“The Walk” is a 3-hour performance piece by artist Rabia Salfiti in which 12 participants were bound together using the ancient Japanese Kinbaku technique and walked together from Jaffa to Tel Aviv and back. The performance piece plays on notions of power, domination, and submission both on an individual and collective level.
Palestinian Artist Rabia Salfiti was born in 1979. Salfiti graduated from Wizo School of Art and Design (2014) with a distinction in Photography, received a diploma in Interior Design from the University of Florence in Italy, and studied philosophy at the University of Varanasi in India. The artist is particularly interested in experiences and designing an experience in order to provoke the mind in his performance work. He is currently based in Haifa.
How would you roughly summarise the performance piece?
Myself taking the role of a leader in this piece, I tighten 12 people: 6 males and 6 females together from the chest, leaving the hands free and covering the eyes with the sleeping bond. 3 people of the group had their eyes uncovered and they were guiding the rest of the group in the walk.
The word “علاقه” in Arabic means “relationship” and also means “to tighten”.
“The Walk” project is a three-hour long tour for 12 participants, aimed at creating a meditative experience. 12 as the disciples of Jesus, each person represents a different aspect of society. Through the walk, I explore the choices of the individual in a group: the line between the herd instinct and individuality. I believe that in order to deal with a situation in your life, you have to trust in it. I created a performance that places the need to trust me as a guide as a prerequisite for the situation. The participants will explore their confidence and faith in me and the progression of the walk. What is the role of the person leading the group – is he freer than the rest or is he a slave to them? The connection between the participants and myself is pushed into co-dependence and partnership in an experimental performance in the public space and in the mind. This is a physically and mentally challenging tour, for both myself and the participants, which elicits responses from passersby to the strange parade in the urban landscape.
Another important aspect of the piece is when I tighten the participant from the chest, thus leaving the hands free, which means they all have the possibility to untie themselves and leave but nobody left in the performance.
The project touches on energetic situations of introspection and of the feeling of being watched, despite not seeing the person who is watching you. Other senses will become sharper.
I have been influenced by my travels throughout the world (and in a sense, a tour is a miniature journey). An artwork activates the imagination and makes you dive into the hidden world of the invisible. It opens doors and never closes them, and the more doors you open, the more others will appear. In “The Walk” project, I give this a literal manifestation by covering the participants’ eyes, allowing the experience to emerge from the invisible.
Many of my works explore man as an individual in a group and the external influences on him. I shape a symbolic experience to the experience I have lived and recreate it, or build an experience that explores human issues. The symbolic reminds people something about senselessness and lets them into the situation. There is a difference between knowledge and experience, and performance is a direct experience. Art makes you think about what you feel and helps you evolve.
“The Walk” deals with questions of trust and power relations, with human relationships. There is a dilemma of how to follow something without questioning it. In order to step forward, you have to persevere even if the situation is not completely clear. Western critical thought tells us not to obey what we do not understand, to avoid becoming slaves to a master. One of the aches of culture is the sanctification of the individual, so all self-abnegations look the same, but they are not. I ask for a lot from the participants I wish to lead. And I draw from the responsibility the spiritual master has over his pupils, whose hand he holds during a spiritual process or awakening. While not forgetting that people use their power over other people, this is certainly true in the spiritual field. The project has restrictive definitions (covering, tying, not talking) from which closeness and partnership develop.
“The Work” gains another layer of meaning since it will take place in mixed Arab-Jewish cities. My point of departure is living in a divided area, and I am trying to reach an experience that is one unified whole. I am looking for a different hierarchy – pantheistic, if you will. The audience is a part of the performance, just as I am. Your own reality in the art world is a truth. You become a part of the work, you and your mood changes with the audience. I would like for the audience and the street to also experience these transformations.
Who are the participants and who is the audience?
The people of this piece are different people from different fields of society who were willing to answer to the needs of the work to be done.
The audience were the people of the city Tel Aviv, those who were on the beach in Jaffa, and the area of the performance, which is public space.
What is the significance of using the Kinbaku technique, especially given its sexual/erotic connotations and association with power play? What is the aesthetic significance of it as this rope tying technique is also considered a sign of beauty?
The decision to use Shibari [Kinbaku] was because of its connection to the power play connotation since the work talks about relations and the way the the leader tries to manipulate the herd by using sexual energy.
When I speak about sexual energy, I speak about money and the fear of surviving, which is often used to manipulate people in all societies.
Why were those in the performance instructed to use several languages?
The reason for using different languages was to mislead people from the origin of the participants.
Can you expound further on the significance of the particular route used for the piece?
The route was between Tel Aviv and Jaffa, so in any moment of the performance there was Tel Aviv in from Jaffa in the back, the city on the right, the beach on the left.
So, we went forward and backward between the two charged places which symbolizes the two different aspects of the area and the conflict between them and the people who are stuck in between who are also mislead by the leaders.
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