Artist: Larissa Sansour
Larissa Sansour is a Palestinian artist born in East Jerusalem. Her work is immersed in the current political dialogue and utilises video, photography, installation, the book form and the internet. The dichotomy of belonging to and being removed from the very same piece of land is central to Sansour’s work. She often resorts to fictionalised space to address current political realities. With references ranging from science fiction to spaghetti westerns, her grandiose and often humorous schemes clash with the gravity expected from works commenting on the Middle East. Recent solo exhibitions include Galerie Anne de Villepoix in Paris, Photographic Center in Copenhagen, Kulturhuset in Stockholm, Depo in Istanbul and Jack the Pelican in New York. Sansour’s work has featured in the biennials of Istanbul and Liverpool. She has exhibited at venues such as Tate Modern, London; Brooklyn Museum, NYC; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Al Hoash, Jerusalem; Queen Sofia Museum, Madrid; House of World Cultures, Berlin, and MOCA, Hiroshima.
Synopsis Nation Estate is a 9-minute sci-fi short film offering a clinically dystopian, yet humorous approach to the deadlock in the Middle East. With a mixture of computer generated imagery, live actors and arabesque electronica, Nation Estate explores a vertical solution to Palestinian statehood. In Sansour’s film, Palestinians have their state in the form of a single skyscraper: the Nation Estate. One colossal high-rise houses the entire Palestinian population – now finally living the high life. Each city has its own floor: Jerusalem on the 13th floor, Ramallah on the 14th floor, Sansour’s native Bethlehem on the 21st and so on. Intercity trips previously marred by checkpoints are now made by elevator. Aiming for a sense of belonging, the lobby of each floor reenacts iconic squares and landmarks. The story follows the female lead, played by Sansour herself, in a futuristic folklore suit returning home from a trip abroad and making her way through the lobby of the monstrous building – sponsored and sanctioned by the international community. Having passed the security checks, she takes the elevator to the Bethlehem floor and crosses Manger Square and Church of the Nativity on her way to her apartment where she prepares a plate of sci-fi tabouleh.
In addition to the film, the Nation Estate project consists of 7 photos (60x120cm or 120x240cm) and a poster (100x150cm).
A private and password protected preview of the film is available here:
Photo series (C-prints, 60x120cm) – edition of 10 Poster (Paper/C-print, 100x150cm) – edition of 10 Video (9 minutes) – edition of 6Sci-fi and the
Sci-fi and the Middle East
In several projects over the past years, Sansour has explored not only the sci-fi genre, but also the comic book superhero. Both forms have an inherent ability to make accessible the most fundamental ambitions of a people or a civilization in a way that is naturally inspired by, but never hampered or restricted by a non-fictional reality – making them fantastic conceptual and philosophical playground. Despite its stylised imagery, sterile futurism and high production value, sci-fi tends to allow for a specific kind of almost nostalgia framing of the topic at hand, even the situation in the Middle East. Sci-fi almost invariably carries within it a sense of retro, ideas of the future tend to appear standard and cliché at the same time as they come across as visionary. In the case of Palestine, there is an eternal sense of forecasting statehood, independence and the end of occupation. The ambitious ideas Palestinians hope to achieve have long since become so repetitive that the odd mix of nostalgia and accomplishment that the sci-fi genre often embodies lends it itself well to the topic.