I begin by asking – what is the object of waiting?
If I were to insist on a comprehensive answer, I would say that I am always waiting for one single object: actualization.
Maayan Goldman, "The Art of Waiting"
Amit Berlowitz's exhibition revolves around Samuel Beckett's well-known play, Waiting for Godot. In a series of color and black-and-white photographs of identical format, five children enact moments from the enigmatic play about two wretched, detached nomads waiting for a dubious figure named "Godot". It is a minimalistic set, with simple wooden platforms symbolizing the stage, and a round opening denoting the sun and moon. It evokes a similar feeling to reading the play: we are moving across a frozen time, or perhaps a time in which nothing happens anymore, a time of waiting. These are personal photographs: the children are the artist's and her friends', but they are also universal or timeless, parentless children. The transition from text to a visual event, as well as the replacement of the adult characters with children, intensifies the sensation of existential solitude, while adding a dimension of a game or adventure.
I must say I have never read Waiting for Godot in one sitting, as a play. I have read parts of it in different times of my life, so in my imagination it appears as a collection of still photographs. The impossibility of reading it in one session does not undermine its importance; it makes it necessary, as a task or a burden we must carry for no clear purpose. I may have leafed through to the end to see nothing happened except waiting for something that would never happen. Life is like that – waiting for something to happen. And the absurd thing is that we are waiting for something in which we no longer believe, waiting without real hope, passing time with meaningless games, little dramas, foolish intrigues, and occasional, fleeting moments of grace or happiness, until it's all over.
In "The Art of Waiting", an essay written to accompany the Godot series and the exhibition, Maayan Goldman writes: "I am waiting for the thing to happen. For someone to come, call or write. For the idea to crystalize, to be understood and turn into words. I am waiting for change. I am waiting to become who I hoped to be. I am waiting, in fact, for my life to begin – for something, anything, to begin. Or end. Waiting for the disquiet to disappear, and for my headache to stop – then, finally, my life will begin. And everything concealed in my life will at last actualize. And so will I." The Hebrew word for waiting (hamtana) brings to mind a gift (matana). Hamtana, waiting, is a state of expectation or alert, but if it is accepted, it can turn into a matana, a gift – just like during the pandemic, when time had stopped and life evolved inwards, instead of outwards and forward.
The matana (gift) is also realized inside the hamtana (waiting), as a gift must be given, establishing an interpersonal relationship which is continuous over time, which, in fact, cannot end. A gift is the ability to give without feeling in lack, or to receive without feeling in debt. The relationship of the gift allows for an intimate relationship of giving and receiving which is free from the economy of debt or guilt, power or control. The gift, truly deserving of its name, creates a forever-open common space of cooperation. Hence the uncomfortable feeling many people experience when receiving a gift. It creates an undetermined bond, open, perhaps infinite. How can I return the gift I received from my parents, my teachers, my intimate friends, my partner? How can I return the gift that art has given me? The only proper response is to pass it on, to give a gift, not just this or the other item, but the gift of giving itself, the gift of the gift – to learn to give and receive without expecting anything in return.
And what about waiting? Waiting, too, is painful and enjoyable, open and infinite. A true waiting has no end, waiting is life itself. For this reason, pleasure is infinite, like a child expecting something to come, anything; waiting in expectation can be exciting and pleasurable in itself. And when the something arrives after a long wait, it necessarily leads to disappointment, because the expectation in waiting was infinite, and the thing itself, as wonderful as it may be, is necessarily limited. On the other hand, suffering, just like the pleasure of waiting, is also infinite. This is the reason Goldman adds in parentheses "(Sometimes I wait for actualization's negative double. For annihilation. For the pain to end. For everything else to end.)"
Waiting is a form of being in time, it slices time open and reveals the possibility of the eternal in each moment. Each moment stretches and opens up, each moment is a whole life. This is the way Amit Berlowitz's photographs are, this is how the moments of the play are: a vision of a terrible, wonderful eternity, terribly quiet, perfect and impossible. Art is thus a gift – it exists where one gives and receives beyond any ownership; it is an expectation that cannot be fulfilled, weaving together a community which goes forward and back in time, a community of parentless children who imagine and play as they wait. Waiting is thus a gift, and the gift is the ability to wait, not for something or someone in particular, but in general, as we live.
For the current exhibition, Berlowitz added two video works in the Godot series. One, Marie, is a portrait of a woman towards the end of her life. Marie tells the story of her life as she weaves. She speaks Spanish and French with a Basque accent. She was born, grew up, got married, had children, and after long wanderings and wars she returned to her natal village. In the political and historical sense, we go through two World Wars and the dictatorship of Franco in Spain. These obviously mark her personal life as well, but a part of her inner spiritual life remains hidden. And in that sense, in what concerns the root of the soul, nothing happens. Once again.
In the second work, Sari Nusseibeh, a Jerusalem-born Palestinian philosopher and President of the Al-Quds University in East Jerusalem, also tells his life story. He was born to an aristocratic family descending from Nusaybah bint Ka'ab, a female warrior who defended prophet Mohammad, reaching Jerusalem 1300 years ago. The family holds the key to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Sari's father was involved in politics and served as Jordan's ambassador to the United Kingdom, and Sari himself, despite his philosophical endeavors, was the Palestinian Authority's representative in Jerusalem. We know his story from the other side. Like many Palestinians and Israelis, he is waiting for the idea of peace to mature and materialize, and his life is filled with disappointments. Like us Israelis, the Palestinians never missed a chance to miss a chance. He, too, is waiting. The work is deconstructed into a live still image of the Dome of the Rock, with Nusseibeh's voice sounded in earphones. He wavers between a solution of civic state and the two-state solution. Nothing happens. Once again. And in the meantime, we look at the photo series, waiting for Godot.