[Art credit: Motti Mizrachi, Via Dolorosa, 1973. Lambda print. Israel Museum, Jerusalem.]
Have mercy upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O LORD, heal me; for my bones are vexed.
My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O LORD, how long? —Psalm 6:2–3
Starting at Antonia Fortress and extending to Golgotha, the Via Dolorosa (“Way of Sorrows”) is the path Jesus is thought to have traveled with his cross on Good Friday. Every year thousands of Christian pilgrims flock to Jerusalem to walk this road, stopping at designated stations along the way to contemplate the sufferings of their Lord.
In 1973, the Israeli avant-garde performance artist Motti Mizrachi was among those who walked this road—leaning on crutches (he has been disabled in both legs since childhood) and carrying a large black-and-white headshot of himself across his back. His performance accomplished two main aims. First, the dark-bearded, Middle Eastern visage Mizrachi bears like a cross challenges the many Anglo-featured Jesuses that are part of the art history canon and the world’s popular imagination, and it also serves as a protest against the ethnic profiling and discrimination experienced by Jews, especially (at the time of this performance) those of North African origin.
Second, the performance is a testimony to human brokenness. Mizrachi’s hobbling journey to the site of the Crucifixion illustrates not just our physical frailties but our spiritual frailties, too. Both our bodies and our spirits ache and cry out for redemption.
To view more photos of Mizrachi’s Via Dolorosa performance, visit http://mottimizrachi.com/Artwork/via-dolorosa.