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Yael Bartana: The Undertaker

Jan 13 – Mar 26, 2023


The Undertaker chronicles an enigmatic leader and her armed followers during a choreographed procession and burial of weapons. Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love and birthplace of American democracy, plays a prominent role as this group of dancers, war veterans, and activists from a variety of local communities moves across the city’s charged historical landscape. Their procession and slow, deliberate gestures are grounded in the movements of renowned Israeli choreographer Noa Eshkol (1924– 2007), particularly her 1953 ceremonial performance in remembrance of the Holocaust.

The film explores a parallel reality in which the rallying cry to eliminate systemic violence and repression is met with action. The Undertaker ardently focuses on physicality and the idea of the body was a living vessel. Rather than a memorial to the dead, Bartana’s symbolic burial is a monument for the living, an invitation to consider our bodies as both carriers of trauma as well as vehicles for hope and resistance.

The work also presents the progression in Bartana’s recent work which explores political movements and actions and tackles an array of possible scenarios through performance. Showing parallels to Bartana’s trilogy And Europe Will Be Stunned (2007-2011), The Undertaker also lifts elements and characters from her 2017 performance What if Women Ruled the World.

The often-public enactments link her various projects together in their investigation of potential future outcomes and historical realities and sum up the “historical pre- enactment”: experiments that make present seemingly impossible futures.

In The Undertaker Bartana posits a communal experiment to expand our political imagination and foster hope for future beyond our current social perimeters. It also highlights the current reassessment of historical social constructs and furthers the push against the mechanisms that shape our past and present. As such, the work does not merely portray a hoped-for reality, but lights the way forward.

In her films, installations, photographs, and staged performances, Yael Bartana (born Israel, 1970) investigates subjects like national identity, trauma, and displacement, often through ceremonies, memorials, and public rituals. Her work has been exhibited in museums worldwide including the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Jewish Museum, Berlin; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Secession, Vienna; Tel Aviv Museum of Art; MoMA PS1, New York; São Paulo Biennial and Documenta 12, Kassel among many others. She has works in the permanent collections of Tate Modern, London; The Jewish Museum, New York; The Guggenheim, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw and The Israel Museum, Jerusalem among others. She currently lives and works in Berlin and Amsterdam

Artist Talk: Greer Pagano in Conversation with Yael Bartana


Exhibition Sponsor

Stene Projects, Stockholm

Education & Public Programs

Dr. Robert L. Brandt, Jr.

Creative & Production Partner

Hospitality Partner

Operating Support

The Co receives operating support from Culture Works, Montgomery County Arts & Cultural District, Ohio Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the Andy Warhol Foundation, and the Virginia W. Kettering Foundation, and Members.

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