Triptych: Genesis, Kavana, Sabbath


practice research, video essay, embodied research, jewish studies, epistemology


These three video essays come out of a multi-year research project that attempts to rethink and redesign the relationship between embodiment and audiovisuality in the context of academic research. As one anonymous reviewer noted, they gesture towards “a new kind of research artifact, making a space somewhere between standard documentation and contemporary creative product.” All three of the video essays comprise footage taken from experimental practice or “laboratory” sessions conducted at the University of Huddersfield in summer 2017. During this period the core research team (Ben Spatz, Nazlıhan Eda Erçin, and Agnieszka Mendel) undertook sustained practice research, working with and through a selection of Jewish music recordings from the Smithsonian Folkways Records archive. Arising from the project’s aim to investigate contemporary identity through songwork, the three videos are linked by the provenance of their titles, each of which names a key concept in Jewish religious thought. However, in no case does the title of the video essay refer to an explicit focus of the documented practice. Rather, the titles were imposed afterwards as part of an editorial process that frames the selected audiovisual material in a particular way, relating it to my own perspective and to the research aims of the project. The relationship between the collaborative dynamics of the documented practice and its subsequent editorial framing raises many questions about the ethics and epistemology of embodied audiovisual research.

“Genesis” (5:46).

Illuminated video essay by Nazlıhan Eda Erçin, Caroline Gatt, Agnieszka Mendel and Ben Spatz. Montage and videography by Ben Spatz. Hebrew alphabet by Bruce Steinberg.

“Kavana” (11:32).

Illuminated video essay by Nazlıhan Eda Erçin, Agnieszka Mendel and Ben Spatz, with Garry Cook (external videographer). Videography by Agnieszka Mendel. Montage and annotations by Ben Spatz. 

“Sabbath” (7:20).

Illuminated video essay by Ben Spatz with Agnieszka Mendel and Nazlıhan Eda Erçin.

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