Among the big hits at last year’s Venice Biennale was the Polish pavilion, featuring Israeli Yael Bartana’s ambitious film trilogy about the fictional Jewish Renaissance Movement in Poland, calling for the return of 3.3m Jewish people to their forefathers’ homeland.
Part of the trilogy was co-produced by the visionary arts organisation Artangel,
who have brought it to London. Artangel’s co-director James Lingwood recalls being ‘gripped’ by the first film in the trilogy, in which a politician delivers an impassioned speech in a desolate Warsaw stadium: ‘I thought it was bold and courageous,’ he says. Artangel then collaborated with Bartana on part three, focusing on the aftermath of the politician’s assassination.
Yael Bartana, 'Mary Koszmary', 2007.
Lingwood admits the series is ‘politically spiky’ – he was ‘pleasantly amazed’ that Poland’s ministry of culture accepted it for Venice. ‘It reprises histories of competing nationalisms and the devastating consequences of nationalisms, ethnic conflict and anti-Semitism through the twentieth century,’ Lingwood says, but it also ‘conflates Zionism… with the desires of other totalitarian regimes through the twentieth century to blame various ethnic cultures.’
Yael Bartana, 'Zamach (Assassination)', 2011. Commissioned by Artangel. Image by Marcin Kalinski.
This ‘incendiary mix’ has caught the imagination of curators internationally, and the trilogy will be shown at the Berlin Biennale and the Art Gallery of Ontario among other galleries later in the year.
- Yael Bartana: ‘… And Europe Will Be Stunned’, Hornsey Town Hall, www.artangel.org.uk,
until 1 July 2012