Friday, February 27, 2015

Petzel Gallery: Yael Bartana / Revision

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.

High Priest
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.


  1. I really like your review of Yael Bartana’s films. Even i did not see this show, but i still can feel from your description. I like the way how you were aroused to the film. It is interesting that extensive ending credit usually be normal but it carried out an abnormal role in the film to emphasized the idea behind it. It would be also great if you can describe the ending credit a bit more and how it is relate to the film. The way you pointed out the film is related to religious helped me to have a sense of why the darkness is overwhelming the film. I also like how you provide with some examples from the film like how people enjoy taking pictures of tragedy and worshipping the debris. They helped to film to proved the reality of the our greedy world. I think you can also add more description about how the events in the film is also related to the history itself.

  2. Your review summed up the show pretty well but I think the introductory paragraph can provide more information. Mentioning that the exhibition is a solo show and some additional background information about the artist are two examples. A line or two about the other works in the exhibit can also be added.