Compassion/Chemla is yet another work from the Wounded Land Project series using dressing as a symbol of healing the wound inscribed in the geography of the landscape, the city and the body.
Background to the performance
On June 7th 2014 from 5:00 pm till 12:30 am, four women dressed in white performed inside the eastern courtyard of The Hansen Compound main building when entering from the garden’s gate arch usually kept closed. The event took place during the independent art event curated by Sala-Manca, Heara 12- The Historical Comment.
Visitors entering through that gate were welcomed by a women dressed in white and silently led to sit before taking place on a armchair under the arch. There, they were asked by a young woman if they wished to have their feet cleaned. A third woman was busying herself around, bringing fresh water and warming it on a small gaz. The fourth woman played the flute. Following the ceremonial foot-washing the treatment with therapeutic oils and the dressing, the patient was then led to a bench and offered a cup of herbal tea.
The performance, Compassion/ Chemla (חמלה), evoked in a subtle and yet universal way, the feeling of compassion vis-à-vis disease, difference and alienation, while creating a sense of care and humility towards anyone entering through the courtyard’s gate. More specifically, the performance tried to symbolically evoke the history of ‘Jesus Hilfe,’ the Lepers House in Jerusalem, where actions of clemency by dedicated nurses from the Moravian Church were carried out daily since 1887. The performance Compassion which lasted for over 7 hours was in itself a symbolic reenactment of their hard work as can be witness in the report from 1932 by Mrs Hutton published in the Bristish Journal of Nursing.
The foot-washing ceremony relates to an act of humility in the Bible which recount how Abraham welcomed and washed the feet of the visitors, said to be angels, who suddenly appeared by his tent (Genesis 18:1–8). In the New Testament, Jesus according to the Gospel of John (xiii) washed the feet of his disciples during the Last Supper (Gospel of John 13:1–15). Practiced throughout history intermittently by various churches and by English monarchs between the 13th till the 17th century as a public sign of piety, the ritual fell out of favour until it was restored in 1955 by Pope Pius XII. Practiced usually only on men’s feet, Pope Francis in a notable break from tradition, washed the feet of two women at his celebration of Mass on Maundy Thursday, 2013. This practice of humility has been revived in many churches, for instance in 2006 with washing the feet of the homeless in Richmond or more recently in 2013 in Jordan when Christian women washed the feet of Muslim women that took refuge from the Syrian civil war in Jordan.
Ariane Littman: director, producer and the woman in charge of the fresh water for the ceremony, Marta Pogost: the hostess, Daphnee Littman-Cohen: the woman proceeding to the ceremonial foot-washing and the dressing, Hagar Dagan: the flutist
Photographs: Udi Katzman