Rachelle Menshikova, "As It Happens", 2002, 20 minute, single-channel video transferred to DVD.

“As It Happens”, 2002, 20 minute, single-channel video transferred to DVD.

Rachelle Menshikova

As It Happens: A collection of personal narratives from young Israeli women of Russian descent talking about their lives twice through the piece: once, during the negotiations at Camp David, in the summer of 2000, and again one and a half years later, as it happens.

This work brings to a focus a subjective witness of today’s history through the exposure of women’s voices from Israel. It gives a voice to women situated in their home environments. It gives an exposure of the private voice in public. It exposes different stages of subconsciousness in the psychology of the female.

I believe, we all (artists in particular) function bringing a witness to this world. One tends to expect certain integrity from a witness, at least integrity in a sense of honesty and sincerity. The accent on the witness from this perspective was one of the goals taken in this work. Even though the work has no claim to be an historical document, I still feel the importance of sticking to the truths living in my friends’ (interviewed women) feelings and emotions. The hope of this piece was to serve as a different kind of information food coming to us from this land, through the exposure of voices of these women, talking while the backdrop of bombarding media portraying ongoing war/struggle in Israel.

Treating the events from the place of the deep personal involvement of these women I want to bring a different “page” for reading this war. This conflict, locked in the condition of “no exit”, teaches us among other things to stop asking the popular question “how is it going to end?” This very desire for resolution, being a part of human nature, when taken to the extremes fuels the fires of aggression and violence. Through exposing the emotional experiences of people’s voices in this work I hope to offer a chance to the West cultured audience to realize that they are not watching and involving themselves in the Western movie which has a stable continuation on TV screens daily, but rather witnessing a tragedy of two nations. This perspective offers the possibility of acceptance of open-ended condition, in atmosphere of fear, doubt and uncertainty.

Being myself a Russian Israeli Jew and watching the unjustness of the media portrayal of the events that literally take place in my parents’ backyard, I feel as I have a responsibility to counterbalance those by presenting the sincerity of emotional experiences known to me, which while being subjective will object the modified by media witnesses, used for bringing accusation or defense. One of the conclusions I came to in this process of accumulating this inaccurate, one-sided information became a particular interest to me, which I think I would like to relate in my future works. And this is the realization; everything ever said, including the lies, becomes real. It may be neither factual nor genuine, but once said and once heard it has a life. In this framework the only thing left is to make an addition.

In this work a voice is given to women who are juxtaposing their fantasies with a fear throughout a gap of 2-year period. As women we are built to perceive the reality we live in through the filter of emotional spectrum, which deals a lot with pain. By presenting the juxtaposition of describing the dream place and today’s fear in the piece, I reference the idea of realness of our fantasies and nightmares. Those mind generated images are not any less “factual” than the factually based information to me. Both are expression and the outlet to one’s deep pain. Pain is the missing element of most historical documents and any other documents, since it is very problematic to communicate pain because of language limitations, even though it has a structure and triggers that one can observe: for instance the fact that pain comes in waves. Since we have no tool for measuring the pain (do we?) it might be questioned how real or unreal the concept of pain is or how this issue should remain within the realm of uncertainty, but the fact is when something hurts it becomes the most real thing existing. This applies to all cases, including those when the pain is undetermined and the way to stop it unknown. One of my very admired Israeli writers and activists Amos Oz is bringing up this theme, questioning for example “how relevant to the glorious Battle of Waterloo was Napoleon’s belly ache? And how exactly should the historian deal with this particular bellyache? How should the storyteller deal with it? And where in a sphere of reality does the belly ache take place?” In “As It Happens” I use interviews and letters with non-edited text, preserving the communications of feelings in its most raw state. My own interpretation is communicated through used visual metaphors.

Women talking throughout “As It Happens” are mothers and their connections between the past and the future as well as between the fantasy and the fear are particularly distinctive due to their maternal instincts, which function as driving forces of her child survival from the beginning of the pregnancy. I believe that creating a portrait based on witnessing emotional subjective experience offers to rethink the values for realness, making an addition to the political circumstances.

Rachelle Menshikova is a working artist and educator. She was born in Latvia, a former Soviet republic. As a teenager she immigrated to Israel. Her work encompasses video, performance art, installation and exploring the notion of different experimental ruptures in time. Her works deal with ongoing events in Israel. Using elements of different social and behavioral constructs, she explores issues of immigration and femininity in today’s Israeli society. Menshikova’s work focuses on interweaving documentations of personal narratives and revealing visual forms of human psyche. Rachelle received BFA from the BEZALEL Fine Arts & Design Academy in Jerusalem. She is currently pursuing her MFA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY.