Interview mit Yael Bartana

03. Juni 2012 von Matthias Planitzer
A move­ment can­not be main­tai­ned by one per­son. There is a pro­cess turning it from an art pro­ject into some­thing that can func­tion. When I look around me, I see these revo­lu­tio­nary and poli­ti­cal move­ments and for me it is inte­res­ting to relate to that.

Dies ist die unge­kürz­te Fas­sung des Inter­views mit der israe­li­schen Künst­le­rin Yael Bar­ta­na, wel­ches im März 2012 im KUNST-Maga­zin (S. 12–15) erschien.

Anläss­lich der Ende April begin­nen­den 7. Ber­lin Bien­na­le wird die israe­li­sche Künst­le­rin Yael Bar­ta­na im Rah­men des Fes­ti­val­pro­gramms einen Kon­gress über ihre Akti­on, die fik­ti­ve “Jewish Renais­sance Move­ment in Poland” (Bewe­gung jüdi­scher Wie­der­ge­burt in Isra­el), anfüh­ren. Bereits für die ver­gan­ge­ne Vene­dig-Bien­na­le bespiel­te sie den pol­ni­schen Pavil­lon mit einer Film­tri­lo­gie über die­ses Pro­jekt, in der sie sich für die Wie­der­an­sie­de­lung der jüdi­schen Flücht­lin­ge und ihrer Nach­fah­ren im pol­ni­schen Staats­ge­biet ein­setzt. In der Ver­gan­gen­heit trat Bar­ta­na immer wie­der mit sym­bol­träch­ti­gen Video-Arbei­ten über die Lage Isra­els in Erschei­nung und stell­te u.a. auf der docu­men­ta 12, im MoMA PS1, sowie im Tate Modern Lon­don und Liver­pool aus. Unser Autor Mat­thi­as Pla­nit­zer traf sie zum Gespräch über Visio­nen und Hoff­nun­gen für das jüdi­sche Volk und den Sym­bol­ge­halt ihrer Bewe­gung.

Miss Bar­ta­na, your ongo­ing pro­ject “Jewish Renais­sance Move­ment in Poland” (JRMiP) is a sym­bol for the com­plex histo­ry and today’s after­math of the dia­spo­ra, both in Isra­el and Poland. What is your per­so­nal inte­rest of this uni­que approach to such a dif­fi­cult topic?

The who­le pro­ject star­ted in 2006 after visi­t­ing Poland, try­ing to ima­gi­ne a pos­si­ble revi­val of the Jewish com­mu­ni­ty in this coun­try. As an Israe­li I have dif­fe­rent rela­ti­ons­hips to Jewish iden­ti­ty. I tried to ima­gi­ne the pos­si­bi­li­ties of recon­ci­lia­ti­on with the past and allo­wing to over­co­me the dra­ma of Poland, Isra­el and the Jews. It was the idea to somehow think of a his­to­ri­cal chan­ge, of some­thing that will be writ­ten on the pages of histo­ry. Despi­te the atro­ci­ties, despi­te what hap­pen­ed: Is it actual­ly pos­si­ble to fill in the void? What strikes me most is this void, the absence, the non-exis­ting com­mu­ni­ty. I wasn’t that much inte­rested in the action its­elf but more in the sym­bo­lic level of rethin­king histo­ry and may­be fin­ding a new lan­guage to dis­cuss the Holo­caust, the Second World War and later on ’68. I wan­ted to reflect upon the rela­ti­ons­hip bet­ween the dia­spo­ra and the home­land, the noti­ons of the Jewish exi­le. I wan­ted to somehow under­mi­ne the Zio­nist dreams of the Jews in Isra­el. It’s a pro­ject that is qui­te poli­ti­cal in a sen­se that it is try­ing to chal­len­ge the rea­li­ty in the Midd­le East and in Euro­pe.

The move­ment will be sub­ject to a spe­ci­al­ly held con­gress at the upco­m­ing Ber­lin Bien­na­le cura­ted by the polish artist Artur Żmi­jew­ski. With the sym­po­si­um being held on Ger­man ground, one might won­der what moti­va­ted you to launch the “Jewish Renais­sance Move­ment” in Poland and why not in Ger­ma­ny or Rus­sia ins­tead. What were decisi­ve fac­tors for your choice?

For Israe­lis, Poland is some­what the worst place in the world. It’s the coun­try were most of the major atro­ci­ties hap­pen­ed. This is whe­re child­ren go every year for the March of the Living and to visit the con­cen­tra­ti­on camps. The lar­gest Polish dia­spo­ra actual­ly lives in Isra­el. This is why the rela­ti­ons­hip with Isra­el is very inte­res­ting in terms that the­re is much Polish cul­tu­re in Isra­el. Fur­ther­mo­re, the rea­son why I star­ted in Poland, sim­ply was that I was invi­ted to come and work the­re. Ano­t­her per­so­nal level is, that my gre­at-grand­par­ents are from Poland.

How were the reac­tions to your pro­ject both in Poland, in Isra­el and even inter­na­tio­nal­ly?

The­re were many dif­fe­rent reac­tions. It’s not so black and white with anger and exci­te­ment. I think the pro­ject trig­gers the people’s ima­gi­na­ti­on to think about the pos­si­bi­li­ties. Some peop­le read it as a con­ti­nua­ti­on of the Zio­nist move­ment, becau­se I use many Zio­nist ele­ments. But it’s a stra­te­gy: In order to under­mi­ne it, I use the same tools, rever­se and flip it. The­re is some­thing very sedu­cing to the idea of living tog­e­ther in Poland. I think this fee­ling of pionee­ring attrac­ts the peop­le. But of cour­se, the­re were also many peop­le who were against the idea and I show that in the films.

I think the­re are a lot of young peop­le who don’t see much of a future in Isra­el, who want to be able to tra­vel and take a European pass­port. It’s also a mat­ter of genera­ti­on; the older genera­ti­on can­not accept the idea of retur­ning to Poland. But obvious­ly and as shown by the choice for the Veni­ce Bien­na­le, this idea is well accep­ted in Poland.

One of the most striking qua­li­ties of the JRMiP is its non-governmen­tal ori­gin, being a move­ment powe­red by tho­se that are actual­ly to be invol­ved by it. Thus it is fuel­led with an admi­ra­ble ener­gy – at least in the ima­gi­na­ti­on of tho­se who hear about it. Being a qua­si-fic­ti­tious orga­ni­za­ti­on, how far is the pro­ject from actual­ly making way for the demand of re-sett­ling Jews to their for­mer home­land? Is it still a mere sym­bol for today’s situa­ti­on of the Jews and their ances­tors that fled Poland and other coun­tries?

The move­ment is ima­gi­na­ry at the moment. Now we need the peop­le to estab­lish it. This is why we have the con­gress. A move­ment can­not be main­tai­ned by one per­son. The­re is a pro­cess tur­ning it from an art pro­ject into some­thing that can func­tion. When I look around me, I see the­se revo­lu­tio­na­ry and poli­ti­cal move­ments and for me it is inte­res­ting to rela­te to that. I don’t want to be in this Polish-Israe­li bub­ble, the idea is more uni­ver­sal. I give only an examp­le. I think this is the rea­son why peop­le can rela­te to it. It is just about to spread the mes­sa­ge. I want to break a sta­tus quo.

Do you know how many peop­le sin­ce then have fol­lo­wed your call?

The­re were some, but I don’t know a num­ber. But I get more and more E-Mails from artists who want to do pro­jec­ts in Poland. It has beco­me qui­te popu­lar and this is a nice deve­lop­ment, as I think. When the peop­le are curious and inte­rested, I think that’s an achie­ve­ment.

What expec­ta­ti­ons and hopes do you have for the con­gress being held during the Ber­lin Bien­na­le this sum­mer?

It is my hope for the con­gress, to crea­te a demo­cra­tic situa­ti­on, so that peop­le can vote for what they want: What kind of chan­ges do we want for our­sel­ves? I want to hear about other people’s fan­ta­sies. I want us as a group of hund­red peop­le to dis­cuss the kind of chan­ges we want. It is not about prac­ti­cal solu­ti­ons. The­re are many other orga­ni­za­ti­ons that try to deal with that, facing a lot of bureau­cra­cy, law issu­es and poli­tics. I think the­re are enough of them, but the move­ment is not such an orga­ni­za­ti­on I hope to estab­lish.

In your pro­ject you indi­rec­t­ly cri­ti­ci­ze Israel’s sett­le­ment poli­ci­es. How do you view cur­rent deve­lop­ments in Isra­el?

I am com­ple­te­ly against the occupa­ti­on and aggres­si­on towards the Pales­ti­ni­ans. I am a lef­tist in that sen­se, but I don’t want to be a despe­ra­te one, you know? Through the JRMiP I also wan­ted to cri­ti­ci­ze Isra­el. One of the topics of the move­ment will be: What should hap­pen in Isra­el so that it will be part of the Midd­le East? When I talk about racism, then it is also some­thing I stron­gly expe­ri­ence in Isra­el.

Towards Israe­lis?

Towards Pales­ti­ni­ans.

Not only them, but also towards Ira­ni­an peop­le. Israel’s cur­rent rela­ti­ons­hip to Iran is in Euro­pe wide­ly view­ed with con­cern.

I think, in Isra­el we have to rea­li­ze that we are in the Midd­le East. We have to learn Ara­bic; we have to start to inte­gra­te. We’re not a colo­ny. Befo­re the Zio­nist move­ment and the sta­te of Isra­el was estab­lished, the­re were many other move­ments but we don’t know of them. We should be part of what it used to be in the 19th cen­tu­ry, when Jews and Arabs lived tog­e­ther.

In con­trast the­re is the Jewish situa­ti­on in Euro­pe. In an inter­view with Art it Maga­zi­ne you said, that after the Second World War the Polish socie­ty beca­me homo­ge­nous due to the mis­sing Jews…

… but the Jews will move the­re. Some­thing has to chan­ge in Poland first for tho­se who want to move back.

What could that be?

An inte­gra­ti­on tax. Yid­dish or Hebrew as a second for­mal lan­guage. If you want to accept the others, you have to give them some­thing. We have to somehow influ­ence that this chan­ges. I am not naï­ve, I know the­re is a lot of anti-Semi­tism in Poland but I want to belie­ve that this can chan­ge.

Andere Meinungen

  1. […] groß­zü­gig geför­der­ter Kon­gress zur Fra­ge der jüdi­schen Rol­le im heu­ti­gen Polen (im Vor­feld führ­te ich für das KUNST-Maga­zin ein Inter­view mit ihr) ver­säumt die Bien­nale die Gele­gen­heit, die­ser in Ber­lin bereits prä­sen­ten […]