Diary note 39: Jael Bartana.

19 VIII 2021

I could start in 5 or 6 manners, so many different impressions are there to record. But let’s start with a revision.

At the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam I first saw some work by an Israeli video/photographer: Jael Bartana. Then in New York I saw a bigger work: ‘and Europe will be stunned’. Now here I see among others her last work: ‘Redemption Now’.

The work is still extremely careful and controlled and sensationally striking or daring. But it somehow lost me. The New York piece had been about a return to Poland of the 300,000 Jews killed during the Second World War. They were publicly called back and would start a Kibbutz in Warsaw, and create a new political movement that would transform Europe and the Middle East. I was moved by the vision.

But now I see limits that are revealed by the later works. She is still confined to the world of Judaism, that is of a special identity, inspired and formed by a collective call of destiny. This would in the past not only create Israel, but also National Socialism and Holy Germany. When in ‘Redemption Now’ the Germans are guided by a white camel and a kind of classical Prussian goddess, it is still about identity, albeit Ideal Identity. The Germans are led through a small path in the woodland and are delivered as if they were another kind of Jews, crossing the Red Sea. Aziz, a Pakistani artist who was with us, was shocked to see no colored people among the German followers.

I did not see a smile, just Prussian seriousness.

So she lost me, the prophet of learning and hybridity. It is identity politics in a fresh guise and it closes the road to a common humanity. ‘Simon the Hermetic’, another futuristic show by her in the Jewish Museum, mingled male and female, and the races, in the miracle of fulfillment. But the problem is that it remains a miracle comparable to the immaculate conception in Catholicism. It solves nothi