Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour’s Science Faction

Kevin Jones in ArtAsiaPacific:

Reviews_dubai_420As the name indicates, “Science Faction,” at Dubai’s Lawrie Shabibi Gallery, showcased Sansour’s appropriation of sci-fi in her ongoing dissection of the Palestinian impasse. The slick “Nation Estate” project (2012)—comprising the aforementioned nine-minute film, alongside “outtake” photos—was accompanied by the placid A Space Exodus video from 2009. Beyond the artist’s sci-fi influences, the show captured a maturation in Sansour’s use of humor and formalist balance. Exhibiting only two films separated by a mere three years, “Science Faction” neatly revealed her deepening message and increasingly sophisticated vision; it managed to freeze-frame an artist on the cusp of a ripened critical sensibility.

In Sansour’s work, the concept of sci-fi perfectly mirrors the Palestinian condition—they both project to the future, but are mired in worn-out symbolism. Inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), with a tinge of Neil Armstrong’s moon walk the following year, A Space Exodus is ultimately an examination of power. A Palestinian astronaut (played by Sansour) plants a flag with her national colors on the lunar surface—the disenfranchised are suddenly mighty colonizers instead of stateless masses. The irony and wit here is razor sharp, despite the film’s unsettling ending (the protagonist eventually loses contact with home base in Jerusalem and drifts off into the unfathomable cosmos). An army of “Palestinauts”—toy replicas of the Palestinian spacewoman—teemed below the screen, further underscoring the accessibility and wry humor of A Space Exodus. Nation Estate employs sci-fi tropes as part of a more sophisticated examination of identity. “The struggle is what defines us as Palestinians,” says Sansour. “If you take that away, what is left?” Symbols, of course: olive trees, keffiyeh, flags, keys. Nation Estate features an explosion of symbols—a knowing, formalist gesture within a high-gloss, antidocumentary strategy.

More here.