"one body in the shell of another."

מכתב ללאה אביר ולנעמי אביב, אוצרות DEMONS  מוזיאון מובי, בת ים  2008

go to AFTER LAUGHTER installation

לנעמי ולאה שלום,


להלן התיחסותי לשאלותיכן. אני כותבת באנגלית לבקשתכן:


    In the time of the socialist Youth Movement during the 60's we used to sing:

"Stalin is our Father, Russia's our Mother and – yeah –  we are the Orphans"

I recall this Schlager, now, and would like to think of it as the "ghost" motivating my work for Demons.


My wall-work, "AFTER  LAUGHTER (a song from an orphan)", will be based on a drawing called "LAUGHTER" made by Tatlin in 1923 for the play "Zangezi" written by Khlebnikov.  It will follow and freely interpret Tatlin's idea of using forms as "one body in the shell of another." This principle has been crucial to my own work since the '70s.


"Incantation by Laughter", Khlebnikov's poem made of neologisms, and the drawing "Laughter" by Tatlin, are for me true children of the INTERNATIONAL. They were seeking a future language, the "Zaum" (translated as "Beyonsense''), an emotional Esperanto impenetrable, yet accessed universally and subconsciously by all mankind.

    My "AFTER LAUGHTER" (a song from an orphan) is my tribute and offering after the International.





Few words on Khlebnikov's "Zangezi"


"Zangezi" was Khlebnikov's last work before his death. It is a science fantasy play, a "Supersaga in Twenty Planes" (1922), staged produced and designed by the constructivist artist Vladimir Tatlin in 1923.


Tatlin also acted the leading role of Zangezi, Khlebnikov’s superhero, a prophet and a martyr, who is an eternal speech-maker, a human interpreter of birds, insects, Gods, and stars- who attempts to explain the transrational language to the gathered masses. The protagonist Zangezi strongly reminds me of the role Joseph Beuys plays in "How to explain pictures to a dead hare". Like Zangezi, also the figure Beuys defines his identity from his artistic creations; without them, the hero does not exist. Along with the mythical scheme, he must die in order to live.


The piece concludes Khlebnikov's life studies on language and the laws of time. For  Khlebnikov "the word is the building unit, the material is the unit of organized space, the super narrative is architecture from stories, and a story is an architecture from words".  Because he treated words like plastic material, he could think of a play in terms of a "government of language".  Because he took sound an element onto itself he could create words.

The sound "CH" for example evokes words like CHASHKA, CHEREP, CHULOK, CHAN (meaning cup, skull, stocking, vat) These words give the idea of an outer shell, one body in the shell of another. A whole chain of 'thing-like-sounds' creates the 'text' of "Zangezi."



 Khlebnikov's literary notoriety started with the publication of "Incantation by Laughter" in Kublins 1910 anthology, "The Studio of Impressionists".

A morphological drill, relating all the possible (and unlikely) phonetic derivations on the word laughter, "Incantation by Laughter" launched Khlebnikov's career and remained his best-known poem and the best example of the ZAUM language - «the alphabet of the stars» influencing Tatlin's idea of forms composition as "one body in the shell of another."


In 1912 Khlebnikov charted out the hidden and mathematical connections between whole integrals, calendar dates, major scientific discoveries, and the decisive battles in world history. Curiously, he correctly predicted the outbreak of the First World War and the Bolshevik Revolution, which later appeared in the pamphlet "A New Theory of War, Battles 1915-1917" (St. Petersburg, 1914).

The content of Khlebnikov's poem "Ka", from 1915, also expresses such ideas. Ka is a mythic figure, a time traveler capable of taking different forms.

Well into the story Ka is a bird flying near the Nile, where he joins a circle of apes who sit around a fire reminiscing about the Roc bird. Then Ka fashions an oracular lyre, a remarkable instrument using a Pythagorean correlation between musical tone and historical chronology, a set of calculations mapping the temporal relationships of past events:

Ka set an elephant tusk on end and at the top, as if they were pegs for strings, he fastens the years 411, 709, 1237, 1453, 1871; and below on the footboard the years 1491, 1193, 665, 445, 449, 31. Strings joined the upper and the lower pegs; they vibrated faintly. Ka asks a beautiful female ape to sing, and she takes up the lyre and begins singing a song of the Fates. She moves her hand across the strings; they sounded the thunder boom of a flock of swans that settles as one body onto a lake.
Ka observed that each string consisted of six parts, each part consisting of 317 years, 1902 years in all. And also that the top row of pegs indicated years when East attacked the West, while the pegs at the lower end of the strings indicated an opposite movement, the West against the East. In the top row were the Vandals, Arabs, Tartars, Turks, and Germans; below were the Egyptians of Hatshepsut, the Greeks of Odysseus, the Scythians, the Greeks of Pericles, the Romans. Ka attached one additional string: between the year 78, the invasion of the Scythians of Adia Saka, and the year 1980-the East. Ka studied the possibilities of playing on all seven strings.


Here are the God Eros words speaking to Zangezi:

(the Gods in the play talk Zaum language only. Zangezi is the prophet or the go-between. He's the speechmaker)

Oook, kooks, ell!
Rededeedee dee-dee-dee!
Peeree, pepee,pa-papee!
Chogi goona,geni-gan
Ahl, Ell, Eeell!
Ek, ak, oook!
Gamch, gemch, ee-o!
rr-pee! rrr-pee!

Mel Gordon, "Songs from the Museum of the Future", p.214-217, Douglas Kahn, Introduction, p. 17 and 21. "Wireless Imagination Sound Radio and the Avant-Garde", edited by Douglas Kahn and Gregory Whitehead, (The MIT Press)
On "Ka"; Velimir Khlebnikov «Collected Works» 1913-1921, Vol. 2, p. 56, trans. Paul Schmidt, ed. Charlotte Douglas (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press)
On 'The Universal Alphabet'; Ibid., Vol. 1
On "Zangezi"; Ibid., "The King of Time", p. 193-194
On "Radio of the Future", Ibid. Vol. 1, p. 395