Yael Bartana
And Europe Will Be Stunned

Yael Bartana received great international attention for the trilogy series And Europe Will be Stunned (2007 – 2011). The series, which includes the films Mary Koszmary (Nightmare) (2007), Mur i wieza (Wall and Tower) (2009), and Zamach (Assassination) (2011), centers on a young Polish politician’s call for the return of 3.3 million Jewish people who emigrated to Palestine. The films employ the same techniques of Leni Riefenstahl’s Nazi propaganda films, combining fact and fiction with the past and the present. Opening film Mary Koszmary (Nightmares) is set in the ruins of Warsaw’s Stadion Dziesieciolecia (Decennial Stadium) where the politician Slawomir Sierakowski is identified and summons the return of the Jewish people from today’s Israel. The second film Mur I Wieza (Wall and Tower) we see the establishment of loyal and idealistic followers of Sierakowski and the Jewish Renaissance Movement. They build a barbed wire wrapped tower-and-stockade-style kibbutz that was a settlement method established and developed by Zionists in Palestine from 1936–39. The final film Zamach (Assassination) sees the assassination of Sierakowski by an unknown assailant, which solidifies the Jewish Renaissance Movement. The three films bring together images of past and present Israeli and Polish identities and imagines a dangerous future.

The work of Yael Bartana investigates the imagination and imagery of identity and the politics of national memory and identity. Her interest in understanding and examining national statehood stems from being born in Israel, and being surrounded by the perpetual production of collective national identity. After completing her studies, Bartana undertook what she called ‘amateur anthropological’ research into ritual and myth making to take a critical perspective towards her own history and nationality. As a result of her politically charged practice that often deals with Jewish identity in Israel and abroad, she has garnered significant criticism, notably being labeled as anti-Zionist and a self-hating Jew. Despite this criticism, Bartana believes that, through her work as an artist, exploring both political statehood and religious and political diaspora, she is responsible for addressing these issues. Bartana believes that growing up in such a politically charged state requires artists to become either political artists, or escapists.