False Premises

Video 25 minutes, English
Super 8 film transferred to and edited on lo-band U-matic video, colour, 1992 (GB)

DVD with German subtitles (Das Lebkuchenhaus) 2007 (D), 27 minutes
Trailer 6 minutes

Price DVD: 200 Euros

 

 

The original filmed material for False Premises was taken from a super 8 documentation, filmed by myself, of a self-build house project undertaken by myself and my former husband, at Swallowfields, Totnes, South Devon, England during 1983-86. The video was completed by the artist as part of the Colin Walker Fellowship in Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam University 1991-92.

The title False Premises alludes to the phrase „false premise“, a false assumption but also to the “false promises” in this case, of a house and home.

Seven stories, spoken by a man and a woman determine the structure of the video and contrast with the filmed documentation of the construction of a house. Consecutively numbered titles refer to parts of the body and particular rooms in a house.

FALSE PREMISES          NUMBER FOUR          THE FIRST
TRANSFORMATION          HEART                LIVING ROOM

The abuses of power behind closed doors in the privacy of the family home are laid bare, mirroring wider abuses in society at large, such as colonialism and occupation of land. The stories imply the multiple alienation of a Jewish woman by the dominant, and her own culture.

 

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The script to False Premises proffers so many examples of wordplay, a Jewish (Kabbalist) tradition, that the German translation, undertaken in 2007, 15 years after the completion of the video, was no easy venture:

“EVACUATION          INTERNMENT
EVACUATION           INTERMENT

Buried in the unconscious was the genetic
Memory of exile and death1


In the basement that didn’t exist, she defecated;
But she was so constipated that it was no use.”

The word evacuation refers here not only to enforced emigration, but also to the emptying of the bowels.

In False Premises, the 7 stages of development (regarding the building of this house) relate to the 7 chakras of the body in Hindu and Buddhist religious philosophy; the Kabbalistic tree of life, from the Jewish tradition, has however, 11 stages although the Kabbalistic tree of life named Jacob’s Ladder, 292. All these philosophies have pre-occupied me at various stages of my life.

Quotations cited in the video script are chiefly from biblical sources but there is also a dybbuk story, from Italy of the 16th century, telling of a young Jewish woman whose body has been taken possession of by a bad spirit3. My own accounts are not mystical happenings, but symbolic acts based on true stories of my experience within a Jewish nuclear family, in particular incidents that were kept under the covers, although it is generally known that 1 in 5 cases of abuse occur in the household.

In a later account of the video, where tomatoes are discovered growing in human excrement at the back of a cave, abuses on a global scale are implied, with specific allusions to Israel.4

At regular intervals during the video, breaking up the sequence of the visual narrative, one sees the black and white images of my feet walking in sandals. This metaphor reflects the introspection advanced by the Mosaic prohibition of the image but also of the ‘Wandering Jew’; sometimes in slow motion, filmed from above, feet are seen walking forwards but also always away - from the promise of a home.

Although the beginning and end of the video visually correspond with the beginning and end of the house building, the editing of the rest of the visual material and voice-over accounts are not chronological, counter-suggesting a notion of progressive development.

Within Chinese philosophy the top line of the I Ching, often overshoots. Commensurate with this idea, the final story in False Premises is of a German turn of the 20th century painter5. He is represented here by a golem6; although his intentions are lofty, he isolates himself from society, preferring to communicate only through his art.”


1 From Ury’s development notes for False Premises, 26.4.91: “In a TV series currently being screened, Wistrich says that the notion of genetic memory and difference was used by the Nazis as a reason for the Final Solution since it could not be expected of the Jew ever to be able to assimilate or integrate.”

2 (See page 324, Adam and the Kabbalistic Tree, Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi, Gateway Books London 1974)

3 In Kabbalah and European Jewish folklore, a dybbuk is a malicious possessing spirit, believed to be the dislocated soul of a dead person. Dybbuks are said to have escaped from Gehenna, a Hebrew term very loosely translated as "hell." Or may have been turned away from Gehenna due to transgressions too serious for the soul to be allowed there, such as suicide. The word "dybbuk" is derived from the Hebrew דיבוק, meaning "attachment"; the dybbuk attaches itself to the body of a living person and inhabits it. According to belief, a soul that has not been able to fulfill its function in its lifetime is given another opportunity to do so in the form of a dybbuk. It will leave once it has accomplished its goal, sometimes after being helped. Basically, a Dybbuk is a Jewish Trickster. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dybbuk

4 From my development notes for False Premises, 26.4.91:”’Next Year in Jerusalem’. Israel, the dream that every Jew over the centuries has nurtured, has now become an absurdity – not only is there not enough room to house the flood of Russian Jews (the largest world population of Jews are Russian), as I heard (the writer) Jakov Lind say: if all the Jews were in one place it makes them a target for annihilation thus realising Hitler’s Final Solution; and finally, the dream has become a nightmare because of the Palestinian issue, which is not being resolved through dominance of Right Wing politics in Israel and will remain to be the sting in the tail of the Dream.”

5 Suggested is Lesser Ury, although his name is not overtly mentioned in the script.

6 The earliest stories of golems date to early Judaism. Adam is described in the Talmud (Tractate Sanhedrin 38b) as initially created as a golem when his dust was "kneaded into a shapeless hunk". Like Adam (whose name literally means "earth,") all golems are created from mud. They were a creation of those who were very holy and close to God. A very holy person was one who strove to approach God, and in that pursuit would gain some of God's wisdom and power. One of these powers was the creation of life. No matter how holy a person became, however, a being created by that person would be but a shadow of one created by God. Early on, the notion developed that the main disability of the golem was its inability to speak. In Sanhedrin 65b, is the description of Raba creating a golem using the Sefer Yetzirah. He sent the golem to Rav Zeira; Rav Zeira spoke to the golem, but he did not answer. Said Rav Zeira, "I see that you were created by one of our colleagues; return to your dust." It is said that if a golem were made able to speak, that would give it a soul, and — because a golem cannot be made perfectly — that ability could make it very dangerous.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golem