Being Touched by an Angel Just Before Birth
De Domijnen, opening 20 oktober 2019
The title of the exhibition in Sittard is derived from a story from the book Niddah 30b that is part of the Talmud. In the narration the angel Lailah – her name is the same as the Hebrew word for “night” – chooses a soul from paradise and instructs it to take place in a human embryo. Lailah guides and protects the unborn child in the womb, and provides it with all the knowledge and experience that can be acquired by humans. Just before birth, the angel urges the child to stillness and Lailah touches the child above the lip, creating the philtrum between mouth and nose. All the wisdom acquired by the child disappears in an instant. In the context of the encyclopedic work of Joseph Sassoon Semah, the exhibition title can be interpreted in various ways. His visual oeuvre resists amnesia and carries with it the lacerations of the post-war world – a secularized Christian world that no longer knows or recognizes its own Jewish roots.
The exhibition in Sittard forms part of the large-scale event On Friendship / (Collateral Damage) III – The Third GaLUT: Baghdad, Jerusalem, Amsterdam, which takes place from 7 September to 19 January 2020 and is organized by Stichting Metropool Internationale Kunstprojecten. At 36 very different locations in Amsterdam, Sassoon Semah shares his forgotten cultural heritage in the form of visual art, performances, debates and lectures. For the manifestation, the artist designs 36 architectural models of houses, cultural institutions, synagogues and Jewish cemeteries in Baghdad from before 1948, which refer to the rich history of the lost Jewish Babylonian culture, as well as a new series of drawings. At the same time he builds temporary houses in Amsterdam (Hermitage Amsterdam), in Baghdad (for the Meir Tweig synagogue) and in Jerusalem (Jerusalem Biennale): MaKOM in MaKOM. He asks the audience to look again at his own art, culture, traditions and identity. The event is curated by Linda Bouws.