Friday, September 21, 2012


When viewing Michael Rakowitz’ “The Breakup” at Lombard Freid Projects Gallery, one is presented with a multi-sensory exhibit.  A calm, recorded voice of a man comes quietly from a radio, narrating a documentary and occasionally dropping familiar names: Paul, John, Ringo, George, and is interspersed with short musical clips from various catchy tunes by the Beatles.   It’s impossible not to be drawn towards the glass-top tables, with cursive handwriting scrawled on the surface with permanent marker- the text hovering ghostlike over an orderly and historic display of Arabic/Palestinian maps, magazines, record covers, Israeli currency, and Beatles memorabilia, reminiscent of a collection of pinned butterflies caught forever in a tragic moment. 

While the connections between the Middle East and the Beatles breakup are not at first easily understood, one begins to piece together the similarities between a Palestinian attempt to unite their nations and the Beatles’ brief reunion.  Paintings referencing the color palate of the album cover “Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band” line the walls alongside collages combining images of the Beatles with flags and symbols of the Middle East, leading the viewer towards a dark room where a video clip plays the only “reunited” Beatles’ performance, followed by a video of a Palestinian band playing Beatles’ songs with arabic instruments.

Offering a reserved, “historical” collection, “The Breakup” is an unexpected juxtaposition of two disparate “failures” of collaboration.


  1. Great review!! You gave an objective and vivid description of a trans-sensory and intentionally convoluted exhibit.

    Your tone was perfectly pitched as it soberly ebbed and flowed, articulating how the exhibition conflated political content within popular icons while still delivering poetic prose, “reminiscent of a collection of pressed butterflies caught forever in a delicately tragic moment.”

  2. You do a great job of illuminating exactly what it was like to be present in the exhibit, detailing every sensory experience in an illustrative but concise manner. While I think you did an excellent job in the last paragraph of summing up the nature of the show and the confusion that may be expected in visiting such an exhibition, I would have liked to see you take a little more time to flush out the intention of the artist, perhaps to help visitors avoid any anticipated misinterpretations. But all in all, your prose style and syntax are sophisticated yet easily understood, making this a very interesting read.

  3. Your review was very effective in giving readers a visual of the space. The likening of the glass displays to pressed butterflies was a great skew! I do wish you mentioned the parallels between the conflicts in the Middle East to those within the band earlier on in the article. Assuming the reader had no idea what the exhibit was about, there is no context for the descriptions of Arab/ Israeli paraphernalia on display in the second paragraph. Since this was the main lens that the artist wanted the visitors to view the exhibit through, it would have been helpful to explain this first.