And Europe Will Be Stunned

Yael Bartana

Hornsey Town Hall, London
22 May 2012 - 01 July 2012

And Europe Will Be Stunned might be Bartana's masterpiece: a deeply provocative meditation on Jewish identity that levels political punches with surreal wit. — Skye Sherwin, The Guardian

And Europe Will Be Stunned comprises three films: Mary Koszmary (Nightmares) (2007), Mur i wieża (Wall and Tower) (2009) and Zamach (Assassination) (2011). 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. They revolve 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, led by a charismatic young leader, Sławomir Sierakowski.

Yael Bartana’s powerful trilogy of films made in Poland between 2007 and 2011 premiered in the Polish Pavilion at the 2011 Venice Biennale. The trilogy was then presented by Artangel in the council chamber and meeting rooms of Hornsey Town Hall in north London.

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

Image: Production still from Zamach (Assasination) by Yael Bartana, photograph: Marcin Kalinski, 2011.

Video: Excerpt from Zamach (Assasination)

2 minutes 12 seconds
Read more

Zamach (Assasination), 2011

The Artangel-commisioned film Zamach (Assassination), the final part of the tril­ogy, which had its pre­miere at the 54th International Art Exhibition in Venice, takes place in not too dis­tant a future, dur­ing the funeral cer­e­mony of the leader of the Jewish Renaissance Movement, 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.

Available to watch on Vimeo and Youtube.

Image: Still from Zamach (Assasination), part of the trilogy And Europe Will Be Stunned by Yael Bartana, 2012.

Video: Excerpt from Mark Koszmary (Nightmares)

1 minute 49 seconds
Read more

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. Yael Bartana: ‘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.’

Available to watch on Youtube.

Image; installation shot of And Europe Will Be Stunned at Hornsey Town Hal, photograph: Marcus Leith.

Video: Excerpt from Mur i Vieża (Wall and Tower)

1 minutes 53 seconds
Read more

Mur i Vieża (Wall and Tower), 2009

The sec­ond film in the tril­ogy 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. Bartana: ‘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.’

Available to watch on Youtube.

Still from Walls and Tower, part of the Trilogy And Europe Will Be Stunned by Yael Bartana, 2012.

Audio: The Artangel Podcast 6: With One Religion We Cannot Listen

The Artangel Podcast and recordings from the symposium: And Will Europe Be Stunned?
Read more

Audio: The Artangel Podcast 6: With One Religion We Cannot Listen

Layered with sounds, speeches and dialogue from the films, this sixth edition of The Artangel Podcast collates thoughts about the project from the following speakers, many of whom attended the Jewish Renaissance Movement in Poland's first congress in Berlin:
Yael Bartana, the artist behind And Europe Will Be Stunned

  • Jakub Czupryński, a guide, genealogist and researcher tracing Jewish roots in Poland
  • Galit Eilat, a writer, curator and research curator at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven
  • Gil Hochberg, an associate professor of Comparative Literature at UCLA
  • Yosefa Loshitzky, Professor of Film, Media and Cultural Studies at the University of East London
  • Daniel Meir, sound designer of the film trilogy
  • Zoran Terzic, teacher in political aesthetics at Humboldt University
  • Michał Zadara, Polish theatre director, set designer and multimedia artist
  • Dana Yahalomi, co-founder of Public Movement. Performed as Dana Sierakowski in And Europe Will Be Stunned.

Listen on Soundcloud.

Symposium: And Will Europe be Stunned?

This symposium, at Whitechapel Art Gallery on Friday 18 May 2012, opened up the debates sparked by the films. It began with a keynote paper from Gil Hochberg, Professor of Comparative Literature at UCLA. This was followed by a Q&A with the artist and a panel discussion with Joanna Mytkowska, Director of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, and Jacqueline Rose, Professor at Queen Mary University.

This event was organised with the support of the Polish Cultural Institute.

Panel discussion with Yael Bartana Joanna Mytkowska, Gil Hochberg and Jacqueline Rose

Listen on Soundcloud.

Yael Bartana in conversation with Slawomir Sierakowski

A conversation between the artist and Slawomir Sierakowski, the protagonist of her trilogy and a Polish political figure in his own right. Moderated by Andrew Nairne, Director, Kettle's Yard University of Cambridge.

Listen on Soundcloud

Introductory comments and keynote paper from Gil Hochberg

Listen on Soundcloud.

Yael Bartana in conversation with Achim Borchardt-Hume

 Listen on Soundcloud.

Image: Production still from Zamach (Assassination), part of the trilogy And Europe Will be Stunned by Yael Bartana (2011). Photograph: Marcin Kalinski

Writing: The Return of the Stranger

And other essays
Read more

The Return of the Stranger

By Joanna Mytkowska, 2012

When Yael Bartana first came to Poland, the country was embarking upon a national debate about the memory of the Holocaust. The very idea that there was a need to revisit this wartime past was deeply contentious. Jan T Gross's Neighbours (2000), which recounted the story of the inhabitants of the small village of Jedwabne who burnt their Jewish neighbours alive during a pogrom in 1941, forced readers to face the traumatic revelation that Poles were not always the victims or heroes of the resistance; frequently they were witnesses or even collaborators in the crimes of the Holocaust. [1] For the first time since the war, a discussion about guilt — individual and collective — was initiated. Painful and heated, the argument stirred up old demons, awakening suppressed memories that opened up old wounds and began to hammer away at the walls of national denial.

Bartana came to Poland with her experience of struggling with life in Israel, where she objects to the state’s discriminatory policies against Palestinians. She brought an understanding of the consequences of such policies, which lead to inevitable double standards — the differential treatment of those who are ‘one of us’ as opposed to those who are ‘one of them’ — thus undermining the essence of democracy. She had already created Profile (2000), a work in which she showed a young woman performing military drills; Trembling Time (2002), her take on the moment of silence for Independence Day in Israel; as well as Wild Seeds (2005), in which she tried to process the experience of removing settlers from the West Bank. In Poland, she decided to tackle the strained Polish-Jewish relations, nascent antisemitism and the roots of the Israeli state, whose founders were largely of Polish descent. The burden of both the Polish and the Israeli trauma was so great that the verdict of history seemed irreversible. The whole subject matter threatened to be either too monumental or too pompous and, therefore, banal. It seemed to be dead and closed, offering nothing but the potential for compulsive repetition. But illumination came — when Bartana decided to delve into the trauma, to take it on and accept it to a certain degree, believing that in time she would be able to achieve a level of freedom that would enable her to imagine alternative scenarios.

The experience of And Europe Will Be Stunned is reminiscent of the therapeutic process, and, like a dream interpreted, the work gradually reveals layers of latent meaning. The complex narrative evokes conflicting associations, ideas and desires that are not easily resolved; it is a study in exposure, revealing the symptoms of a trauma that has not yet been worked through. The trilogy succeeds in creating the atmosphere of an oppressive nightmare through constant reference to familiar matters narrated through a discredited propagandist language which is subversively twisted and distorted.

Read the rest.

Read other essays:

History is a Nightmare by Jacqueline Rose

Answering a Call by Boris Groys

This is Not a Call to the Dead by Ariella Azoulay and Adi Ophi

Image: installation shot of And Europe Will Be Stunned at Hornsey Town Hall, photograph: Marcus Leith.


Read more

Bartana's films swim between fact and fiction. They move seamlessly from one genre to another, from documentary to biopic to Riefenstahl. The performances are remarkable, especially that of the leader Slawomir Sierakowski. — Laura Cumming, The Guardian, 13 May 2012.

Selected Press

“Zamach (Assassination)” occurs after the assassination of the young leader in the first video: an enormous bust of him worthy of Lenin is dedicated in a city square as hundreds of demonstrators and helmeted police look on. The entire effect is exceedingly complex, with just the right mixture of staginess, uplifting music and 21st-century details to keep the artifice before us while delving into numerous issues including the failed utopia of Israel, the unresolved trauma of World War II, the danger of nationalism and, above all, the importance of diversity. — Roberta Smith, New York Times, 19 April 2013.

The films are beautifully orchestrated, richly woven and profoundly ambiguous. Is Bartana presenting a genuine ideological premise or taking a purely provocative position? It could all appear pointlessly absurd, but in involving real people, the Israeli artist lends a plausibility. — Evening Standrad, 24 May 2012.

Shot with the cool, slick, swooping camera movements of a Benetton advertisement, or maybe a celebrity tribute like the one for Michael Jackson, the tone of the first half ofZamach is that of very black humor that is occasionally in dubious taste—it’s hard not to laugh at Sierakowski lying in state, much less his ridiculous bust, which looks like it was fashioned from soap. — Daniel Baird, Candian Art, 16 February 2012.

About Yael Bartana

Read more

Yael Bartana

Yael Bartana’s 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. 

Between 2006 and 2011, the artist has been working in Poland, creating the trilogy 'And Europe Will Be Stunned', a project on the history of Polish-Jewish relations and its influence on the contemporary Polish identity.

Yael Bartana represented Poland for the 54th International Art Exhibition in Venice (2011).

Her project 'True Finn – Tosi suomalainen', dealing with national identity operating as a means of inclusion and exclusion, was presented at the IHME Festival 2014 in Finland.

Watch an interview with Yael Bartana on Youtube or the extended version.

When And Europe Will Be Stunned was on display at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark, January 2012, Yael Bartana was interviewed by Michael Juul Holm as part of the Louisiana Talks series. Produced by Sonja Strange for Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2012.

Image: Portrait of Yael Bartana during production (2012). Photograph: Daniel Meir. 

In The Artangel Collection

Read more

And Europe Will Be Stunned

And Europe Will Be Stunned is a trilogy of films that is part of The Artangel Collection. Since its initial presentation in 2012 the trilogy has been presented at Plymouth Arts Centre in 2012, at Art Exchange in Colchester in 2014 and at Golden Thread Gallery in Belfast in 2017.

  • Artist: Yael Bartana
  • Title: Mary Koszmary (Nightmares)
  • Date: 2012
  • Medium: Single-channel video.
  • Dimensions: Overall display dimensions variable
  • Duration: 11 minutes

  • Artist: Yael Bartana
  • Title: Mur i Wieza (Wall and Tower)
  • Date: 2012
  • Medium: Single-channel video.
  • Dimensions: Overall display dimensions variable
  • Duration: 15 minutes

  • Artist: Yael Bartana
  • Title: Zamach (Assasination)
  • Date: 2012
  • Medium: Single-channel video.
  • Dimensions: Overall display dimensions variable
  • 35 minutes
Read more


Read more

Who made this possible?


Zamach (Assassination), part of And Europe Will Be Stunned 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, a national initiative to commission and present new film and video work, supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. 

Artangel is supported by Arts Council EnglandArtangel International CircleSpecial AngelsGuardian Angels and The Company of Angels