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Uriel Orlov
Creation's Details
Title: Threshold of Light/Threshold of Language
Year: 2001
Material: 2 DVDs, 31 minutes each

“Threshold of Light – Threshold of Language” is a video installation on two screens that examines the expressions, experiences and revelations of sanctity in Judaism as an expression, experience or revelation of the border and above the border. The two videos were photographed in the Sinai desert; the first encounter of the nation of Israel and its God. The videos are presented on floor-to-ceiling screens facing each other, creating a corridor between them and the viewers will look from one screen to the other.
Jewish tradition forbids making a picture or sculpture of God. The encounter is only possible through language, through words or in an even more defined fashion – through hearing. Hearing exists on the threshold of language, in the place where speech nullifies the absolute distance toward God, which makes itself heard on this threshold and above. Maurice Blanchot wrote: “What we owe Jewish monotheism is not the revelation of one God, but the revelation of speech as a place in which a person remains connected to that which rejects any connection: the infinite distance, the absolute otherness […] speech, of course is the promised land in which revelation realizes itself” (The Infinite Conversation]. Therefore, in Judaism the picture takes on a special function. The picture, liberated (or prevented) from the function of mimesis, or imitation, is not a picture of something, but its own essence. Beyond representation, the picture becomes pure vision.
The film, “Threshold of Language,” examines the role of the desert as a place and the role of language as a medium, expressed in the encounter between the nation of Israel and its God. In this encounter, Moses is the spokesperson of God. He did not only transmit the word of God; God spoke through him. Tradition states that Moses was heavy of mouth and heavy of tongue, that is to say, someone who stutters, and he usually let Aaron speak but at this important moment he spoke and his speech defect testifies to the existence of language on a border that can be given expression.
The film, “Threshold of Light,” examines the picture itself as a vision. It therefore always remains on the border of what-can-be-seen. The image of sunrise on Mount Sinai remains as the eternal movement between night and day, between transparency and opacity. This is an image on the threshold of revelation (light) and internal meditation (darkness). The almost imperceptible movement between the two, beyond the threshold, creates an experiential space of expectancy.
In the installation, “Threshold of Light/Threshold of Language,” the two videos face each other and create a dialectic space in which sight is bordered with hearing, light with darkness, speech with silence. This is the threshold from which we can approach the sacred. The two video films should be screened one after the other. The fact that the images exist as light radiations and are not screened on screens is an integral part of the work: this means that the observer stands facing a non-material picture whose dimensions are larger than those of the observer and which cannot be contained or fully controlled through sight.

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