A Declaration, 2010
Lightbox and semi-transparent print
box : 101.6 x 71.6, image : 99.6 x 69.6
Edition 1/3 + 2 A.P.
Her video work A Declaration was shot in southern Tel Aviv, on the invisible border between that city and Jaffa. It begins with the sound of waves and the image of the Israeli flag that fills the entire screen. This is followed by the whirring sounds of a helicopter (like those heard through the night in that area during the second Lebanon war in summer 2006). A young man in a white undershirt rows a boat carrying an olive tree in its place. The camera work throughout this piece has a conspicuously soft tone to it. Bartana seems to flirt with 1930s Jewish National Fund (JNF) propaganda photography on the one hand, and with Leni Riefenstahl's photographic technique, like the use of soft focus that distorts the perspective and vanishing point, on the other, The olive tree and the act of planting are two highly charged symbols in the context of Israeli reality. Planting is the physical act that encapsulates the gist of Zionist ideology: reclamation of the desert, cultivation of the land and its ownership, the Jewish people's return to its homeland. The olive tree has been considered one of the symbols of peace since biblical times, and therefore was appropriated as a pivotal element in the emblem of the State of Israel as well. Olive trees, however, are also an important part of West Bank agriculture, serving as a source of subsistence for thousands of Palestinians. In recent years, the brutal uprooting of olive trees has become commonplace in Palestinian agriculture land adjacent to extremist Jewish settlements, an act intended to interfere with the Palestinians' subsistence. The Andromeda Rock alludes to the Greek mythological figure sacrificed by her parents to save the kingdom, following her mother's sin of pride. Does Bartana's work suggest the possibility of foregoing nationalism in favor of peaceful coexistence of the two nations one minute before the sin of pride destroys the accomplishments of the Zionist enterprise? A Declaration already attests to the action itself: on Andromeda's Rock, Bartana replaces the Israeli flag with an olive tree. While this is indeed an act performed in a media context, it nevertheless takes place in the sphere of Israeli reality. (from: Yael Bartana, exh.cat. Kunstverein in Hamburg, Hatje Cantz, 2007, p. 93)