Artwork: Myth and history collide in our preview of Larissa Sansour's short film, exploring the politicised archeology of Israel and Palestine's geography
Jerusalem-born artist Larissa Sansour’s upcoming short film ‘In the Future, They Ate from the Finest Porcelain’ is an exploration into the role of myth and fiction on history and its documentation, inspired by the politicised archaeology carried out in present day Israel and Palestine.
Taking the form of fictional video essay and interview, it is set across a post-apocalyptic desert landscape and narrated by the leader of an imaginary resistance group. The leader’s voice-over is illustrated by science fiction based visuals, where present-day scenes are melded with archived photographs. Photographs join together to become an archived army, acting as the leader’s resistance group. Travelling back in time, they plant a fake assortment of elaborate porcelain under the ground for future archaeologists to excavate. As the leader explains, such fictional pieces will support the future myth that a nation of advanced Palestinians have claim on their vanishing land. With such actions she hopes to prove that history is not based on truth and fact, but rather myth and fiction.
With such actions she hopes to prove that history is not based on truth and fact, but rather myth and fiction.
In Sansour’s narrative, historical documentation cannot be defined by fact or time. The film moves back and forth across the temporal landscape, blurring the lines between a distinct past, present or future. What is definite however, is the extent to which history, memory and national identity are embedded within the landscape. It is the archived images buried within the earth, spanning hundreds of years, that tell the colonial, social and political history of Palestine.
Using subtle digitalisation of the photographs, Sansour brings this landscape to life. What was once a disparate archived history becomes a collective consciousness. A gust of wind moves a woman’s hair, the day turns to night and a man blinks. Dated photographs are given colour, bringing the people and history that they represent closer to the present day. The images and their fragmented histories are brought together within a breathing still life that transports the historical narrative into the realm of the surreal.
‘In the Future, They Ate from the Finest Porcelain’
Sometimes I dream of porcelain falling from the sky, like ceramic rain. At first it’s only a few pieces, falling slowly like autumn leaves. But then the volume increases, and soon it’s a porcelain monsoon, like a biblical plague.
Our actions are historical interventions. We are depositing artefacts for future archaeologists to excavate, creating facts in the ground. Once unearthed, these facts will confirm the existence of this people we are positing.
Myth determines history and political reality, it doesn’t only create fact, but also identification. People will start associating themselves with it, de facto creating a nation.
Myth determines history and political reality, it doesn’t only create fact, but also identification.
This place was never anything but a barely functioning dystopia. Ever since I can remember, it was a time of disappearance. The bereavement is not just material, it’s aesthetic, too. Smells, sounds, views, the very sense of motion. All gone. It all disappears little by little. The apocalypse is never that cataclysmic event we all expect. It sneaks up on you.
Larissa Sansour is a Palestinian artist and filmmaker whose interdisciplinary work is immersed in the current political dialogue. An excerpt from the script for Larissa Sansour’s upcoming short film ‘In the Future, They Ate From the Finest Porcelain’ is presented as part of the digital POSTmatter x fig-2 exhibition. The exhibition is also on display at ICA Studio, London, until 26th July 2015.