The New Moses
“The New Moses,” Chambers’ serial video art essay, subverts the Exodus narrative through a contemporary queer lens. Situating herself alongside theologians Gregory of Nyssa, Psudeodionysius, and Audre Lorde, who also believe in actively engaged, embodied, and erotic knowledge of the divine, she posits that “God” does not make us divine, but that we make the world divine. She believes it is our responsibility to wrench starlight down to Earth.
In the first episode of “The New Moses,” Chambers transforms her bedroom into transcontinental Egypt. A hand-constructed replica of Mount Sinai spits her out each time she attempts to ascend in orthodox fashion. Verticality and divinity are flattened when an axe suddenly appears and she seeks to enter the mountain by penetration.
Chambers problematizes the social construction of “God,” “gender,” and “narrative” as the footage cuts at supersonic pace between her bedroom and a rock formation in Central Park. One by one, holes appear scattered across Sinai’s progressively singular landscape. These holes invite her in, but each time she attempts one of their invitations, she is expectorated again: a force within Sinai seizes her hair, hurls handfuls of dirt into her eyes.
It is only once she elects to spiritually and sexually “top” Sinai that the makeshift illusion of the mountain is revealed: Libby’s Vienna Sausage packaging, which supports the backside of her cardboard Sinai, proliferates across the screen in pure tragicomedy. This Sinai is constructed from garbage.
Episode One concludes when, after bringing Sinai to the ground, she open-mouth kisses a hole violently torn asunder. She tells her viewer that the erotic is inseparable from our acts against oppression, and that “God” only exceeds language because we have been made to fear the erotic knowledge that we need in order to be in touch with “God” in the first place.
All citations come from Hélène Cixous’ book, Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing, which she read while making the film.
Ashley Chambers is a multidisciplinary artist, writer, and theologian currently living in Brooklyn, NY. She holds a Master of Sacred Theology and a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary at Columbia University, as well as an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Alabama. Her written work appears in journals such as Prelude, Salt Hill Journal, and the Seattle Review. She maintains a lively Instagram presence @bodyconference, and can also be found at ashleyelizabethchambers.com.