Storytelling a Sculpture

By Limor Shiponi

During October 2012, G started working on David’s Lament. Several texts down the road, the lament became a signature work; that’s when teller and text meet an audience in a way recognizable as evolving down a unique road. They bring something new into the world; It’s like being able to conduct Beethoven’s 5th knowing you have something different to offer the players. Even if you’re not allowed to change a single note; or a single word for our matter.

The reactions to his telling of David’s Lament during the annual Memorial Day ceremony, were situated between gratitude from people deeply moved by the lament – suddenly realizing what the text is about, to overwhelming anger for changing “the way it should be”. That’s something interesting to think about, “the way it should be”. The lament appears in the bible. There are no exact performance instructions; it’s the cantor’s decision to take on the spot, adjusting to context. Still, when a form of presentation is so deeply rooted into people’s consciousness, they cling to the known and sanctify it (PPP anyone?). It’s such a deep behavior, I wouldn’t overlook it.

In G’s case, it was a calculated risk, an informed decision we went through together, looking at all possible outcomes. Remember G’s way of performing the lament didn’t arrive as a total surprise out of his ‘artistic’ mind. It was thoroughly researched and practiced in front of many people from his community. Some of them heard it more than once along five months of work and search. All their remarks, input and contributions influenced the work one way or another.

Storytelling is an ‘us’ art. G doesn’t own the way he tells David’s Lament. He is just the person who can bring the ‘us’ of the lament alive in front of others.

A Storyteller.

During all this time, another work evolved in the background – a sculpture. I saw it developing, contributed along its evolution, so did many others. It evolved between G’s inner thoughts and experiences, the lament and what he knew and saw in it, what others echoed when meeting the work in progress. It evolved through conversation, it’s an ‘us’ sculpture.

David's Lament

If you are an Israeli looking at it, you might feel it looks very much as something that represents part of our narrative as a people – just like David’s Lament. Not something easy to explain to a non-Israeli. This sculpture is the outcome of a deep process ignited by storytelling. It doesn’t tell a story (statues can’t speak), it elicits stories in the observers. If they are from the same narrative the sculpture is, their stories touch each other and enhances their sense of ‘us’.

The same thing exactly happens with evolving story-driven time-sculptures we create during storytelling events. Only in storytelling they don’t stand in the open to be discussed. They are personal imagination dwellers we can only ‘sense’ – touch each other. Never knowing for sure, always intrigued by the mystery.

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