Issue #10

  1. Searching for Temples

  2. When is Zion

  3. Making and Unmaking City Centers

  4. Mishkan Motherboard

  5. A Wondrous Thing to See

  6. Mechitza 7.1

  7. Transposing Diasporas

  8. The Fez as Storyteller

  9. Your Mouths Are the Ghosts of Money / Your Tongues Are the Tongues of Memory

  10. After Halle

Mechitza 7.1

Tobaron Waxman & Jesse Zaritt

In a dimly lit room, a figure seems to levitate. Propelled vertically into the air, his arms are outstretched from the shoulder. An audience of people at a variety of vantage points, seated on the floor, on chairs, and standing, all turn to focus on the floating figure.
Video still from documentation of Jesse Zarrit during live performance of ‘Mechitza 7.1’ at Kulturlabor ICI Berlin, 2010, courtesy of Tobaron Waxman and Kulturlabor ICI Berlin.
Mechitza 7.1 (motion activated beta), project and compositional method devised by Tobaron Waxman. Sound art collaborators: Erin Gee, Saul Noam Zaritt, David Rusitschka, Raafat Hattab, and Sound Studies students of Dr. Martin Supper, Berlin University of the Arts. Spatialization and mixing: James Hurley. Musicians: James Hurley and Tobaron Waxman. Dancer: Jesse Zaritt.

In Mechitza 7.1, using interactive audio, an elision is made between sacred/taboo space, and ‘ethnically cleansed’ space as a way to interrogate the notion of border and binaries. Mechitza 7.1 reflects on the segregatory architecture, imposed by the state, that controls public and private space. Performance artist Tobaron Waxman collaborates with dancer Jesse Zaritt and composer James Hurley to create a motion-activated surround sound environment using field recordings that Waxman made in domestic spaces in the occupied territories of Palestine and in men’s prayer spaces from his Chassidic life in New York.

Mechitza 7.1, Demonstration (part A) stereo mix by James Hurley, 23:31, 2010. Note: Audio is best experienced on headphones.


Under a lavender and pale blue dusky sky, on a vast green front lawn, opposite the Reichstag. Visible in the distance on either side are a few decorative trees with autumn leaves in gold, red and green. In the background, friends kick a soccer ball, people stroll through the grounds. In the foreground a figure in a blue and green plaid flannel and black trousers while pressing down on his knee curves his entire body sideways into an unexpected half circle shape.
Video still of Jesse Zarrit during rehearsal/performance intervention documentation, 2010, courtesy of Tobaron Waxman.

Waxman and Zaritt developed nine distinct movement vocabularies. Each of these movement languages articulates a different relationship between the dancer’s body and the ideas of border, boundary, and confinement. They organized these movement vocabularies into a score, each as a playback trigger for a specific sound fragment related in motif, theme, or content. The sound fragments are the result of Waxman disseminating their field recordings to sound artists, students, and composers internationally, each of whom was provided with a series of directives to which their edit/shattering/reconstitution of the field recording was to respond. Zaritt was provided the same directives and asked to respond with gesture and movement. The map of how these nine movement languages exist in space (i.e. a sound and movement score) is included as a scanned image below.


A pale blue page marked in red pen, black pen, and pencil, shows a hand-drawn repetition of squares, rectangles, arrows and words. This score is a collaboratively written document, mapping when and where the dancer moves, and when and for how those movements trigger sounds. In red: Jesse's movements, gestures, and position in the room. In black, the duration or rhythm of the corresponding sounds played by James and Tobaron, and in pencil, the name of the sound played.
Mechitza Project 7.1 (motion activated beta) – sound and movement score, 2010. Image courtesy of Tobaron Waxman.
    1. Perform fragmented visibility: move such that only portions of your body are visible to the viewers, allow parts of the body to slip in and out of visibility, as if the movement is being viewed through cracks in a wall. 
    2. Perform the construction of a Golem: manipulate the body as if it is clay/stone made animate and controlled by an external force.
    3. Perform the smothering of opposition: stomp and trample along a straight path through the space, try also to divide the space with this forceful wall of deliberate, harsh steps. 
    4. Perform confinement and the escape from confinement at the same time: allow the body to move as if it can rapidly shift between solid, liquid, or gas.
    5. Perform movement as barrier: let every movement initiated by the body harden into a physical barrier in the space.
    6. Perform the suspension of potential energy: sustain off-balance positions as long as possible before letting the body fall along a straight path through the space.
    7. Perform the construction of false sacred space: build a structure for prayer through dancing in a linear manner. Allow a resonance of folk and ritual dance to be present in the movement.
    8. Perform the erotics of confinement: force open orifices in your body.
    9. Perform unrestricted verticality: perform the yearning for freedom as represented by a body attempting to be unrestricted by gravity.
A figure in silhouette turns their head sharply towards the camera and away from the screen projection in front of which they stand with arms crossed over their chest. The projection is a page of parallel bilingual text, English on one side Hebrew on the other, and one verse is highlighted. The highlighted verse is the prooftext in the book of Zecharia from which the halacha of mechitza is derived.
Photo documentation from Tobaron Waxman’s research process while a fellow at Kulturlabor ICI Berlin, 2010, courtesy of the artists.

Audience member and theorist Benjamin Dawson recounts his experience:

Waxman and Zaritt’s collaborative sound and dance installation offers a searching and unassured approach to spectacle, consecration, division, and reappropriation — or, perhaps, profanation. Mechitza 7.1 is a separation architecture, whose name refers us to the division of men and women within the synagogue (a separation whose legality or conventionality—i.e. its source in Torah or Talmud—has long been contested), constructed out of an archive of voices and sounds separated from their immediacy, their context—abducted and deranged. In this space, a figure performs a sequence of movements, both visceral and abstract. His body appears as if exposed to invisible powers, manipulated or conducted by forces connected, in an uncertain or incomplete manner, to the sounds which compose the space, the sanctum (?), through a kind of continual, fractal partitioning. Somehow jarred yet fluid, impersonal yet singular, the dance seems to offer the analogue or cipher of the hinge between the concrete and the consecrated. That is to say, the body appears both here, with us in the room, and somewhere else, in the realm of sound perhaps, from where it comes to us or into which it is being taken. The peculiar power of the work may, I think, have to do with its extended uncertainty regarding the making and unmaking of this boundary, which is to say its hesitation or equivocation between the processes of consecration (separation) and profanation (retrieval).

In an effort to offer a kind of oblique commentary on this experience, I will return us to the site of a decisive moment in the adolescence of Western culture: Pompey’s notorious astonishment and disappointment, upon entering the Arcanum of the Temple, expecting (as Hegel puts it) “to find indeed in one central point the life-giving soul of this remarkable people, to gaze on a Being as an object for his devotion, on something significant for his veneration, […] to find himself in an empty room.” In this moment, astonishment (turning to stone), the shock of disappointment, and the feeling of expectations “deceived” (Hegel) — i.e. those expectations of Presence (“Being”) and Life which are so central to Christian/post-Christian societies — coincide in an experience of absence.

Tobaron Waxman is a curator, artist and cantorial soloist. Tobaron’s interdisciplinary practice interrogates how borders and notions of citizenship make moral and ethical claims on our bodies. Tobaron’s photography and texts have been exhibited and published internationally. Fellowships have included Kulturlabor ICI Berlin Institute for Cultural Inquiry, and Akademie der Künst der Welt/Köln, and the inaugural Audience Award of the Jewish Museum of New York for the 8-hour endurance performance Opshernish. Tobaron has taught performance, voice, collaborative techniques and trans art histories internationally at schools including School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Hollins University and Chinese University of Hong Kong. In 2013, Tobaron founded The Intergenerational LGBT Artist Residency, as a combined curatorial, relational/live art, and sociopolitical praxis. In 2022-2023, Tobaron is the inaugural Artist in Residence at Polin Museum, Warsaw.

Jesse Zaritt’s work engages drawing as dancing – a visual and physical practice linked to dreaming, drafting, and materializing futures. His choreographic, performance and teaching practices research the ways in which excessive, contemplative and resistive dance practices change how movement arises in the world and how dancing participates in processes of social transformation. A series of solo works made between 2008 and 2020 interrogate attachments to Jewish ritual and community, seeking to queer dominant paradigms of familial/national belonging, religion, gender and sexuality. Zaritt has performed his solo work in Taiwan, Uruguay, Russia, Korea, Germany, New York, Japan, Mexico, Israel and throughout the United States. Zaritt is an Associate Professor at the University of the Arts, having previously been the inaugural 2014–2016 Research Fellow in the University’s School of Dance. He has taught nationally and internationally at schools and festivals including Bard College, Hollins University and the American Dance Festival. Zaritt currently works in creative dialogue with Sara Shelton Mann.