After Flooded McDonald’s by SUPERFLEX, TheCube Project Space is pleased to present the fifth installment of the thematic exhibition Re-envisioning Societyon June 30, …and Europe will be stunned by the highly acclaimed Israeli artist, Yael Bartana.
Whereas Flooded McDonald’s reflects on the dangers and crises posed by the consumer society, …and Europe will be stunned deals with various issues such as history, culture, political movement and nationalism.
About …and Europe will be stunned
…and Europe will be stunned is a trilogy composed of three video works, Mary Koszmary (Nightmare) (2007), Mur I Wieża (Wall and Tower) (2009) and Zamach (Assassination) (2011). The films initiate the Jewish Renaissance Movement in Poland (JRMiP), calling for three million Jews to return to Poland. The trilogy was first presented together at the Polish Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011.
The Jews had a tragic past in Poland. From the Middle Ages, Poland had been the most tolerant country towards Jews in Europe, and had the largest Jewish community in the world. On the eve of the Second World War, the Jewish population in Poland exceeded three million. During the Nazi occupation of Poland, 90% of the Jews were killed in the holocaust. When the surviving Jews returned home after the war, they found their land and houses distributed to Poles by the government. The Poles who refused to return their property started murdering and expelling the homecoming Jews. With no power to fight back, many of them went overseas in exile. Today, the Jewish community in Poland is estimated to number only 20,000.
The first video Nightmare shows a fictional political activist – played by Sławomir Sierakowski, chief editor of the left-wing Polish magazine Krytyka Polityczna (Political Critique)- in an empty stadium. With a rousing and passionate speech, he calls on the three million Jews to return to Poland and rebuild Jewish culture. The second video Wall and Tower was filmed at the site of the former ghetto in Warsaw. In it, members of the JRMiP build a Jewish settlement, but like an island, it looks out of place in Warsaw. The Polish and the Israeli national anthem, the latter played in reverse, can be heard in the background. In the third film Assisination, the leader of the JRMiP (i.e. the political activist in the first and second films) is assassinated. In contrast to the empty stadium in the first film, his funeral is attended by numerous supporters, with a historian, a journalist and a writer from Poland and Israel playing themselves delivering memorial speeches.
Although the incidents and the organization of Jewish Renaissance Movement in Poland described in the films are fabricated, Bartana attempts to blur the boundaries between reality and fiction. She designed a logo for JRMiP (that combines the Polish national emblem and the Star of David), wrote a manifesto and even set up a JRMiP official website (http://www.jrmip.org/), inviting viewers to join and become members. During the 2012 Berlin Biennale, the first International Congress of the JRMiP is held.
Given the heavy historical background and the complex political ideologies in the reality, the trilogy …and Europe will be stunned is a work that evokes a possible “return” and an ideal. Its symbolism is rich and detailed, full of complex metaphors and double meanings. While the work describes a present situation influenced by past history, and launches a movement to call attention to ethnic politics, it also subtly imagines and conjures up a vision of the future. The Jews went from being the chosen people to the victims of the Holocaust, through the use of double meanings, Bartana touches on the historical experience of persecution, while reflecting on the dangers of nationalist sentiments. At the same time, she explores the meaning of “returning”, the implications of “homeland”, and what possibilities the future holds.
Bartana poses tactful yet also sharp questions about her native country Israel, using multi-layered images skillfully to unravel complex issues. Her film language and photography are reminiscent of Leni Riefenstahl’s documentary Triumph of the Will made for the congress of the Nazi Party in 1934. While launching the Jewish Renaissance Movement in Poland, she also urgently reminds us that the role of “Poland/Jews” in the film is the same as “Israel/Palestine” from another perspective. The “you – we” she discusses in the film forces viewers to think about their own position.
About Yael Bartana
Born in 1970 in Israel, Yael Bartana was educated in Jerusalem, New York and Amsterdam, and lives and works now in Berlin and Tel Aviv. Working in film, photography and sound and video installation, she deals with ceremonies, public rituals and social diversions that are intended to reaffirm the collective identity of countries. Observing her native country with a critical eye, she questions value systems propagated by the state such as “homeland”, “return” and “belonging”. Bartana started studying the Jewish cultural history in Poland in 2006, producing the three works Mary Koszmary (Nightmare) (2007), Mur I Wieża (Wall and Tower) (2009) and Zamach (Assassination) (2011) in succession.
Bartana won the Artes Mundi Prize in 2010, a major art award in the UK. She has held solo exhibitions at the Van Abbemuseum in the Netherlands, Modern Art Oxford in England and the P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in the US. Her solo exhibition …and Europe will be stunned at the Polish Pavilion in the Venice Biennale in 2011 marked the first time a non-Polish artist represented the country at the event. She has also participated in major international exhibitions such as the Manifesta (2002), the Liverpool Biennial (2004), the Documenta in Kassel (2007), the São Paulo Biennial (2006 and 2010), Media City Seoul (2010), the Istanbul Biennial (2011) and the Berlin Biennale (2012).