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Film trilogy meant to provoke debate

Yael Bartana's short films, collectively called '…And Europe will be stunned,' explore repatriation of Jews in Poland.

September 09, 2011|By Imran Vittachi
  • A still photo from Yael Bartana's film trilogy.
A still photo from Yael Bartana's film trilogy. (Daily Pilot )

Israeli installation artist Yael Bartana will inaugurate the new 4,000-square-foot gallery at UC Irvine's Claire Trevor School of the Arts with the American debut of her trilogy of thought-provoking films about national identity and the Jewish question.

Starting Oct. 5, and running till March 10, the trio of short films, collectively titled "… And Europe will be stunned," will simultaneously screen in the gallery at UCI's Contemporary Arts Center.

Juli Carson, gallery director and associate professor of Studio Art, says she was thrilled that Bartana's exhibit, currently installed in Venice, Italy, will be coming to the newly-completed center because "I couldn't have shown that in the university art space built here in the 1960s."

A special set will be built to accommodate the exhibit, dividing the gallery into three rooms, where visitors can view each film.

Bartana's films aren't of the entertainment kind. You can't see them in the cinema or via Netflix. The artist's goal is to provoke thought, dialogue and debate.

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When viewed sequentially, "Nightmare," "Wall and Tower" and "Assassination" offer viewers an intense experience that spans just over an hour. And they tread into highly sensitive territory by challenging some of the fundamental principles of Zionism, the political doctrine that underlies the State of Israel.

"The way that one experiences it is very much part of the installation," Carson says as she guides a reporter around the empty gallery. "It's the experience of the space and moving through the space."

The thrust of the Bartana film trilogy rests on a deliberate and provocative hypothesis: the proposed repatriation of Poland's 3.3 million Jews — that Eastern European country's Jewish population before the Holocaust.

"I can be found everywhere," says the character of Rivka, who appears in the final film "Assassination" as an apparition symbolizing Poland's uprooted Jews.

"I am the ghost of the return, the return returning to herself, sunken in the crypt of grief that cannot be expressed in words…," her ghostly monologue continues.

Bartana has deliberately filmed the three pieces in a cinematographic style emulating the Nazi propaganda films of the 1930s. The films also contain ironic twists and provocative role reversals.

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