Sunday, 30 April 2017

Extra-Mural Studies - Flash Fiction

It was old-style graffiti. Before it became an art form. If you can call a canvas solely consisting of the artist’s signature, his brand, his logo, his spoor, ’art’. This was spray painting as a tool of communication. Mural messaging. Words rather than calligraphy. Plaintive or outlandish. 

Walls have always provided a surface begging inscription. Whether thrown up to keep others out, keep your own in, or just to hoist up numinous edifices inviting God in. In the atrium to God’s chamber, Jews write their messages and prayers on paper, rolling them up and inserting them into the mortar of the Wailing Wall rather than profaning it directly. The Wailing Wall, one of just four retaining walls retained. A remnant. Yet each ersatz prayer scroll mulcts a wisp of that mortar, so that at some point of critical mass of the entreaties of a people, the Wall will collapse. Not from weight, but from lack of coherence.

Closer to home is another wall, that is currently being dismantled brick by brick beneath sledgehammers brought from home. A people united. Families gleefully repatriating themselves into the bosom of loved ones not seen for a couple of generations. One side of this wall was directly graved upon by ink and the blood of those shot trying to scale it. The other was inscribed with graffiti, an expression of freedom of speech and a plaintive plea against conflict, division and injustice. After the initial flurry, I returned nightly to secrete away a couple of the bricks and add to my burgeoning collection. Only those with graffiti on, hopefully none with captioning blood. Few of the bricks were intact. Words sawn off by a hammer blow. 

Du kannst den Bruder nicht vom Bruder teilen. Es macht uns mehr entschlossen zu arbeiten, um diese Mauer zu zerreißen. Um unsere Brüder frei zu machen. (You cannot divide brother from brother. It makes us more resolved to work to tear down this wall. To set our brothers free).

I moved around the pieces in my collection. Trying to form new words from the serrated letters. Coalescing new slogans. Reminded of my toy letter bricks as a child. Though there, each brick was only stamped with a single letter per face. Multiple bricks stacked in order to construct a word. A word that could be subverted, simply but turning another face of the brick to face front. Surprising words when the edifice was read as an acrostic. But these fragments were not hewn smooth enough to sit on top of one another without cascading back down. 

I made mosaics of the bricks. Moved them around one another to form blotches of colour. My wall was spelling out the new freedoms. Or perhaps the new repressions. When a dividing wall comes down, somewhere on the earth another one goes up. I hear Mexico is to have one. And of course, the Wailing Wall has its modern accompaniment all around the biblical borders of the nation that last existed when the Wailing Wall was intact. Strange geographies. Anomalous echoes from history.

arbeit macht frei

For every wall, there always have to be wall builders. 


Some wall themed songs

Pink Floyd - "Another Brick In The Wall"

Mickey Dread - "Break Down The Walls" 

The Style Council - "Walls Come Tumbling Down"

Tom Robinson Band - "Up Against The Wall"

From the Berlin Wall


Denise said...

I like this. Reminds me of the workshops we did for crossing the tees - themed around breaking barriers/crossing boundaries. We have short story competition this year on the Theme of "Crossing the Tees". Am hoping it will throw up some metaphorical crossings as well as the literal one. Crossings and barriers are becoming an interest of mine :-)

Natalie Wood said...

I'm most upset, Marc. I'd like you to think hard about what you've written here. First, it's a very long time since the Temple's most celebrated remaining wall was (re)named in popular modern Jewish culture as 'The Western Wall'; or in Hebrew as the 'Kotel Maravi'. The idea, please understand, is that Jewish people need no longer 'cry' for the loss of or access to the ancient temple since they regained it in 1967 when the city of Jerusalem was reunited at the end of the Six Day War. Indeed, you could not have chosen a worse time to make your analogy. This past week - on Tuesday - when Israelis like me were celebrating our country's 69th anniversary as an independent state - members of UNESCO,the cultural wing of the United Nations, voted to deny all and any Jewish connection to Jerusalem. The move was ridiculous enough to be beyond parody as Jerusalem was a Jewish city at least 2,000 years before the religion of Islam was ever conceived.Then you made everything far worse, first by comparing the temple wall with its incalculable religious, historic and political importance to that built in despair and topped with razor wire as an anti-terrorist measure. Further, you conclude first, by implying there has been no Jewish state since the days of biblical Israel; second, by referring to the infamous 'arbeit macht frei' sign at the gates of Auschwitz, the death camp where millions of Jews were gassed and or burnt to death and last by using a video clip from a Pink Floyd album. Maybe you're unaware that Floyd's Roger Waters is a notorious Israel hater who denies that he could possibly be antisemitic as his mother-in-law is Jewish. Where I come from, believe me, such an assertion would make a great music hall gag! I do not care to have bad public words with fellow writers, especially long-standing fellow flash authors, but this time I feel I must speak out. With regret, Natalie Wood.

Sulci Collective said...

Hi Natalie, thanks for your heartfelt response. it was a conscious act on my part to conflate the Temple Wall with the Security wall as both reside within the same State. And yes, messages and prayers in the Temple Wall I wanted to compare to entreaties scrawled on the Berlin Wall when it was in existence. And the Arbeit... that was also a conscious underscoring of the notion that any wall of incarceration and separation, be it Berlin, Israel or the proposed one on the Mexican border, is a disaster fro humanity, as against walls for edifices erected for beauty, spirituality or approaching the divine as with the Temple Wall. On the issue of there being no state before 1948 that is not the point I was arguing, rather that the current constant appeal of The Israeli State to Biblical assertions of the territorial boundaries as 'proof' or 'right', is problematic in the extreme. I remember one Passover message from the Chief Rabbi of the UK, spent its entirety talking about the Biblical justification for the current State of Israel's boundaries and even mooting for an extension. I did not recognise my own religion from this man, my spiritual leader and the words he was coming out with. This referral to Biblical testament for land designations is inimical to common sense and sound principles for providing a permanent solution to the region.

I do take your point about the antiquated name of the Temple Wall, but wanted to make it something that might be recognisable and understandable for readers not aware of the subtleties involved around that specific issue.

I also, if I have not misunderstood you that you in fact reside in Israel, acknowledge that you have a greater legitimacy to argue for your position as you are living it directly and I am not. However, as an artist I still feel I am able to put across a dissenting treatment of the issues. Ultimately the piece will be judged by its readers. I suspect some, if not many will come with their preformed views on the issues and that my piece will not sway any opposing views and only confirm consenting views. But I still offer it up as written to provoke thought, feelings and response.

Thanks again for your response.