In the literature of Jewish Kabbalah, creation is portrayed as a tremendous act manifested in the world thanks to the magical power of the alphabet letters. The delegation of Divine power, too, is depicted as a linguistic act from which God’s names ensue. And the letters with which the holy writings are written are not merely conventional means of communication but containers of occult energy.
Kabbalic secular and sacred aspects resonate in Micha Ullman’s work, at whose core are binary oppositions, such as empty and full, remembering and forgetting, heaven and earth, light and shadow, life and death. Sculptural works using sand as a medium and images such as the pit and empty space are amongst the hallmarks of his artistic production. Particularly remarkable is the monument he produced by digging an empty library beneath the ground of Bebelplatz in Berlin, where the Nazis burned books in 1933, leaving behind a culture with a void at its heart. Using ordinary materials and states of void and absence, Ullman conjoins universal, mythical elements with history and politics, giving expression to the human capacity for containing the spiritual alongside the material, the transcendent alongside the quotidian and transient.
This work by Ullman is composed of a filing cabinet whose drawers have turned into pit-like cavities within the “pit” of the mouth cavity suggested by the work’s title. Ullman disrupts the functional use of the cabinet, which is based on the simple, effective logic dictated by alphabetical order. The artistic act transpires within the work, where the forms of the 22 Hebrew letters and several punctuation marks were cut out of the drawers’ bottoms in places corresponding to the place where the sound of each letter is produced within the mouth—such as the palate (for instance, the letter gimel), throat (aleph), teeth (zayin