Crossing to the Realm of Manifestation

A video essay based on a site-specific theory performance.

Performance documentation| 3D animation video| 16:9 multi-channel video 10:40 min | poem | winter 2024

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“Crossing to the Realm of Manifestation” embarks on an inquiry aimed at embracing different ways of knowing. An intimate exploration of my lived experiences and an endeavor to comprehend and theorize my reality amidst a “plausible genocide.” As part of this undertaking, I adopted a site-specific theory performance as a mode of knowledge dissemination. At the center of this theory performance is a scientifically research-based poem recited on-site and concluded with an ablution ceremony. 

In this theory performance, I juxtapose disparate spatialities and temporalities, setting them in parallel to enable comparison and critique. To achieve this, I interconnected various spaces, ranging from my father’s final resting place in Amman, Jordan, to the East Bank of the Jordan River and the Kindertransport monument in Berlin, located at the East Bank of the Spree. As for the different temporalities, I draw upon ancient narratives and biblical lore, the turbulent mid-twentieth century, contemporary realities, and speculative futures.

At the nexus of this junction lies the Jordan River, which I am weaving through an intimate dialogue with both my departed father and the river itself. With this time and space weaving, I aim to initiate a conversation that unravels the convolutions of the present moment and projects toward a just future.  

As such, I reflect on which relationship between these bodies I could recognize as a way of framing the space: human bodies and more-than-human bodies, bodies of water, virtual bodies, living and dead bodies.

The Children’s Transport Monument, Züge ins Leben – Züge in den Tod: 1938–1939 (Trains to life – trains to death) at Berlin Friedrichstraße station for the rescue of 10,000 Jewish children who traveled from here to London— the West and the ones who did make it alive ended up in Auschwitz—The East. Unveiled on November 30, 200, it was produced by Frank Meisler —himself a Kindertransport evacuee in August 1939. Who later, in the late 1950s, moved to Israel and spent the rest of his life there.

The monument stands as a testament to Nazi Germany’s efforts to erase not only the past and the present but also the future by ethnically cleansing its society of all that was considered racially impure. 

Children, the next generation, are vessels of the future, the succession carrying the teachings and traditions of the collective and the covenant. Those children were forcibly removed. The ripple effect of this mass migration due to ethnic cleansing resulted in the forceful movement and ethnic cleansing of other people. As European Jews journeyed to then Palestine— the West Bank of the river, escaping prosecution while displacing Palestinians forced to the opposite bank—the fate my father’s family encountered, finding refuge on the East side of the Jordan River. 

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I explore the significance of crossing the river from east to west, according to biblical scripture, as well as current material and geopolitical implications. Not least, I also reflect on the symbolism of crossing from one state to another, the shift in status, such as transitioning from unfreedom to freedom, native to refugee, or life to death, and the multiplicity of bodily use, crossing from one meaning to another.

According to deuteronomistic history, Transjordan (the east side of the Jordan River) functions as a site of exile, refuge, and “incubative transformation.” After a long wait for the condition to ripen, the motif of return from the East Bank signifies a powerful metaphor of the return to a high degree, a previously lost status. 

After 40 years of leading his tribe, Moses finally found the promised land. He deferred crossing to the West Bank of the river and designated Joshua as his successor to lead his tribe. The crossing signifies a crossing to freedom and liberation. In this sense, the East Bank resembles the side of unfreedom. The Jordan River presents a site of ritual boundary, succession, geographical rupture, and transformation. The rivers become a signifier between here and there.

Much like my father forcibly moved to the East Bank of the river to make space for the new arrivals from European Jewry, subsequent generations in my family were born on this side—in exile, in a realm of initiation, where complete freedom remains elusive. The inability to cross over the West side of the river, I’m left wandering for the promised land, where I, as a Palestinian, am able to live unbridled and survive, yet not arrive. 

Within this laid-out framing, my body bears dual significance: a physical body sustains my lively presence, and my political body carries the struggle and task toward liberation, a lineage-bound commitment—immorality in the collective manifests in the continuity of the quest for freedom and upholding the covenant.

Here, I find myself situated in Berlin; I stand as my father’s child, bearing his legacy, a carrier of my ancestry’s future, amidst the monument commemorating children subjected to forced displacement, echoing the journey of those who were displaced.

Since I began my master’s studies, I have encountered the Kindertransport monument often —a spot in which whenever I pass, a recurring thought assumed that my father would have liked to see it if he had once had the chance to visit me— It is close to the Humboldt University campus, which is also located on the east side of the Spree. As such, the university campus serves as a site of incubation, transformation, initiation, and freedom through education. 

To unlock a gateway to spaces beyond my physical reach or that I otherwise would not have access to, I venture into a realm of disembodiment, immersing myself in the boundless possibilities a virtual embodiment can offer. Virtual space presents a way of transcending our bodies and environments’ confines. Game engine technologies engender immersive realism, allowing me to visualize the translocality, engendering worlds capable of eliciting bodily responses through sensory stimuli. This simulated hyperreality exceeds the limiting conventional reality. In a sense, the game engine becomes an extension of my senses, augmenting my perceptual capacities and granting me access. Through this status shift from the physical body, I reaffirm my political existence and cultivate an alternative political imagination against the imposed reality. 

Emphasizing ritualistic dimensions inherent in some of the narratives of crossings of the Jordan River, the theory performance culminates with a Muslim ablution ceremony, signaling the dawn of a new chapter and the passing on of the lineage message and continuity. 

Poem

Words on bodies: human and more than humanBodies of water, wounded bodies, living and dead bodies. Words that follow, dedicated to my departed father.

Baba Dearest,

Did you know Moses designated Joshua, a successor, to lead his tribe across to liberation?Have you heard? He did not cross the Jordan River to the promised land.

In the heart of Berlin, I standby the Children’s Transport Monument,where whispers of history unfold,a tale etched in iron that is untold.

Züge ins Leben, Züge in den Tod, trains to life, trains to death,
carrying dreams, hopes, and fears
of 10,000 children through the years.

A memorial echoes survival’s plight,
children forced into the dark of night.
Remembering those who faced extermination’s breath,
a macabre ballet, a dance with death.

Frank Meisler, a Kindertransport soul,
crafts a monument, a timeless scroll,
unveiled in ’08, a witness of pain,
a silent echo of a past’s cruel reign.

On the Spree River’s East bank,
A testament to the world’s cruel stank,
Nazi Germany’s ethno cleanse,
a dance with shadows, a wicked dance.

I stand, survivor by forced tides, stories uphold.
Unlike غزة weeping innocence, a steal sweep,
a parallel dance, where echoes and shadows seep.

Children, vessels of tomorrow’s light,
forcibly torn from day to night,
a ripple in time, a migration’s song,
a journey where innocence went wrong.

A ripple in time, a migration’s twist,
Jews to the West Bank, a surreal tryst.

Biblical tales echo Moses and his strife,
a crossing to freedom, the dance of life.
East of Jordan’s flowing tide,
a realm of initiation, unfreedom, where fates abide.

Moses deferred, the West Bank’s door,
a tale of succession, a river’s lore.

From Europe’s heart to the East Bank’s shore,
a family displaced, a destiny bore,
the river, a boundary, a site of change,
and a pilgrimage through time’s wide range.

In Berlin’s streets, a multi-temporal scar, a seeker roams,
Moses-like, gazing at promised homes,
Humboldt’s halls, a site of initiation,
a pursuit of freedom, an education.

Wandering for the promised land, الضفة الغربية reveal
Palestinian dreams in a zeal deal.
Dual-bodied, vessel of lively persistence,
political body, with a fest high and solid resistance.

So here I am in Berlin, where echoes blend,
father’s child, ancestry carried, a cosmic trend.
Amidst the monument, stories forcibly removed,
echoes of displacement, a pilgrimage in a hard truth.

A body, both physical and political,
carries the weight, a lineage’s call,
struggling for freedom, a covenant foresee,
a quest for liberation, a destiny.

Jordan River, a boundary where fates sway.
Ritual site, a geographical rupture,
rivers as signifiers, a journey’s capture.

Baba moved, رقص on the East bank’s shore,
new arrivals, a dance of forevermore.
Generations born in exile’s initiation,
complete freedom elusive, an end of domination. 

O Berlin, city of echoes and Stolper stone
never arriving, in your embrace, my father’s known,
amongst displaced children, a seeker’s plea,
a journey unfolds, like poetry.

Bibliography 

Baudrillard, Jean. Simulations. Semiotext(e) Foreign Agents Series. New York City, N.Y., U.S.A.: Semiotext(e), Inc., 1983.

“Frank Meisler.” In Wikipedia, November 12, 2023. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Frank_Meisler&oldid=1184685632.

Havrelock, R. River Jordan: The Mythology of a Dividing Line. University of Chicago Press, 2011. https://books.google.de/books?id=5tCIiwLQr2MC.

Hutton, J.M. The Transjordanian Palimpsest: The Overwritten Texts of Personal Exile and Transformation in the Deuteronomistic History. Beihefte Zur Zeitschrift Für Die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft. De Gruyter, 2009.

Rothberg, Michael. Multidirectional Memory : Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization. Cultural Memory in the Present. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press Stanford, Calif., 2009.

Simon, Scott, and Eyder Peralta. “ICJ Finds Genocide Case against Israel ‘Plausible’, Orders It to Stop Violations.” NPR, January 27, 2024, sec. World. https://www.npr.org/2024/01/27/1227397107/icj-finds-genocide-case-against-israel-plausible-orders-it-to-stop-violations.

Trains to Life – Trains to Death.” In Wikipedia, April 17, 2024. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Trains_to_Life_%E2%80%93_Trains_to_Death&oldid=1219410322#cite_note-4.