Currently on view at the James Gallery, CUNY Graduate Center through June 4th. More information about the show can be found here, on the James Gallery’s website. Information about upcoming programs, can befound here.
Un-Charting is the third chapter in Tali Keren’s trilogy which critically examines the material and ideological imbrication, both past and present, between conservative American Christian Evangelicals, and Zionism. By doing so, Keren interrogates shared settler-colonial imaginaries of Israel and the U.S. Through layering of 18th-century sources and contemporary documentary materials, Un-Charting reveals the ways transnational messianic myths travel across time and geography, manifesting in colonial state-sanctioned violence and erasure in Palestine and beyond.
All the materials presented in the 3D animation film at the heart of Un-Charting are drawn directly from historical documents, interviews, and footage recorded by the artist. Un-Charting presents the words, ideas, and architectural plan of British colonial naval officer and self-proclaimed prophet Richard Brothers (born in the British settlement of Newfoundland in the Inuit Nunangat lands, 1757), along with contemporary interviews Keren conducted with a Jewish Israeli choreographer and an American Christian Zionist Evangelical. The two women have, since the 1970s, been sending American Evangelical youth from Faith Bible Church in Colorado to perform for Israeli soldiers. The American troupe performs Israeli folk dances dressed in various “traditional” garb, including Israeli military uniforms. Keren incorporates footage she filmed on a soundstage in Colorado of the teens’ “Israeli Soldier Dance” routine.
Un-Charting consists of three spaces:
The Resource Room presents research materials and documentary sources used in the film as well as additional reading materials and programming information.
The New Jerusalem Plan
This space is an entry into the world of the exhibition. Visitors step on an enlargement of Richard Brothers' unrealized 1801 urban plan for a New Jerusalem, a place he imagined in detail, having never set foot in Palestine. Brothers’ plan, which is laid clearly in his book Description of Jerusalem, flattens and wipes away the real place, making way for his Biblical vision of a utopian ordered grid. During the exhibition, this space serves as a forum of interventions, talks, performances, and screenings, which challenge and counter such romanticized, ideological, and colonialist imagery. The programs are created in partnerships including curator Adam HajYahia’s “Footnotes On The Fictive Present,” New Red Order x Kite, and a series of talks with The Middle East and Middle Eastern American Center.
The film at the heart of the exhibition is projected on a 180-degree screen in the Simulator Room. It combines the documentary and historical materials presented in the Resource Room, culminating in an immersive cinematic 3D animated world of militarized settler-colonial mythologies. Viewers are placed in the eye of the storm of an ideological state apparatus and invited to reflect on the crucial role that myth, ideological rhetoric, and instrumentalized theologies play in actual state violence and erasure of people and culture on both sides of the Atlantic.
Un-Charting looks at the entangled ties between Zionism’s colonization in Palestine and European colonization in the so-called “New World”. Doing so, it addresses the ongoing effects of western territorial conquest, partitions, occupation, and imperial cartography. Through an intersectional framework, the project carves a space for resisting, re-telling, dismantling, and countering these narratives and structures, while radically imagining ourselves into equitable worlds beyond destructive myths.
Simulator Film by Tali Keren Main Credits: Artist and director: Tali Keren 3D art | design | compositing | animation: Ayelet Shoval Script and development: Tali Keren, Nir Shauloff Documentary interviews archival research: Tali Keren Dramaturgy: Nir Shauloff Voice Actress: Lottie Beck Johnson Sound Design & Mixing Engineer: Micha Gilad Cinematographer: Or Flicher