Yael Bartana and Sławomir Sierakowski, chaired by Friedemann Derschmidt
The appointmemt of the Israeli artist Yael Bartana as curator of the Polish pavilion at the Venice biennale seemed to fit the title of the trilogy she was exhibiting: “And Europe will be stunned”. Yael Bartana is not the first non-Polish artist to have represented Poland at the Biennale. This time however the topic of the work is unusually controversial. The trilogy deals in complex ways with questions of “homeland”, “belonging” and “return” in connection with the Shoah. A fictive “Jewish Renaissance movement” allows the “return” of the (murdered) polish Jews to Poland … and Europe will be stunned! The artist thereby makes ironic use of the formal and figurative language of nationalism and the Israeli-Zionist narrative.
Yael Bartana is an Israeli artist who workes and lives in Amsterdam, Tel Aviv and Berlin. Her films, installations and photographs explore the imagery of identity and the politics of memory. Her starting point is the national consciousness propagated by her native country Israel. Central to the work are meanings implied by terms like “homeland”, “return” and “belonging”. Bartana investigates these through the ceremonies, public rituals and social diversions that are intended to reaffirm the collective identity of the nation state. In her Israeli projects, Bartana dealt with the impact of war, military rituals and a sense of threat on every-day life.
Sławomir Sierakowski is the founder of “Krytyka Polityczna”, a movement of left-wing intellectuals, artists and activists based in Poland, and Director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Warsaw. Currently, he is a Bronisław Geremek Visiting Fellow at the IWM.
Friedemann Derschmidt (Chair) is an artist and filmmaker living in Vienna. Together with Karin Schneider and Tal Adler he curated exhibitions and filmfestivals as well as an artist residence program in Austria and Israel. He was heading the research project MEMSCREEN at the Research Lab for Film and Television at the Academy of Fine Arts, where he also holds the position of a senior artist.
Trilogy: And Europe Will Be Stunned
Mary Koszmary (Nightmares), 2007
The first film of the trilogy explores a complicated set of social and political relationships among Jews, Poles and other Europeans in the age of globalization. A young activist, played here by Sławomir Sierakowski, delivers a speech in the abandoned National stadium in Warsaw. He urges three million Jews to come back to Poland. Using the structure and sensibility of a World War II propaganda film, ‘Mary Koszmary’ addresses contemporary Anti-Semitism and Xenophobia in Poland, the longing for the Jewish past among liberal Polish intellectuals and the Zionist dream of return to Israel.
Mur i wieża (Wall and Tower), 2009
The second film of the trilogywas made in the Warsaw district of Muranów, where a new kibbutz was erected at actual scale and in the architectural style of the 1930’s. This kibbutz, constructed in the center of Warsaw, was an utterly ‘exotic’ structure, even despite its perverse reflection of the history of the location, which had been the Jewish residential area before the war, and then a part of Warsaw Ghetto. The film invokes previous heroic images of strong and beautiful men and women who mythically established Israel. They were depicted as determined pioneers who, despite the most unfavorable conditions, kept building houses, cultivating land, studying, bringing up children collectively, sharing their assets and constantly training to fight off potential enemy attacks. This is the world that Bartana proposes to resurrect in the 21st century, in an entirely different political and geographical configuration.
Zamach (Assassination), 2011
In the final part of the trilogy, Bartana brings the dream about multinational community and the brand new Polish society to the ultimate test. The plot of the film takes place in a not too distant future, during the funeral ceremony of the leader of the Jewish Renaissance Movement, who had been killed by an unidentified assassin. It is by means of this symbolic death that the myth of the new political movement is unified — a movement which can become a concrete project to be implemented in Poland, Europe, or the Middle East in the days to come.
In cooperation with the Research Lab for Film and Television at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna
Atelierhaus der Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien (ehem. Semperdepot)
Lehárgasse 6-8, 1060 Wien