Identity, nationhood and belonging at FMAV

Cast Off, the solo exhibition of Israeli artist Yael Bartana ( born in Kfar Yehezkel, 1970) from Berlin to Amsterdam, is now presented at the Modena Visual Arts Foundation.0) is presented at Fondazione Modena Arti Visive. The exhibition curated by Chiara Dall’Olio features photographic works and five videos placed in the Upper Rooms and the Great Hall of Palazzo Santa Margherita. Identity, nationality and belonging are the central topics of Bartana’s practice: how does national identity operate as a means of inclusion and exclusion? Of what are we referring when we talk about national identity, rituals and practices?

The Recorder Player from Sheikh Jarrah 

Art Super _ On view Is Super_ Yael Bartana exhibition

Exhibition of Yael Bartana, The Recorder Player from Sheikh Jarrah (2010), Fondazione Modena Arti Visive 

The exhibition opens with a black-and-white video: an activist plays a tape recorder in front of a human chain of Israeli army policemen, deployed in front of demonstrators peacefully protesting the eviction of Muslim residents by Jewish settlers from Jerusalem neighborhoods.

Tashlikh (Cast Off)

Art Super _ on view is super _ Yael Bartna exhibition Modena

Yael Bartana, Tashlikh (Cast Off) (2017), Fondazione Modena Arti Visive exhibition

The same space features the 2017 film Tashlikh (Cast Off) presenting objects and symbols belonging to men and women who experienced persecution and were victims of genocide in the past century such as the Jewish, Armenian, former Yugoslav, and African countries’ peoples. The title Tashlik means to throw away and relates to an ancient practice in Judaism, usually performed in the days between the end of the old year and the beginning of the new one, wherein the sins of the previous year are symbolically represented by an object thrown into the water. In this work, Yael Bartana lets personal items such as clothes and photographs, flow back to the usurped ethnic groups and fall from above onto a black background as if they were in the water.

Summer Camp Avodah 

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Exhibition Yael Bartana, Summer Camp / Avodah (2007), Fondazione Modena Arti Visive 

The exhibition continues in the Upper Rooms of Palazzo Santa Margherita with a double screening of Summer Camp / Awodah (2007). Summer Camp shows the activities of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) as the reconstruction of Palestinian homes in the occupied territories. In the summer of 2006, Bartana filmed a group of ICAHD volunteers composed of Palestinians, Israelis and various other nationalities. Assisted by Palestinian construction workers, they attempted to rebuild the former home of Abu Ahmed Al Hadad in the village of Anata (east of Jerusalem) on the very same spot where it had been demolished by Israeli authorities in late 2005. The result is a phenomenally edited 12-minute image and sound composition in which Bartana uses the same stylistic devices as Zionist propaganda films of the first half of the 20th century. Bartana refers to Helmar Lerski’s 1934-1935 film Awodah, which proclaims the dream of a Zionist state projected onto a second screen.

True Finn 

Art Super _On view Is Super _ Yael Bartana exhibition

Exhibition Yael Bartana, True Finn (2014), Fondazione Modena Arti Visive

On the same level True Finn (2014), a documentary-style film that asks eight Finns the same question: how can one define a true Finn? Invited by and in collaboration with the Finnish Pro Arte Foundation, the purpose was to create and record a storytelling utopian moment that would give an answer to this question.
Following an open call, eight Finnish residents lived together for seven days in a house in the Finnish countryside. The condition was that each person must have a different ethnic, religious and political background. The living, discussions and specifically designed tasks were filmed by Bartana and the edited material formed the core of the work.

A Declaration

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Exhibition Yael Bartana, A Declaration (2006), Fondazione Modena Arti Visive

The work A Declaration (2006) is included in the collection of the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Modena and it takes place on the southern shore of the Tel Aviv Sea, on the invisible border between the city and Jaffa. The Israeli flag flies over the Rock of Andromeda, which alludes to the mythological figure of Andromeda sacrificed by her parents to save the kingdom after her mother’s sin of pride. A young man leads a boat with an olive tree placed in the inside, representing the Israeli flag with the tree. The tree has a deep and specific meaning in both Israeli and Palestinian society. The name of the work states the action itself: on the Rock of Andromeda, Bartana replaces the Israeli flag with an olive tree. Even though this is an action performed in a media context, it nonetheless occurs in the sphere of Israeli society.

The Missing Negatives of the Sonnenfeld Collection

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Exhibition Yael Bartana, The Missing Negatives of the Sonnenfeld Collection (2008), Fondazione Modena Arti Visive

The last room features the photographic series The Missing Negatives of the Sonnenfeld Collection in which Bartana selected photographs from the extensive archives of legendary photo journalists Leni and Herbert Sonnenfeld who documented Palestine/Eretz Israel in the years running from 1933 to 1948. Adhering to the same heroic style, Bartana’s photographs are captured with the help of young Arabs and Arab Jews currently residing in Israel. Bartana portrays his models as beautiful, joyful and hopeful farmers, workers and soldiers. The series sets up a utopian moment that challenges the ethics of the Zionist movement.

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