Dateline 09

Adi Nes: Biblical Stories and Yael Bartana: Short Memory

January 30 - March 17, 2009


Adi Nes
Untitled (Hagar)
Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery


Dateline 09

Dateline 09 inaugurates an annual series of exhibitions at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. Dateline encompasses a range of projects that reflect trends and directions in art that are relevant to the Museum's mission of providing new perspectives on Jewish culture, history, art, and ideas. In addition to presenting the latest in contemporary artistic expression,Dateline is a forum for dialogue around the nature of the Jewish experience in the early 21st century. The series also provides a rich opportunity to explore current issues in today's rapidly changing world.


In the first Dateline exhibition, audiences will be able to examine, in depth, the work of two significant international artists: Yael Bartana, who works in film and video, and Adi Nes, who works in photography.

While each of the artists has created a distinct and unique body of work, both Bartana's videos and Nes's photographs are rich with multilayered narratives that can be interpreted, understood, and appreciated in different ways. In exploring Dateline 09, we encourage you to participate in the dialogue that these works inspire.


Adi Nes: Biblical Stories

Adi Nes was born in 1966 in Kiryat Gat, Israel, to Jewish parents of Kurdish and Iranian descent. He currently lives and works in Tel Aviv. Drawing from the layers of his personal identity-male, Israeli, gay, Sephardic, Jewish-Nes's photographic series explore contemporary issues in Israeli society.

Nes's Biblical Stories is a modern-day retelling of familiar stories from the Hebrew Bible. Using cinematic techniques and referencing iconic works in the history of painting and photography, Nes re-imagines biblical scenes in contemporary settings. He chooses to tell the less familiar tales in the lives of biblical heroes, showing them in moments of despair-specifically, when they have all found themselves without a home. Nes's cast of biblical characters appear in the guise of the urban homeless, and their burdens weigh heavily on them. Surrounded as they are by decaying city streets, there is sadness in their eyes and loneliness in their body language. Reflecting on marginalization, racism, and homelessness, Nes's rigorously staged photographs add new layers of complex social commentary to our understanding of these stories.

"The power of myths has nurtured different areas of art for hundreds of years," observes Nes. "As a visual artist I can't only relate to texts or stories and deliberately ignore pictorial references created by the old masters. Along with this, in places where I interpret texts, whether biblical or from Christian mythology, I'm not trying to illustrate or dramatize the story, rather, I'm trying to use the text to say something new-about myself, and the world from which I come."





Yael Bartana: Short Memory

Yael Bartana was born in 1970 in Afula, Israel. She currently divides her time between Tel Aviv and Amsterdam. Over the past decade, Bartana has created an impressive body of work in video and film investigating society and politics. Her films, many of them linear narratives, rely on footage of both real events and dramatizations that she initiates. Bartana's work often reflects on contemporary Israel and the role of Zionism in the 21st century.

Bartana is particularly interested in national identity and how social rituals forge that identity. Often, these rituals stand in for deeper and more complicated issues in Israeli culture-militarization and resistance, nationalism and individual identity, deconstruction and reconstruction. In A Declaration, Wild Seeds, and Summer Camp, Bartana questions notions of Israeli nationalism, cleverly using Zionist-inspired cultural symbolism to do so. Mary Koszmary, her most recent film on view, examines Poland's complicated relationship with its Jews. Whether filming staged events or documenting real ones, Bartana constructs concise narratives with emotional intensity.

"I think I am interested in the issue of land-people-state," says Bartana. "Basically, how identity is created within these parameters. I try to focus on different elements each time. . . . I think there is a certain openness and ambiguity [in my work] that might be consuming for some people. Perhaps it is not clear in terms of my political position. I was once described as a disappointed lover of the State of Israel."


Dateline 09 is organized by the Contemporary Jewish Museum.
Yael Bartana was organized by P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, A Museum of Modern Art Affiliate.

Dateline 09 has been generously supported by the Israel Center of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties; Consulate General of Israel to the Pacific Northwest; and The Consulate General of the Netherlands.

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