You proposed Two Minutes of Standstill as a project to Impulse Theater Biennale with the aim to interrupt the daily life of the city of Cologne on June 28th, 2013 for two minutes. What was the initial idea behind this collective performance?
I was thinking about what it would mean to lend the ritual of the Yom HaShoa – the Israeli memorial day for the victims and heroes of the Holocaust – to Germany. Every year on this day sirens in public spaces sound all over Israel, and the whole country comes to a halt to observe two minutes of silence.
I have been exploring state and social rituals for many years in order to understand how they form national identity. The first work I made about this was Trembling Time (2001), a video about the Yom HaZikaron, the Israeli Soldiers Memorial Day, which functions in practically the same way as the Holocaust Memorial Day. These rituals are national ceremonies and anchored in state law. In Trembling Time I tried to come to a more distant and at the same time more personal interpretation of this very emotionally charged ritual. What does it mean for an individual – for me as a citizen of the state of Israel – to be raised with such collective rituals? How can one stay an individual and self-responsible within this situation?
But do collective commemorations then make sense for you at all? Or is that something that can only be done individually anyhow?
Well, the purpose is to create a narrative of a nation, an identity for the state – that is not unique to Israel. I am not against that but I want to question and to analyze it.
The regulations on how to commemorate are quite defined, there is only a small established path on which one can move. It means that commemoration becomes a pre-formulated routine – instead of being lived and lived up to.
I strongly feel that Germany needs to create alternative moments of commemoration which, for example, also include newcomers – a ritual that refers to the present day and future and not only to history. Thousands of younger Israelis have moved to Germany in the last years. And many of them – like me – live in mixed relationships. That makes it even more obvious. We have to deal with our history together. So rather than talking about guilt, it is more about what history means to us today. We ought to commemorate the past but acknowledge the present.