Larissa Sansour: A Happy Days (2006, 13MB, 2:57 min)
Following on from the work we showed last week from the
excellent Subversions show, here’s another piece by
This is featured in the other UK show featuring work
from the Arabic speaking world, this time specifically
from artists with roots in Palestine, Navigations at
the Barbican in London.
There’s some tremendous work on show there, not least this
one – all the work Sansour I’ve so far seen has delighted me
by being much better than a verbal description might lead one
to expect. So with this one you might hear:
“To the tune of the theme from Happy Days Larissa Sansour
edits together stills of herself, a Palestinian woman,
in various locations in the occupied territories.”
And you might think:
“Ho-hum, seen it all, virtuous agit-prop, with the usual sledgehammer irony”
and you would be totally wrong.
Of course the irony is there, and anger, of course, but
there’s a lightness of treatment – the Sansour “character”,
the everyday found surrealism of some of the shots, the
little jokes (the titles: “The Palestinian”
– “The Israeli Army as…Itself” &c.)
which, without negating any political content, makes the
whole thing richly human and a pleasure to watch and watch again.
Navigations is definitely worth a visit – there is a great variety
of very engaging work.
Apart from the two Sansour pieces there’s a tremendous semi-documentary
work shot in a Miami auto paint and body shop by Shadi Habib Allah
Two complaints though – unlike the lovingly assembled and spacious show
in Manchester, Navigations feels like a somewhat cramped and token
footnote to the “proper business” of the Palestine Film Festival -
publicity for it only appears on the Barbicam website in this context.
(Better than a couple of weeks back when a search for “Navigations” on the Barbican
website yielded precisely – nothing.)
This is disrespectful to artist moving image work in general and
also, I think, to the artists concerned.
Secondly the fact that it sits, looking a tad temporary, on the
busy walk-through mezzanine on four small identical screens, with long
compilation times, gives it an anthropological rather than an art
exhibition character, whilst the (yawn!) Bauhaus blockbuster takes place
upstairs in the galleries proper. This is again disrespectful to
the artists and specifically to them as Palestinian artists:
footnotes, curiosities, on the margins.
Work of this strength and diversity would have made a great large scale
show – Cornerhouse show that it can be done and how to do it very well.
What a shame that the Barbican, with all its resources, doesn’t
seem to understand both why and how it should have attempted something
Nonetheless, if in London, you should go!