… without mentioning Jew, Israel, Zionism or any accepted or abusive synonym for any of these. Difficult, you might think, but according to Gillian Merron, the chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, leading Palestinian film maker Larissa Sansour has achieved this.
You can view her film until 1 September at https://vimeo.com/222682204 password porcelain.
Sansour’s film, co-created with Danish author, Søren Lind, In the Future They Ate from the Finest Porcelain is showing in the Barbican season ‘Into the Unknown: A Journey Through Science Fiction’.
Merron has demanded that the Barbican remove the film from the exhibition. Among Merron’s discomforts is that the dialogue is in Arabic. The film is about the creation of false narratives, a recurring theme in historiography and political theory and one dealt with in a literary form by George Orwell in 1984. In this case it is Merron who is reproducing the character of Winston Smith and trying to excise that which does not fit with her preferred representation.
Of course you can read the film as about Palestine/Israel, all works of art can be interpreted as the reader/viewer chooses – that is a basic understanding of all media theory; the reader/viewer has agency as well as the creator. However, just because someone with a world view that assumes that anything from a Palestinian artist is presumptively anti-Israel and thus, in the distorted view of the BoD, antisemitic does not mean that this is a value judgement that the rest of us have to take seriously or assent to.
Archaeology is a contested discipline in Israel as elsewhere but as Israeli NGO Emek Shaveh say, “Archaeology tells an independent story about human existence, culture and achievements. It is not selective nor is it subservient to sacred texts.”