial practice), second space (conceived space or representations of space) and third space (lived space or spaces of representation, it is a result of the interaction of the prior two).