Photographer: Oscar Abosh
December 20, 2012 – January 26, 2013
In Jewish mystical vernacular, Dybbuk is a term that refers to mental illness and a loss of control, in which the body is possessed by an external force from the realm of the dead. This force takes over, controls and does not let go, causing its “victim” to act in an unusual and terrifying manner. The Dybbuk – stricken is portrayed as insane and coerced, as if the spirit of the dead invaded his body, communicating through him as a separate and foreign personality. Thus, he is incapable of fulfilling expectations that are anchored in accepted social and behavioral norms. The Dybbuk whose source is a spirit from another world, binds the living with the dead spirits. In several instances, the Dybbuk phenomenon signifies a violent breach of the boundaries between the two worlds.
The Dybbuk – ridden experiences hostility from the outside and from within. He is overcome with bodily spasms, facial distortions, eye rolling, loss of consciousness, impaired and incomprehensible speech, cursing and vocalization of despise for religious and social values.
The Dybbuk carrier functions as an artist/actor who is aware of the rules of the game whilst serving his audience. He is set on partaking in a ritual that draws attention to the realm which exists beyond the visible. The exorcism of the Dybbuk is a ritual that has a very meticulous protocol, where several of the Dybbuk – inflicted behaviors are none but responses to requests and instructions given by the exorcist. These responses actually express personal and social anxieties. During the exorcism ritual, after the “Catharsis” that takes place in the presence of the Dybbuk itself, the “other” voices are silenced. The act of extracting the Dybbuk after the exposure of its voice, involves a drastic attempt to normalize by means of castration, camouflaging, permanent silencing and banishing of these feelings and voices.
This comes across to the fullest in the dialogue with the “Dybbuk itself”, depicted in the renowned play by Shlomo Anski “The Dybbuk” during the third act in which the Rabbi performing the exorcism asks the Dybbuk to “Toe the line”:
The Dybbuk: “ I am amongst those who seek new paths”
The Rabbi: “ Those who stray from the path of the righteous will seek new paths for themselves. The innocent will walk the right way”
The Dybbuk: “ This is a problem” “I shall not hear of it. I do not know where I am to roam and I dont have a resting place on this earth, besides my current habitat. Out there a terrible void awaits me and hords of demons and aggressors are ready to devour me. I shant leave!”
From a psycho/social perspective, the Dybbuk can be understood through “Idioms of distress”. These are cultural codes, systems of meanings and key signs that typify cultural representations of emotional distress. In this exhibition the artists Kobi Assaf and Iddo Marcus deal with the construction of a dark universe. The materials they use embody these idioms of distress which exist under the surface, these “swarming tissues” that creep in and out of different worlds, between norms, the world of the living and the world of the dead right when they are on the verge of extermination. Kobi Assaf‘s paintings, which are informed by a traditional painterly technique, involve processing images from the internet by associating them with Christian iconography from the middle ages in an artificial manner. As such, he infuses depth into the image, exposing the violent and morbid dimension that it contains.
Iddo Markus paints characters that exist on the threshold between the world of living and the world of the dead along with darkened landscapes, devoid of “breath”, agitated, whereby the eye races between them restlessly. They appear to be tangible, despite being a product of his imagination and they are a consequence of the unstable Israeli atmosphere which is constantly under the threat of extinction.
In such ways, Marcus and Assaf fulfill the role of the “artist” assigned to represent the Dybbuk. The artist functions as the person who concretizes the voice of the Dybbuk into the independent voice of the “other”. The act of listening to its voice provides the hope of salvation.
Yham Hameiri, December 2012