Following Successful Transplant, Israeli Artist Buries Old Heart – Literally

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A still from Sharon Fidel's video about burying her old heart.
A still from Sharon Fidel's video about burying her old heart.Credit: Sharon Fidel

An Israeli artist who underwent a successful heart transplant this summer recently conducted a burial ceremony for her old heart, turning the event into video art.

Sharon Fidel, 46, had been suffering from heart problems for a decade after she became pregnant with her daughter. After suffering sudden cardiac arrest in July 2016, her condition deteriorated and she was in urgent need of a heart donor. A new heart was found for her some three months ago, following the death of 16-year-old Liel Babler in a traffic accident.

In the video, Fidel declares to her heart: “Thank you for our shared childhood, our shared adolescence, our shared frustration, our shared fear, our shared tears, for all our shared secrets, for our shares loves, and for the laughter and humor you gave me. Thank you for how strong you were and, most of all, thanks for not letting me die with you.”

On her Facebook page (in Hebrew), Fidel documented the treatments, the hospitalizations, the actual transplant and the ceremony of burying her old heart in three video artworks called “The Contestant,” “The Transplant Contestant” and “The Contestant, the Transplant Patient Says Farewell.”

She creates a parallel in her videos between the competition for receiving a new heart and beauty contests.

“The Contestant, the Transplant Patient Says Farewell” opens with Fidel roaming through an orchard, wearing old-fashioned nurses’ garb. “This image was created after everyone searched through my body,” she explains. “My femininity was lost. The contestant wants to be told she has received the crown. The crown is in effect the heart, which I received after a relatively short wait compared to others on the list.”

In the video, Fidel wears gloves and a mask, and her hands visibly shake. “My immune system is suppressed at this point and I need a mask to filter the air,” she explains. “After using the mask, it turned into part of the material with which I worked and made a video.”

Fidel said the uncontrolled trembling in her hands was also a result of excitement. “Everything is authentic in the film and I trembled when I put the heart into the ground. I believe that, additionally, the excitement and fear of attempting to really touch the organ and pick it up – all those things caused the trembling. It was very scary.” She added that “the gloves, which make the figure look slightly kinky, are essential during the burial process because the heart was in formalin.”

She only took custody of her old heart very recently, since it was being kept in the pathology department at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, for research purposes.

“When I received the heart I was in shock, because it was so big,” she recalled. “A heart in the physical sense. It’s not good that it’s big and its chambers are enlarged – that means it no longer contracts and functions.”

Fidel mentions Israel’s National Transplant Center (ADI in Hebrew) in every post on her Facebook page, and encourages her readers to donate organs.

“If by chance anyone in Israel didn’t understand the importance of organ donation and transplants, this is the time to sign up,” she wrote in one of her posts.

Because one of the side effects of Fidel’s medication is the trembling in her hands, she found it hard to paint, so decided to adopt the medium of video art in order to continue to create and document her life.

Her intensive documentation of herself has also influenced her creative process. “I have always made art that deals with my personal and family story,” she said. “Now I’ve become the subject itself. Some people will say that that’s nonsense, but today there’s the tool of video art and it suits my life at present.”

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