Ikon, in partnership with Artangel, presents And Europe Will Be Stunned (2007–2011), the film trilogy by Israeli artist Yael Bartana. Centred on the activities of The Jewish Renaissance Movement in Poland (JRMiP), a political group founded by the artist, who call for the return of 3,300,000 Jews to the land of their forefathers, the films traverse a landscape scarred by the histories of competing nationalisms and militarisms. Collectively they address narratives of the Israeli settlement movement, Zionist dreams, antisemitism, the Holocaust and the Palestinian right of return.
Mary Koszmary (Nightmares) (2007), the first film in the trilogy, began Bartana’s exploration of a complicated set of social and political relationships among Jews, Poles and other Europeans in the age of globalisation. A young activist played by S?awomir Sierakowski (founder and Editor-in-Chief of Krytyka Polityczna magazine), delivers a speech in the abandoned National Stadium in Warsaw in which he urges three million Jews to return home to Poland. Using the structure and sensibility of Leni Riefenstahl’s World War Two propaganda film Triumph of the Will (1935), Mary Koszmary addresses contemporary antisemitism and xenophobia in Poland, the longing for the Jewish past among liberal Polish intellectuals and the Zionist dream of return to Israel.
The second film in the trilogy, Mur i Wie?a (Wall and Tower) (2009), follows the modern day erection in Warsaw, Poland of a kibbutz, built in the architectural style of the 1930s. The film invokes the mythical heroic images of strong and beautiful men and women who established Israel. These early settlers were portrayed as determined pioneers who built houses, cultivated land, studied, collectively raised children, shared assets and were constantly prepared to fight of potential enemy attacks. This is the world that the artist proposes to resurrect in the twenty first century, in an entirely different political and geographical configuration.
In the third and final film, Zamach (Assassination) (2011), the dream of a multinational community and a brand new Polish society is put to the ultimate test. Set in the near future, it traces the funeral ceremony of the leader of the JRMiP, killed by an unidentified assassin. The death becomes symbolic, consolidating the new political movement and allowing it to become a concrete project to be implemented in Poland, Europe or the Middle East in the years to come.
Bartana describes her work as the presentation of a universal story; these mechanisms and situations can be observed anywhere in the world and as such her films consider the common impossibility of living together.
And Europe Will Be Stunned is commissioned by Artangel; Ikon, Birmingham; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek; Netherland Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture; Outset Contemporary Art Fund; Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw and supported by Annet Gelink Gallery, Amsterdam; Sommer Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv; Australia Centre for Contemporary Art; Artis, New York; Polish Institute, Tel Aviv. Produced by My-i Productions in association with Artangel, 2011.
A full colour catalogue, with essays by Jacqueline Rose, Boris Groys, Joanna Mytkowska, Adi Ophir and Ariella Azoulay, accompanies the exhibition, priced £29.95.
The presentation at Ikon is supported by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute and the Mondriaan Fund. Zamach (Assassination) (2011) is supported by The Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture Fonds BKVB.