Interrupted Authority: Quotable gestures of (dis)stating a state

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Abstract

Interpreting the model of the epic theatre in 1939, Walter Benjamin introduced the practice of ‘the quotable gesture’ that involves the interruption of its context. This article explores the phenomenon of turning the foundation scene of a nation state into a quotable gesture given to interruptions while attributing it to the Israeli context. The main practice of re-performing the declarative foundation scene is substitution of original components. Its main effect is the failure to validate both the authority of foundation and the power of ruling. The interruptive power of foundational re-performance lies, first, in the original scene’s rationale, caught in a circular quotation in order to gain the authority to sign the Declaration, and theatrically simulates the reclaim of power. Second, the foundational re-performances range from the official national framework—in Israel, the Declaration of Independence on 14 May 1948—bound to ratifying authority, to a critical orientation. Interruption, however, is implicit in a validating context and can be found throughout all the gestures of quoting, exposing the vulnerability of authority. The range of interruptions is discussed through several cases: the Israeli Ur-scene; its first formal quotation in 1958, including the ambivalent role—both ratifying and undermining—of Hanna Rovina, iconic Habima actress, known from The Dybbuk and ‘penetrating’ to the scene of foundation; the socio-political complexity of the formal re-performance in 1978; and three different critical acts: a substitution of simulative signing of the Declaration with an ‘inappropriate’ name; a poignant replacement of David Ben-Gurion’s authoritative reading of the Declaration by a Mizrahi-Moroccan woman; and foundational subversions that have become an important component of the struggle for the rehabilitation of democracy during the 2020–1 civic protests in Israel, serving to the article as an actual frame of reference.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-112
Number of pages7
JournalPerformance Research
Volume26
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021

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