Larissa Sansour | "In the Future, They Ate From the Finest Porcelain"

18 January - 3 March 2016

Lawrie Shabibi is delighted to announce In the Future They Ate From The Finest Porcelain Larissa Sansour's second solo exhibition at the gallery. The exhibition will present screenings of her most recent film - of the same name - together with an installation and three large-scale photographic works.

 

The film is the artist's longest to date, and the first in which she makes no appearance other than as the narrator's voice. It is presented in colloquial Arabic as a dialogue voice-over.  A female protagonist who describes herself as a "narrative terrorist" is questioned by her interlocutor, whose identity remains unknown and is open to speculation - is she a journalist, a psychiatrist or an interrogator? The film is a combination of sci-fi and archival imagery set against a deeply mesmerizing musical score and ambiguous time and place. At times it projects itself into the past and at others propels itself into the future with a view to creating a manufactured history.

 

The protagonist tells of being part of a resistance group seemingly on the brink of the apocalypse where "archeology is the frontline". The weapons of this unknown opposition group are unconventional - elaborate porcelain decorated with the Kefiyyeh motif typically worn in Palestine and symbols of their decades of resistance. In the film's most dramatic scene these porcelain pieces, which belong to an entirely fictional civilization, are delivered to their location and buried into the ground. A dark horizon is dotted with spaceships dropping bombs onto the open desert landscape that crack as they hit the ground, spilling out the plates. These are "the facts on the ground for future archeologists to excavate", their aim to influence history and support future claims to their vanishing lands: once unearthed, this tableware will prove the existence of this people.

 

In her typical tongue-in-cheek fashion, Sansour looks at the politics of archeology and how myths of the past can become historic interventions with the power to create nationhood. In the Future They Ate From The Finest Porcelain depicts a desperate contest to establish territorial precedence as a means of survival when all else is lost.  The film subtly alludes to the tactics of some Israeli groups, such the Elad Association, who make it their mission to strengthen their connection to Jerusalem through archeological digs and excavations and to assert the longevity of their people on the land. However no direct reference is made to this, Israel or its occupation, a departure from Sansour's usual trajectory. Instead Sansour presents her most universal film to date highlighting how the construction of national mythology can create and justify present identity, power and territorial claims.  As Edward Said writes in Culture & Imperialism:  "Appeals to the past are among the commonest of strategies in interpretations of the present".  

 

The exhibition will also include three large-scale photographs that are derived from the film.  They feature archival images taken from Library of Congress' archives and UNRWA to make a pan-historical collection of both private individuals and representatives from the various occupying forces in Palestine through the ages, from the time of the Ottomans, that of the British Mandate and the present era under Israel.

 

Finally Larissa Sansour will present an installation depicting an assembly line that appears to have been abandoned half way through the creation of the fictional porcelain plates.  Deliberately crude, the work highlights how our past can be systematically controlled and fabricated.

 

Note:

In the Future They Ate From the Finest Porcelain co-produced and co-directed with Søren Lind and co-commissioned by FLAMIN Productions through Film London Artists' Moving Image Network with funding from Arts Council England; New Art Exchange; Bluecoat, Liverpool; Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Wolverhampton; and The Mosaic Rooms, A.M.Qattan Foundation, London; with support from Doha Film Institute; The Danish Arts Council, Arts Council England, Iambic Film, Knud Højgaards Fond and Contemporary Art Platform - Kuwait. Produced by Spike Film and Video, Bristol.