C o l o g n e O F F X

10 Years Cologne International Videoart Festival

Sansour, Larissa

Larissa Sansour
Palestinean artists living and working London (UK)
biography
is videoartist of the Month August 2011

Her solo presentation is online on
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and the physical solo presentations are on

CologneOFF 2011 Beirut
@ Sunflower Art Center
31 Aug – 3 September 2011

and
CologneOFF 2011 Baltic Sea V – Riga
@ Waterpieces Videoart Festival
8-10 September 2011
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—>List of the featured videos:

Bethlehem Bandolero, 2005, 3:39
Happy Days, 2006, 3:00
Land Confiscation Order, 2006, 10:45
Run Lara Run, 2008, 2:23
Sbara, 2008, 8:40
Soup Over Bethlehem, 2006, 9:30 A Space Exodus, 2008, 5:30
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Title:
Bethlehem Bandolero, 2005, 3:39

After years in exile, the Palestinian artist returns to her native town, Bethlehem, only to find out that the town has been divided by the Israeli segregation wall. Unable to see friends and family, Sansour sets out to confront the wall in an absurd and bizarre duel exposing the political madness of the region.
Bethlehem Bandolero is a kitsch video featuring Larissa Sansour herself as a Mexican gunslinger arriving in Bethlehem for a duel with the Israeli Segregation Wall. Wearing a big, red sombrero and a scarf, she walks the streets of Bethlehem and greets the people before taking off for her final showdown. The editing is inspired by television effects from the seventies. The humour of the piece is stressed by the underlying music.
What makes Bethlehem Bandolero controversial is its bold mixture of world crises and blatant absurdity. The piece challenges the current dialogue on the Middle East by shaking its conceptual foundations.
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Title:
Happy Days, 2006, 3:00
Happy Days is a video that exposes everyday Palestinian life under Israeli occupation. In the video, a collage of footage shot on location in the occupied territories is accompanied by the theme music from the seventies sitcom “Happy Days”. The piece provides imagery different from that of news footage. The contrasting music underlines the general public’s apathy when confronted with world conflict. The idea is to subjugate international politics to a format normally associated with entertainment and thereby call attention to the blurry boundary between the two.
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Title:
Land Confiscation Order 06/24/T , 2006, 10:45

In her video piece Land Confiscation Order 06/24/T, Larissa Sansour explores the notion of territory as constitutive of not only national, but also personal identity. LCO 06/24/T is a requiem for a small piece of land and a house made of stone. It in turn becomes a eulogy for the dream of viable statehood and exposes Palestinian identity as a block that not only political and cultural, but also geographical factors are chopping away at on a daily basis. And as such, the video investigates the idea of the perception of the self as shaped by restrictions imposed by the other.
Though regularly appearing in her own videos, in LCO 06/24/T Sansour has chosen to step aside and tell the story of the confiscation of her own family’s land through her sister and brother. By draping the house entirely in a black cloth, the two perform a ritual not only serving as an acknowledgement of material and geographical loss, but also as a commemorative gesture to a national identity dismantled by military occupation and international politics.
The phantasmagorical imagery on the one hand and the documentary-style footage of Israeli soldiers presenting the confiscation order on the other places LCO 06/24/T in a realm between blurry, introverted nostalgia and stark reality.
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Title:
Run Lara Run, 2008, 2:23
Run Lara Run addresses the issue of identity and belonging. The film explores the idea of displaced identities, typical of societies that have undergone political turmoil, and their diasporas. Cultural hybridity is also called into question. Run Lara Run references the world of digital media, virtual reality and gaming and their questionable use in the context of abject political realities.
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Title:
Sbara, 2008, 8:40

Heavily referencing the 1980 cult classic The Shining by Stanley Kubrick, the video piece SBARA explores the castigation of Arabs in contemporary Western dialogue. By adding an audio montage combining historical and current quotes on the Middle East to footage paraphrasing scenes from the original film, SBARA seeks to expose the cyclical nature of Middle Eastern rhetoric and policies and emphasize the psychological terror inflicted upon those at the receiving end of this repetitively stagnant political discourse.
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Title:
Soup Over Bethlehem, 2006, 9:30 A Space Exodus, 2008, 5:30
Soup Over Bethlehem (2006) depicts an ordinary Palestinian family, Sansour’s own, around a dinner table on a rooftop overlooking the West Bank city of Bethlehem. What starts as a culinary discussion about the national dish mloukhieh being served from a soup bowl soon evolves into a personal and engaging conversation about politics – thereby emphasizing the symbiosis of food and politics so indicative of the Palestinian experience.
Rather than offering a portrait of a national identity as an invitation to renegotiate stereotypes, Soup Over Bethlehem presents a stereotype already renegotiated. The Arabic spoken around the dinner table is interrupted by English, and family members hold a variety of international passports, jobs and academic degrees. The diasporic traits present in every Palestinian family history lends a globalized quality even to life under the restraints of occupation. In turn, the mloukhieh in the soup bowl represents the shared national heritage – a single constant amid nothing but fluctuation. And the meal itself becomes a gastronomic anchoring of a Palestinian identity in eternal flux.
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Title:
A Space Exodus, 2008, 5:30
A Space Exodus quirkily sets up an adapted stretch of Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey in a Middle Eastern political context. The recognizable music scores of the 1968 science fiction film are changed to Arabesque chords matching the surreal visuals of Sansour’s film.

The film follows the director herself onto a phantasmagoric journey through the universe echoing Stanley Kubrik’s thematic concerns for human evolution, progress and technology. However, in her film, Sansour posits the idea of a first Palestinian into space and referencing Armstrong’s moon landing, she interprets this theoretical gesture as “a small step for a Palestinian, a giant leap for mankind”.

The film offers a naively hopeful and optimistic vision for a Palestinian future contrasting sharply with all the elements that are currently eating away at a viable Palestinian future state. In A Space Exodus, Sansour does finally reach the moon, however her contact with Palestine’s capital is unattainable.

This 5 – minute short is packed with highly produced visual imagery. The arabesque elements ranging from the space suit to the music are merged within a dreamy galactic context and elaborate special effects. A great deal of attention is paid to every detail of the film, to create a five-minute of never before seen, thrillingly magical case of Palestinian displacement.

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