With her freshly opened exhibition at Vienna’s Secession, “Wenn Ihr wollt, ist es kein Traum” Yael Bartana creates something of a trilogy from three separate projects, her 2011 Venice Biennale pavilion for Poland, her installation at the 2012 Berlin Biennale, and a new series of works pitting father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freund, against father of Zionism, Theodor Herzl. All three projects have risen out of Bartana’s 2007 founding of the Jewish Renaissance Movement in Poland (JRMiP) in one way or another with its initial product, a video trilogy — “…and Europe will be stunned (Mary Koszmary (Nightmares)” (2007), “Mur I Wieza (Wall and Tower)” (2009), “Zamach (Assassination)” (2011) — shown in that Polish pavilion.
The newest portion of the exhibition was a performance, during the opening last Friday in which Susanne Sachsse asks questions to an absent Freud and Herzl. The performance plays on the irony pair having lived on the same Viennese street for many years whilst developing their two very disperate concepts of utopia creation. Sachsee asks questions such as , ” Can we continue to live the dream?” or “Are we bound forever to remain suspended in the limbo of the endless issues of our identity?” to push on various issues of importance for Bartana. For example, she says in an interview with Viennese paper der Standard, “I don’t understand how people can be so narrow minded. When an Israeli intellectual criticizes Israeli politics, he is immediately classified as an antisemite.”
This liminal relationship with her Jewishness and Israeli roots, one that seeks a greater criticality, or even a space for criticism at all played a central role in the congress Bartana organized in Berlin this past spring. In the video documentary of that project, shown for the first time at Secession, experts are called on to deal with issues such as Poland’s place within the EU or the potential for Israel to become a Middle Eastern nation rather than an addendum of sorts to the region. The congress proposed various solutions to these geopolitical and historical challenges, which Bartana plans to trace out over the coming years. However, their ability to be practically implemented seems to be a point of contention for Bartana already questioned in the Secession performance: Has our dream already transformed itself into a deadly illusion?