Interview with Mili Pecherer
Tsigele-Migele follows on from your last film, It Wasn’t the Right Mountain, Mohammad. This time, you are alone with a ram for a last picnic before his departure. Where does his character come from, and how did this project come about?
At the end of last summer, after the FIDLab, I was contacted by Bertrand Dezoteux who invited me to participate in a group show at the Pernod-Ricard Foundation, entitled “Le Juste Prix” [The Right Price], which he curated. He said I could do whatever I wanted. I completely panicked. When the storm of anxiety subsided a bit, I was sure of two things. Firstly, I had unfinished business with the ram that was sacrificed instead of Isaac in the biblical story – the one that inspired It Wasn’t the Right Mountain, Mohammad – and secondly, that I would have to create an installation for the first time in my life. I felt like I didn’t have the time in the film Mohammad… to establish a sense of intimacy with this ram. We both got lost in the biblical catastrophe as well as the catastrophe of creation. Therefore I decided that this piece would be a film for just one viewer. This approach calmed me down. It was no longer a “film” with all the resulting requirements. I simply had to imagine one person, in the dark, and tell them a story.
I made It Wasn’t the Right Mountain, Mohammad at Le Fresnoy in 2019 in the form of a video game, which turned out to be a great gift, in the sense that I have a universe I can return to and explore as much as I want, which is all the more helpful during a lockdown. So, I went back to my biblical-digital desert and asked myself: why am I so drawn to this dead ram? Why can’t I let go? And then I remembered something I once heard Vinciane Despret say: in answer to the question “How can one be melancholic for an animal that has disappeared and that one did not even know during one’s lifetime?”, she said: “Each time a being disappears, it leaves a hole in the world. Each time a species dies, a library of sensations, knowledge, and cultural practices disappears. And our world becomes poorer.”
So in response to what I missed in the world since the passing of Tsigele, who was sacrificed 3,000 years ago on a mountaintop by Abraham, I took all the notes and quotes I had collected from books, articles, poems, and things people say, and made Tsigele tell them to me during our last picnic. I wanted him to be that friend I wished I had and whom I have never known. I wanted to live for a little while in that lost world where rhinos are poets, where birds guide our decisions, where there is always a way out and small paths to explore, next to the big, cluttered, dusty road we are encouraged to take.
You play with a form of absurdity through the objects present in the desert: a plunger, a drink dispenser…. How do these objects fit into your story?
Before making It Wasn’t the Right Mountain, Mohammad and Tsigele-Migele, I used to make more documentary-style films where I went off on an adventure with a small camera. I prefer it when reality takes decisions for me and guides the creation and the dialogues. With computer generated imagery, it’s harder to let reality in, but there are other ways to go about it. Virtual 3D model shops are one of them. They are the most extravagant of all shopping malls. So, if I walk through these markets and I see a vending machine or a pizza box that makes my heart skip a beat, I incorporate them into the setting and scenario immediately. The result is a biblical desert full of these plastics, but in the end, it’s the only form of desert I’ve known, whether in Israel or elsewhere.
As for the plunger, however, it was the reality of all realities. I had serious plumbing problems at home while I was working on the film. So it was obvious to me that when Tsigele called me for a picnic, I would be busy trying to solve them, and that the only thing that would convince me to come and meet my friend would unfortunately be a “practical” reason: the plunger he was offering me.
Interview by Louise Martin Papasian