Friday, 30 January 2015, 24:00 | midnight

#61: 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.

Pardes (Orchard), 2014, 71:00 min
The work of Yael Bartana largely reflects on rituals and the relationship between individual responsibility and collective actions. In her new work Bartana takes a very personal look at how Westerners seek  personal enlightenment by appropriating traditional rituals: in Pardes (Orchard) she documents the journey of her close friend Michael – an Israeli artist, who, on the one hand, sceptically rejects all organized religion, but on the other hand, is on a constant search for deeper understanding, investigating Kabbalah as well as the cults of the Amazon. Under the guidance of the Brazilian shaman Dona Francisca (Francisquinha) from the Xawandawa tribe he undergoes the Ayahuasca ritual, taking the psychedelic brew that is said to lead to deep spiritual revelations about the universe and one’s own personality, a feeling described as an experience of rebirth, enlightenment or – in the worst case – as one of the worst trips possible. What used to happen hidden from the eyes of the world has become accessible or even a touristic activity – for some out of curiosity, for others out of longing for strong spiritual experiences or even  healing. But even the shaman herself represents a mix of cultural influences: the 52-year-old Dona Francisca, who recites the “Ave Maria” just as well as traditional tribal songs, is one of the abuelas (Grandmothers) of the earth and a member of Santo Daime, a syncretic spiritual practice founded in the 1930s that mixes elements of several spiritual traditions including folk Catholicism, Kardecist spiritism, animism and indigenous shamanism. The once very specific and local ritual becomes an inclusive performance, open for very different needs and cultural backgrounds. – Humboldt Lab Dahlem, Berlin

Yael Bartana (b. 1970 in Kfar-Yehezkel, Israel) lives and works in Berlin. She studied at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, the School of Visual Arts in New York and the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. Her solo exhibitions include the Moderna Museet, Malmö; PS1/MoMA, New York; The Center for Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv; the Kunstverein Hamburg; and Secession, Vienna, among others. In 2011, she represented Poland for the 54th edition of the Venice Biennial where her trilogy, And Europe Will Be Stunned, premiered. Most recently, Bartana’s work has been exhibited at the Pérez Art Museum Miami; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; 2014 Sydney Biennial; Carnegie International; and Sao Paulo Biennial. In the summer of 2015, her work will be presented at The Guggenheim Museum, New York and The Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin as part of a group show and in the autumn of 2016 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Her artworks are included in numerous public collections, including The Museum of Modern Art in New York; The Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia; The National Gallery of Canada, Ontario; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Tel Aviv Art Museum, Tel Aviv; the Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich and Tate Modern, London.

Yael Bartana’s web site: