After the performance: A tribute to Yasmin Davis / Oded Wolkstein

translated by: Margalit Rodgers

After the performance, in which the magician tried with her own hands to capture the reflection of her own hands, she invited me backstage. At first I thought she was addressing someone else; after all I’m not a child, and this kind of gesture is not appropriate for a person of my age. But my viewing companion urged me to accept the invitation. When I asked him if he would wait for me at the entrance, he just smiled. I followed the magician backstage. Strangely, there was an audience there too, and it greeted our entrance with applause. We sat facing each other on two chairs that had apparently been prepared for us in advance; the applause gradually died down and was replaced by tense silence. The magician smiled at me and stated, You probably want to know how it works. Bursts of ironic laughter rose here and there from the audience. Yes, I managed to blurt, and the laughter increased. The magician explained that in fact it is the hand and its reflection that lay siege to the other real hand – so the hand I had thought was real is a reflection, and the reflection that amazed me with its persistent and elusive autonomy is actually the magician’s real hand. But since the performance was in effect continuing, I realized that the act of revealing the trick is nothing but another trick, perhaps the most deceptive trick of all; so I fully concentrated my senses in an attempt to penetrate the truth the magician sought to conceal from me. She noticed my suspicion and offered me beverages and sweetmeats with increasing frequency, but I adamantly declined all her gifts. When the magician moved towards me with a compassionate smile and said in an almost-whisper, “You know, I’ve got two hands…” I immediately knew that the tension had caused her to make a mistake that gave her away: Of course the magician did not have two hands. She was a duplicated half body; and in the performance her hand and its reflection went out in search of the missing hand. Embarrassingly, it heeded their call and materialized here and there; but it is clearly evident in a second viewing of the video recordings of the performance that as soon as the hand and its reflection closed in on their prey they also let go of it in an almost desperate gesture of relinquishment: after all, the hand and its ghostly double are already accustomed to their coordinated dance, and what’s more their grip on the missing hand suspends them from any other action; and anyway, who needs a third hand? A fleeting touch of the missing hand is sufficient to know that it is not missing at all, and in its pathetic abandonment it brings to mind a graceless sea creature clinging to the side of an aquarium in a restaurant, waiting unsuspectingly for its time to come. Of course I did not share my new insights with the audience out of consideration for the artist who had caused me no harm. But after we said goodbye the audience treated my false naïveté kindly, and one man outdid himself and as he warmly shook my shoulder he thundered, “It’s all tricks, eh?” – I cautiously followed the magician as she made her way to her tent in the circus compound, the mirror possibly grasped in her hand, possibly protruding from the center of her body – the descending darkness making it difficult for me to see. I peered through the tent flap and saw the magician moving the mirror away from her body – and remaining whole, in other words, duplicated. So I received final confirmation of my suspicion that the main illusion in the performance was the very need for an illusion. The magician artificially duplicated her hand in order to conceal the fact that she is innately duplicated: the mirror she used so demonstratively was nothing but a pale reflection of the invisible glass that tears apart her being and simultaneously puts it back together. The night deepened around me and I had already lost all feeling in the hand propping up my head. I watched it impassively, wondering when necrosis would set in. Little by little the glass in my chest opened up like a frost flower. From pieces of fabric I collected here and there I built a tent resembling hers. Just before I fell asleep a kind of tremor passed through my dead hand, and I asked myself whether my companion was still waiting for me at the entrance to the circus.

still frames from OM, Yasmin Davis