Critics’ Picks

Yael Bartana, Bury Our Weapons, Not Our Bodies! (6), 2018, color print on baryta photo paper, 17 1/2 × 12".

Yael Bartana, Bury Our Weapons, Not Our Bodies! (6), 2018, color print on baryta photo paper, 17 1/2 × 12".


Yael Bartana

Galleria Raffaella Cortese | Via Stradella 4
Via Stradella 4
February 28–May 9, 2020

Yael Bartana’s exhibition “Patriarchy is History,” which convenes bodies of new and previously unseen work across the gallery’s three Milan venues on Via Stradella, walks an emotional tightrope, elaborating the Israeli artist’s political stakes and her interest in how ritual and collective memory shapes social identity. Patriarchy is History, 2019, a neon sculpture that spells out its title in icy-blue, mixed-case font, belongs to the series “What if Women Ruled the World,” 2017–, an interdisciplinary examination of women and power. In the second space, a 2019 video titled The Undertaker rehearses a symbolic, expiatory military rite that includes the burial of weapons. A surreal coed platoon, dressed in plain gowns and carrying cap guns, drop their firearms in graves dug in Philadelphia, the so-called birthplace of the United States and a country in dire need of sweeping gun control reform. The work—inspired by Israeli choreographer Noa Eshkol’s composition for the inaugural 1953 Holocaust Memorial Day—suggests the possibilities of moving amid mourning, and the complicated dance of remembering and forgetting when it comes to histories of violence. In a final room, photographs from the performance are displayed in a wall composition of twenty-one images that appear like a stage backdrop for nearby sculptures dated 2019: museological vitrines displaying white negative casts of, supposedly, the guns inhumed during The Undertaker (R.I.P, Glock, R.I.P. Winchester, and so on). Bartana invites us to comprehend these tools of destruction as fossils from a speculative future, and as history. Their obsolescence is an extraordinary thing to imagine.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.