Critics’ Picks

View of “The Breakup,” 2012.

New York

Michael Rakowitz

Jane Lombard Gallery
518 West 19th Street
September 6–October 17, 2012

Michael Rakowitz’s admiration for the Beatles began at the age of seven, on the day that John Lennon died, as he conveyed in The Breakup, 2010, a ten-part radio series originally broadcast on Amwaj Radio in Ramallah. Written and narrated by Rakowitz, it is presented as an audio installation in his current exhibition in New York and blends Beatles songs and the band members’ intimate conversations from the shooting of the 1970 documentary Let It Be with international audio and television reports of events leading to the 1967 Six-Day War. In the gallery’s back room, Rakowitz offers a forty-five-minute video, also titled The Breakup, 2010–12. Here the band’s demise is made analogous to the splintering of a nascent pan-Arab nationalism in the Middle East in the wake of the 1967 war. By integrating momentous dates such as JFK’s assassination and TV footage from 1967 alongside scenes from the Beatles’ “Get Back” recordings, their 1969 final rooftop performance, and an homage rooftop concert by the Palestinian band Sabreen in Jerusalem, Rakowitz succeeds in creating a collage that encompasses much more than the depicted events. As Rakowitz poetically expresses in an audio episode, the band’s “arguments, tantrums, negotiations, soliloquies, temporary alliances, reversals, and betrayals” relate to the regional crisis—and the Beatles’ breakup thus becomes a microcosm of human conflict.

As part of his research, Rakowitz gathered memorabilia (real and fictional) that further link his explorations. These are presented as Study for The Breakup, 2010–12, in four vitrines spread throughout the gallery—featuring, for example, a brick fragment from Cavern Club; a stone from the Wailing Wall; and two 1967 Christmas cards, one from former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser and one from the Beatles, alongside other paraphernalia. In this faux museum, Rakowitz attempts to ignite a new perception of an intricate past by connecting it with a love of music, art, and people.