The latest item in this week’s video festival is the projected trilogy called “And Europe Will Be Stunned”, by the Israeli artist Yael Bartana. I praised it at the last Venice Biennale, but it is showing again at Petzel Gallery in New York, and may just be the best new work now on view in the city. (I have to present this still from the piece, rather than a clip, since Bartana prefers that all viewers get the complete, projected experience.) Bartana’s piece is a pseudo-documentary, built around the fiction that a new party called the Jewish Renaissance Movement in Poland has taken root in Warsaw, with the goal of renewing Polish greatness by restoring its slaughtered Jewish population. We get to witness the construction of a new Polish kibbutz, and then the mourning that follows the assassination of the movement’s young founder. Formally, the piece is amazingly subtle – it toys with various documentary styles while always making clear that it’s playing. In its politics, it is both brash and subtle at the same time: It is built around hot-button topics but never makes clear whose side it is on. Its viewpoint is so tempered that it has seen attacks from both fervent Zionists and those most committed to the Palestinian cause. As far as I’m concerned, that means Bartana is doing something right.
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