This fall, the Philadelphia Museum of Art will premiere Bury Our Weapons, Not Our Bodies!, a new site-specific public performance by acclaimed Israeli-born artist Yael Bartana. Scheduled to take place on September 22, 2018 (through to January 1, 2019) at the Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, this performance will be presented as part of a solo exhibition at the Museum dedicated to the artist’s provocative film trilogy, And Europe Will Be Stunned (2007-2011). Marking its Philadelphia debut, this trilogy will be an immersive installation in the Joan Spain Gallery of the Museum’s Perelman Building.
Born in 1970 in Kfar Yehezkel, Israel, Yael Bartana lives and works in Berlin and Amsterdam. In her films, installations, and photographs, Bartana investigates the ideas of homeland, return, and belonging, often in ceremonies, memorials, public rituals, and actions that are intended to reaffirm and question collective identities and ideas of the nation or the state.
Taking the complex history of Jewish-Polish identity as its point of departure, And Europe Will Be Stunned addresses the themes of nationhood, memory, and belonging that are integral to Bartana’s work. It first debuted at the Venice Biennale in 2011, where Bartana represented Poland. Shortly thereafter, the trilogy was jointly acquired by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Employing a visual vocabulary reminiscent of Stalinist and Zionist propaganda of the early 20th century, And Europe Will be Stunned chronicles the radical program of a fictional political movement called the Jewish Renaissance Movement in Poland (JRMiP). Created by Bartana, together with Polish activist Sławomir Sierakowski, the JRMiP advocates for the return of over three million Jews to their forgotten Polish homeland. Informed by the histories of the Israeli settlement movement, Zionism, anti-Semitism, and the Palestinian right of return, the trilogy uses the real and the imagined to speak to global complexities about identity and self-determination in an increasingly unstable world.
Beyond the walls of the Philadelphia Museum, Bartana will realize Bury Our Weapons, Not Our Bodies! as a means of extending the themes of the artist’s trilogy into the birthplace of American democracy – Philadelphia. Bartana’s performance is a call to action, aiming to make visible the systems of violence and displacement that have been perpetuated through weapons, both literal and symbolic. As the title suggests, the performance will bury these weapons, rendering them useless, as they are incorporated into a choreographed funeral—a living monument—that will include a staged procession and a collective eulogy about war and survival. The movements of the performers are inspired by those of Israeli artist and dance composer Noa Eshkol (1924-2007), specifically evoking Eshkol’s 1953 memorial assembly performed in remembrance to the Holocaust. Bringing together funerary tradition, military ritual, and personal testimony, Bartana’s new performance will deepen the artist’s investigations into the construction of memory and the aesthetics of national identity.
Amanda Sroka, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art, said: “Yael Bartana’s work resonates across geographies and time to speak to urgent issues of today including citizenship and gun violence. Presented both in the city and at the Museum, Bartana’s performance and trilogy of films remind us of the power of art to serve as a catalyst for change and to inspire new forms of imagination both inside and outside our walls.”
Educated in Israel, New York, and the Netherlands, Bartana has exhibited worldwide, and
her works are represented in collections including those of the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim, Tate Modern, Centre Georges Pompidou, and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Her works have been represented in the São Paulo Biennial (2014), the Berlin Biennial (2012) the Venice Biennale (2011), dOCUMENTA in Kassel (2007), and Manifesta in Frankfurt (2002). Among the museums that have presented solo exhibitions of her work are the Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne (2017), the Banff Centre, Alberta (2016), the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2014), Secession, Vienna (2012), the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek (2012), the Tel Aviv Museum of Art (2012), the Moderna Museet, Malmö (2010), MoMA PS1 (2008), and the Kunstverein Hambourg (2006).
Major support for the exhibition Yael Bartana: And Europe Will Be Stunned and the site-specific performance Bury Our Weapons, Not Our Bodies! was provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional generous contributions from the Philip and Muriel Berman Foundation, Lyn M. Ross, The Arlin and Neysa Adams Endowment Fund, and Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz.
Public Opening Reception
- Thursday, September 20, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
- Perelman Building, Skylit Atrium (2525 Pennsylvania Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19130)
Bury our Weapons, Not our Bodies!
- Saturday, September 22, 2:00 p.m. (rain date: Sunday, September 23)
- Independence National Historical Park (Between 5th and 6th Streets, and Chestnut and Market Streets, Philadelphia, PA 19106)
- The performance will continue later in the afternoon at the William M. Reilly Memorial, near the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Community Conversations: Homeland
- Sunday, October 7, 2018, 2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
- Perelman Building (2525 Pennsylvania Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19130)
What does home mean to you? How does it relate to your senses of place, neighborhood, and national identity? We’ll consider these questions in conjunction with the exhibition. Free after Pay What You Wish admission.
Staring Back at the Sun: Video Art from Israel, 1970–2012
- Thursday, November 1 and Saturday, November 3, 7:00 p.m.
- Lightbox Film Center at International House Philadelphia (3701 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104)
Presented over two evenings and divided into four historic and thematic sections, this program traces the development of contemporary video practice in Israel and highlights works by thirty-five artists, including Yael Bartana, who take an incisive, critical perspective toward the cultural and political landscape in Israel and beyond. The final section, Part 4: State of Amnesia—2005–2012, was organized by Bartana and co-curator Avi Feldman. (Staring Back at the Sun: Video Art from Israel, 1970-2012, is produced by Artis and made possible with lead support from The Andy Warhol Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, The Russell Berrie Foundation, Donald Sussman, and Rivka Saker and Uzi Zucker.)
Community Conversations: Memory
- Sunday, November 4, 2018, 2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
- Perelman Building (2525 Pennsylvania Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19130)
How have your personal and collective memories shaped who you are today? What are the ways in which memories inform your sense of past, present, and future? We’ll consider these questions in conjunction with the exhibition. Free after Pay What You Wish admission.
What Is Citizenship?
- Tuesday, November 13, 2018, 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
- Perelman Building, Auditorium (2525 Pennsylvania Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19130)
Jeffrey Rosen, President and CEO of the National Constitution Center (NCC), moderates a debate about the various ways in which citizenship and nationhood are defined today. Panelists:
- Jaya Ramji-Nogales, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Herman Stern Research Professor, Beasley School of Law, Temple University
- John Eastman, Henry Salvatori Professor of Law and Community Service and Director of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, Dale E. Fowler School of Law, Chapman University
- Ruth Wasem, Clinical Professor of Public Policy Practice, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin
Realized in collaboration with National Constitution Center. Paid ticket required: $10; includes Perelman Building admission (Museum members & NCC members free).