These three photographs – an abbreviated storyboard of sorts – were produced during the artist’s research for a film of the same title which premiered in venues across the UK and internationally in early 2016. The film’s sci-fi storyline addresses what the artist refers to as an ‘archaeological war between Israel and Palestine’, in which land claims are based, quite literally, on facts on the ground. In an act of narrative resistance a group buries porcelain tableware which, when it is later discovered, they will claim belonged to a long-lost yet technologically sophisticated Palestinian civilisation, ‘de facto creating a nation.’ The ornate geometric-patterned porcelain features in the artist’s 2012 film and photographic series ‘Nation Estate’ and it bears the same modernist sterility as the ‘vertical solution to Palestinian statehood’ within which it is housed.
Setting the scene, the first image shows civilians and military personnel from the Ottoman era, British Mandate period and present day gathered around an archaeological excavation and monitoring the activity of a hooded group who stand nearest the dig site. In another, porcelain pieces hang in midair, literal ‘flying saucers’, the stone buildings of a historic city visible in the distance. In the last, weathered insectile ships hover above a sea of tents dropping World War II era bombs. Several of the warheads have hit the ground – spilling perfectly intact porcelain – while an audience of varying ages and periods looks on and others march toward the area. Each panoramic composition merges live action, computer generated imagery, and colourized archival photographs into a single frame lit by a desert twilight.
In collaboration with artist Oreet Ashery, Sansour produced a graphic novel in 2009 and a series of three prints incorporating sci-fi elements in 2010. Her early films referenced and remade scenes from Stanley Kubrick’s classic films ‘The Shining’ and ‘2001 Space Odyssey’ – employing such cinema and pop-culture histories in order to position herself in relation to the ongoing social and political situation in Palestine. She sees science fiction as an apt genre by which to depict the current landscape of Palestine, which she points out, ‘has already reached all of these projected apocalyptic scenarios that we imagined in sci-fi books or films.’ Sansour’s films bring imagination and satirical cheek to a subject heavily chronicled by news and documentaries as they work to elicit, rather than satisfy, their viewer’s curiosity.
Larissa Sansour (b. 1973, Jerusalem) is an artist living and working in London. She received her MA in Fine Art from New York University and her BA in Fine Art from Maryland Institute College of Art, and also studied at The University of Baltimore, The Royal Art Academy, Copenhagen and Byam Shaw, London. Selected solo exhibitions include Montoro 12, Rome, 2015; Al Ma’mal, Jerusalem, 2015; Wolverhampton Art Gallery, 2014; Gallery Dock, Bratislava, 2014; Turku Art Museum, Finland, 2013; Lawrie Shabibi, Dubai, 2013; Galerie Anne de Villepoix, Paris, 2012; Centre of Photography, Copenhagen, 2012; Depo, Istanbul, 2011; Kulturhuset, Stockholm, 2010. Recent group shows include Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, 2015; Centro Centro, Madrid, 2015; Kings ARI, Melbourne, 2015; Ashkal Alwan, Beirut, 2015; Lajevardi Collection, Tehran, 2015; Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, 2015; Le 19, Montbéliard, 2015; FACT, Liverpool, 2015; Oujda, Morocco, 2014; Delfina Foundation, London, 2014; City of Women, Ljubljana, 2014; Manchester Art Gallery, 2014; White Box, New York, 2014; Studio Museum, Harlem, 2013; Contemporary Arts Centre of South Australia, Adelaide, 2013; Liefhertje en De Grote Witte Reus, The Hague, 2012; Kunstmuseum Bonn, 2011; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, 2010; Istanbul Biennial, 2009; Busan Biennale, 2008.