Petzel Gallery presented the ambitious work of Yael Bartana including her latest films, photos, and neon-text-installation. There were two rooms, one for each film: Inferno and True Finn. Auditorily, a heavier sound drew me first into the room, which was running Inferno. The Hollywood-blockbuster-like super-high quality resolution, grand sound, and extensive ending credits of Inferno were overwhelming, but also revitalizing. This technical grandeur amplified the sacrosanct atmosphere and helped the viewer’s immersion into the story.
2014, LED light box with inkjet print on backlit film, 47.24 x 31.5 inch
Inferno, a 22-minute film includes many contradictory and contrasting aspects: modern city verses ritual tradition, people’s jubilation verses sorrowful and epic music, and reconstruction verses downfall. In the film, the citizens of Sao Paulo go towards a new temple, the replica of an ancient church in Jerusalem, to celebrate its inauguration. Three helicopters carry sacred golden relics towards the temple with citizens’ expectations and blessings. After a drag-queen-priest starts the ritual, a sudden conflagration happens; but the priest escapes from the disaster by abandoning all dying people. Finally, the temple is destroyed like the demolition of the wall in biblical Jerusalem.
2013, Alexa camera transferred onto HD, 22 minutes
In the last part of the film, people enjoy talking about the tragedy, taking photos in front of the remaining wall, referring to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, and worshiping the debris that had become a tourist attraction. Bartana’s film resonates with the futility and the absurdity of human. The artist reminds viewers of the hypocrisy of religion, as well as the forgetful and repetitive habits in human history. It’s powerful enough to make sheep-like viewers reflect upon the present age within the repertoire of history.