The Via Dolorosa Of The Falafel was my diploma graduation project for the Art and Photography class at the Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien. The work was a storytelling performance, structured as a walk from my studio at Semperdepot to the entrance of the Mumok museum. The story told of an experience of enlightenment caused by intractable pieces of chewed falafel that moved up my throat and into my nasal passages instead of going down into my stomach. While these chewed pieces were making their way back out into the world via my nose, I experienced a near-religious enlightenment, which lead me to sneeze out the pieces into a sheet of paper that was later folded and eventually put into the Western Wall.
The Western Wall is considered to be the holliest praying site for Jewish belivers. Many prayers go there to feel closeness to god, write their wishes to god on small notes, fold them and insert in between the cracks of the wall.
The performative walk was organized around a few stations, translating to the stops the falafel made in my body, during which time I retold the story of my enlightenment. At Mumok, I made an intervention and asked the crowd to put their wishes, written on paper notes, into the cracks of the museum wall.
I designed the shoes that I wore during the performance to give a holy-like image to the falafel scoop. This consecration functioned as a sort of 21st century consumer-culture cross, which I carried on me while walking my own Via Dolorosa.
One evening in 2009 I went to the western wall, the original one in Jerusalem, and I put a note inside. I can’t remember what the note said, but I remember it being a strange experience. The last time I did anything connected to religion was at the age of thirteen on my bar-mitzvah so, you know, nothing brought me to be even close to anything that connects god or religious experience although, I come from the holy city, but holy city is only for, i guess, people that can feel holiness in a way and the reason I came there to the western wall and put a wish in the wall was because I had an experience, sort of enlightenment and this enlightenment was a painful enlightenment, very strange in a way I had to really think deeply how to deal with it because I never had anything like that before.
It all started at the afternoon, at the noon of that day when I was going with my flatmate to get falafel from our favourite falafel shop - shalom falafel, this place is a place that I used to just go almost everyday because it has the best falafel in jerusalem, an illustration of this falafel is here on my shoes, this is the original shalom falafel balls, here you have with tahina and on the other side with pita, thats the original one, printed on adidas shoes, you know, it's part of the pain I have to go through.
Now whats very unique about this falafel is the spot, the spot is in the middle of the street, in sort of a cave, very poor area, and just next door to the falafel shop there is a laundry place, so when you go down the street you have the smell of laundry and deep fried oil and and you’re like already get it, you already get the whole experience by just smelling it, the clean and the dirty, goes up into your nose, and you have it already.
So like in every afternoon during this summer, very hot summer thirty five degrees everyday, you don’t know what to do with yourself, I went with Adam my flatmate and we got us a nice falafel in pita with a lot of tahina and salad, we took it back and we sat on the balcony of my old room, and there inside we were just eating just in such as in everyday, it's just that in this afternoon we asked we were asking for extra tahina inside, tahini, inside our pita, it made everything very like juicy, very like, you know, we could like play with it, it was quite fun, and then Adam was taking out his pita out of the bag and he was just like squeezing it like that and it looked like the falafel is laughing, the whole pita is laughing, it was a very funny experience, so I started to laugh, when I was laughing I had one ball of falafel in my mouth, the moment when I tried to swallow it, it just got stuck in my nose, just like it happens to you when you drink coca-cola and it goes out of your nose, or spaghetti for other people.
For me it happened with a scoop of falafel, and this was a very interesting feeling because, the falafel, its very dry, and you know, all these little pieces, you don’t know what to do with yourself, you think the falafel will get into your breath and your will just get a stroke and die, which I was really sure that would happen at the first moment, so I called my mother, and you know jewish mothers they are getting stressed, so my mother said like, you know maybe you should go to the hospital, but I think if you breath out a lot it will just go out, she didn’t know how much falafel I had inside there, like other jewish mothers she also offered to drive me to the hospital in case I want that, but I said no, I will deal with it myself.
So I started to breath in and out and and there was nothing really going on, I was just closing my eyes, and sitting on the floor in my room, and just trying to imagine what will happen to me if I died now, because of this falafel, I was stressed, and I started to breath in and out and slowly slowly I started to feel like first falafel pieces are coming down through my nose outside.
There was not much blood coming out, sometimes little pieces of you know, stuff I have inside my nose, and it was you know, it happens, it happens sometimes to everybody, so first pieces started to go, and I tried also to get water inside, to wash things from the inside, and it didn’t work out because you cannot force it on yourself, It has to happen by accident.
In that moment I was still processing the whole pain, so in that moment when I was realising that my body was going through shock and my brain I thought would get a stroke from dying from falafel pieces, anyway, I was sitting on the floor and just starting to see some colors in my head, imaging these colors getting out of the falafel, it was very somehow artistic experience, because sometimes you imagine things and you connect it to colors and these colors can be influencing your, i don’t know, next video or whatever, and it did influence my video, next time where I was breathing falafel balls into my nose.
At some point I decided to go to a yoga class because, you know, in yoga class you breath in and out, and it's really, a useful system, you should try that, I went to yoga class, and it was embarrassing because while I was sitting, the falafel was starting to come out, and that was amazing, because I was meditating in yoga class and everything started to come out, my teacher came and asked me what's going on with your nose, and I said it's the falafel for lunch, it's coming out now finally, it was the first and only yoga class that actually helped me, the rest was just crap really.
And when everything came out I first of all I felt happy because I didn’t die, I just tried to remember this in my head, but of course you know, years go by, people learn in exchange programs, they come to Vienna, they get stuck in Vienna, study here, and the only the first time that things started to connect back together is when I went next to Mumok one day on the way to the Wiener Aktionismus conference, and they’re like they suffer, I suffer, things happen there, things happen to me
I walked by and I saw these cracks inside Mumok, inside the wall, and I thought like aha, this reminds me of something, something I should like, how come I never thought about it, it was like you know like that, a new thing, a new thing came up to my mind, and I thought like ok, let's try that, I took a note, I took a pen and I put it inside the wall and that was how I started to think about you know, western wall, wishes, things came back into my head, well the wish from Mumok did not happen but, I put last time a wish and that happened, you know it didn’t rain today, thanks god.
And yeah, yeah that's how more or less how, at some point that’s how things connected in Vienna, and I decided to go back into the experience of the falafel, of the suffer I had there, things started to connect again, and I decided to try and describe the whole process of this very unique day of the enlightenment, probably the only enlightenment I ever had, and probably will have in the future, as I’m not coming back to Israel,