Yael Bartana: And Europe Will Be Stunned

Original UK screening:
May - July 2012
Hornsey Town Hall
Crouch End

Click here to listen to an Artangel Podcast about the project.

Production still. RED transferred to HD, 2011. Photograph by Marcin Kalinski

"Deeply stirring... stunningly well made” (The Observer)

"And Europe Will Be Stunned might be Bartana's masterpiece: a deeply provocative meditation on Jewish identity that levels political punches with surreal wit"  (The Guardian)

And Europe Will Be Stunned, Israeli artist Yael Bartana’s powerful and challenging trilogy of films made in Poland between 2007 and 2011, was presented by Artangel over the summer of 2012 in a special exhibition at Hornsey Town Hall in London’s Crouch End.

And Europe Will Be Stunned revolves around the activities of the Jewish Renaissance Movement in Poland (JRMiP), a political group that calls 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, overflowing with the narratives of the Israeli settlement movement, Zionist dreams, antisemitism, the Holocaust and the Palestinian right of return. Apart from realising the film trilogy, a new political movement has been established by the artist.

In the first film in the trilogy Mary Koszmary (Nightmares) (2007), a young activist, played by Sławomir Sierakowski (founder and chief editor of Krytyka Polityczna magazine), 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 antisemitism and xenophobia in Poland, the longing for the Jewish past among liberal Polish intellectuals and the Zionist dream of return to Israel. As Yael Bartana said: ‘This is a very universal story; as in previous works, I have treated Israel as a sort of a social laboratory, always looking at it from the outside. These are mechanisms and situations which can be observed anywhere in the world. My recent works are not just stories about two nations — Poles and Jews. This is a universal presentation of the impossibility of living together.’

The second film in the trilogy, 2009's Mur i wieża (Wall and Tower) was 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 centre 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 the artist proposes to resurrect in the 21st century, in an entirely different political and geographical configuration. Bartana again: ‘I quote the past, the time of Socialist utopia, youthfulness and optimism — when there was a project of constructing a modernist idea of a new world.’

In the Artangel co-commissioned film Zamach (Assassination), Bartana brings the dream of multinational community and a brand new Polish society to the ultimate test. The film takes place in a not too distant future during the funeral ceremony of the leader of the Jewish Renaissance Movement in Poland, who has 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.

The combined running time of the three films is 60 minutes.

Zamach (Assassination) was commissioned by Artangel, Outset Contemporary Art Fund, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art and Zachęta National Gallery of Art

In association with Annet Gelink Gallery, Artis, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, The Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture, Ikon Gallery, Sommer Contemporary Art Gallery, The Netherlands Film Fund

Produced by My-i Productions in association with Artangel

Zamach (Assassination) is incuded in the Artangel Collection.