Room Laughter is a project for a monumental non-institutional space at 94 Yigal Alon Street in Tel Aviv, presented in two parts. Two years ago, it displayed a floating printer that acted as a fountain, and now it features a film accompanied by a catalogue.
The film Room Laughter was shot during six skydives over an experimental site in the Mojave Desert of California. It features a payphone receiver and an old dot matrix printer, dropping from the sky after being thrown from a plane at 20,000 feet. A spool of paper unfolds from the printer like a flag, the trail of a falling star, or toilet paper in the sky above a stadium.
The poem Room Laughter is printed on the paper. It is a long column of short parallelisms, at a fast printing pace—a towering cascade of announcements, humiliating diagnoses, and expressions of agreement with oneself.
Room Laughter is printed and played in Arabic, but it was written by those who do not speak the language at all.
Neither to form a social bridge, nor to return home with the Jews of Arab descent.
Room Laughter weeps over the Arabic language that falls prey to the mediocrity of collective identities, to a victimized pride on the inside and caution on the outside, which limit it to pre-determined roles. Room Laughter laments the automatic condemnation of estranged relations.
In the soundtrack, an older man and a young woman are heard reading the poem in Arabic as a deranged argument. They read it quickly, in contrast to its difficulty, thus indicating that it is natural for them.
At the bottom of the screen, the poem is accompanied by Hebrew subtitles, ostensibly translated from the Arabic. But the subtitles are too small, and change too fast to rely on. They are the bones that the film throws at the feet of non-Arabic speakers, its condescension towards the victors.
The song is heard over music composed from sequences of descending extracted from four pieces by Bach (BWV 564, BWV 561, BWV 543, BWV 39) and one by Shostakovich (Prelude No. 2 in A minor), which is repeated as a refrain.
Heard above and below the music are the roaring sounds of a crowd in a stadium, the sounds of whipping in the air, the noise of vuvuzelas and gigantic horns. The film itself is screened and heard using mass concert means.
To exhibit self-control despite the foreignness of the language, each linguistic figure expressed by the actors is illustrated by the images of the diving printer and receiver, as in sign language.
How does one describe “albino in the pyre” and “teardrop in the asshole” using a printer and a telephone receiver?
Room Laughter presents gaps of misunderstanding via symmetry—between the writers and the Arabic language, and between the actors who speak the language and the meanings of the poem. It is ashamed of these gaps as if they were omissions of negligence on its part, yet still chooses not to prevent or correct them.
On the contrary, like an advertisement or a clip for a pop song, it ceaselessly pats itself on the shoulder, reaffirms and prods itself. This helps it overcome its desert flatness, and the fatigue gradually accumulated by its ecstatic monotony.
It ceaselessly cheers itself in order to close and crush all its gaps and poles, and to tighten its layers—the sounds, images, music, and subtitles—outwardly to one front.
Room Laughter faces the viewer like armor, whose penetration ensures nothing but conditions of suffocation. It wants to reject what is asked of it, and force that which is not desired.
Its audience must feel outside enough to be lured to it. This is also the reason for the extra-institutional nature of the project and the selective manner in which an audience is invited to it.
Room Laughter regards independent initiative the same way it does discriminatory invitation—both as wholly unjustified, beyond the satisfaction that comes from being fully responsible for them.
Photos by: Elad Sarig
Excerpts from the video:
Uri Nir, December 2021