Profile — 23 Nov 2018
Through her moving image and installation works, Yael Bartana explores how cultural and national identity is reinforced through rituals, ceremonies, and social practices. Born in Israel, Bartana frequently takes her native country as a case study, considering how cultural narratives and collective memory operate within the Israeli national consciousness. Her 2017 film Tashlikh (Cast Off) takes its title from the Jewish custom of throwing bread and personal belongings into a river as a symbolic act of atoning for one’s sins. Drawing from this tradition, Bartana invited both victims and perpetrators of the Holocaust, Armenian genocide, and more recent ethnic cleansing campaigns in Sudan and Eritrea to cast off possessions that materially connect them to a traumatic past.
Tashlikh (Cast Off) reinforces Bartana’s position that identity is not fixed, but rather continually redefined through changing circumstances and interactions with others. Through mingling the histories of different twentieth-century genocides, the film points out how identity has been repeatedly weaponized in order for certain groups of people to gain political and economic power over others. While discussions over freedom of movement often center on lack of mobility and the inability to cross national borders, Bartana reminds us that this concept also refers to the right to remain in one’s home without fear of expulsion or death. Though she sees her work as “in contact with politics,” she refuses to pass judgment or offer solutions to political conflicts. Instead, she reveals political conditions and mechanisms, inviting her audience to be active viewers and participants. For Bartana, art is an important “tool with which to undermine the status quo.”
With Tashlikh (Cast Off), Bartana proposes a new kind of ritual wherein discarding objects releases participants from the burden of painful histories, and facilitates the acknowledgement of guilt, emotional healing, and psychological liberation.
Director Yael Bartana | Director of Photography Mick Van Rossum | Editing Yael Bartana | Sound Design Daniel Meir | Visual Effects Eran Feller | Production Design Hagar Ophir | Assistant Director Itamar Gov | Production Manager Eike Wendland | Producers Naama Pyritz, Yael Bartana | Commissioned by CCA Tel-Aviv, n.b.k.
About the artist
Yael Bartana (b. 1970, Israel) studied at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem and the School of Visual Arts in New York. She has participated in various residencies, including at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam and the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College in New York. Her work has been shown at the Philadelphia Museum of Art; Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin; MoMA PS1, New York; Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw; Tel Aviv Museum of Art; Banff Centre, Alberta; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; the Secession in Vienna; the Bienal de São Paulo; the Biennale of Sydney; the Berlin Biennale; and the 54th Venice Biennale, where she represented Poland. She was the winner of the second award of the 2005 Prix de Rome and the winner of the 2010 Artes Mundi Prize. Her work is held in museum collections in Europe, the United States, and Israel.