THE FIRST ACCUSED
By: Sahar Azimi
Director and Concept Developer: Sahar Azimi
Consultant to the Director and Text Editor: Orly Rabinyan
Artistic Advisor: Renana Raz
Actor: Oded Menaster
Performers: 20 different performers each evening
Music: Matthew Green
Styling and Costumes: Ariel Cohen
Production manager: Dana Gorsky Productions
Actor Oded Menaster will play the leader in an experiment featuring 20 different performers each night – artists from the fields of dance, theater, circus arts, drag, and more. These participants are skilled at improvisation and at sharing their decisions with the audience. They have agreed to one basic rule: they will do whatever the leader asks them to do, as they understand it.
The performers took part in a preparatory workshop with the experiment's creator, Sahar Azimi. During the workshop the performers gained experience with a number of tools that will be useful to them in the experimental environment, such as code words and concrete poetry. The leader will try to guide the participants through a series of preselected actions, while also delivering an hour-long address composed of passages from speeches given by leaders from a range of countries and time periods. The performers, like the audience, encounter the leader and the series of actions for the first time during the experiment at the Museum.
The experiment seeks to explore, in real time, the latitude for freedom of choice that is inherent in the actions – both simple and complex – requested of the performers, and to determine how devoted the performers are to an authoritative figure who asks them to do things without their knowing why.
The speech passages
The passages were chosen over the course of several months' research and were drawn from a diverse array of speeches delivered by leaders of different countries at key historical moments: times of victory and reconciliation as well as times of defeat and threat. The speakers were heads of democratic governments and dictators, military commanders and spiritual leaders; some of the speeches changed the world, while others sought to leave the world just as it was. The selected passages touch on issues that we wanted to raise during the experiment: social disparities, minority rights, the status of the leader, and more. As we compiled the material, we omitted any references to specific times and places, but remained absolutely loyal to the letter and spirit of the original texts. Organizing the speech passages into a single monologue made it possible for all of the voices to be heard sequentially, despite the years, languages, oceans and continents that separate them.
Arafat at the UN General Assembly, 1974:
Today I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom-fighter's gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand. I repeat: do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.
Bibi, Bar-Ilan speech, 2009:
With the advantages of peace so clear, so obvious, we must ask ourselves why is peace still so far from us, even though our hands are extended for peace? Why has the conflict going on for over 60 years? To bring an end to it, there must be a sincere, genuine answer to the question: what is the root of the conflict?
All of this takes place in the permanent Modern Art Gallery of The Israel Museum, Jerusalem. The experiment will unfold against the background of iconic artworks, some of which were created in response to issues discussed in the speeches – thereby providing additional context for the speeches and the events taking place in the space. The experiment's concrete poetry element was conceived following a tour with Dr. Adina Kamien-Kazhdan, Curator of Modern Art at the Museum, who discussed this fascinating feature of 20th century Dadaism.