Vile, Evil Veil / Reviewed by Naj Zimele-Keita / 08.05.12
Vile, Evil Veil, Roee Rosen’s first UK solo exhibition, belies the multi-faceted Israeli’s flair for the dramatic. A talented painter, novelist, educator and intellectual, Rosen’s two part exhibition at London’s Rivington Place investigates bodies as political spaces. The juxtaposition of the artist’s To Live and Die as Eva Braun—a deft mix of installation, works on paper and drama workshop—and his 2010 short film, Out (Tse), Vile, Evil Veil positions the human form as a potential site of ideological conflict. Ultimately, he encourages viewers to re-examine both our history and future with new eyes.
Winner of the Orizzonti Award for best medium-length film at The Venice Film Festival, the ARTE Award for best European film at the Oberhausen Kurzfilmtage as well as first prize at the Bucharest International Experimental Film Festival; the 34 minute, Out (Tse) explores the sadomasochistic nature of power and politics in regards to sexual, racial and ethnic identity. Rosen questions the rhetoric of Zionist politics, namely that of Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister and strident Zionist rhetorician Avigdor Leiberman.
In an interesting nod to prevalent modes in popular culture, the film begins in documentary style, introducing its two principle characters. The film centres on Ela Shapira, 25, the self-confessed product of a right-wing racist home, who has dived headfirst into the BDSM scene, and Yoana, also active in the scene. “Society is built on oppression and power…they are the building blocks of fantasy”, says Yoana at one point, setting the tone and a theoretical foundation for the following scene.
Shapira’s right-wing upbringing, sympathetic to the polemic foreign minister, has further enabled her possession by his spirit. Her naked body, arms bound and suspended from the ceiling, opens scene two, evoking the perverse allegory of Per Pasolini’s 1975 film Salò, a critique of hyper-consumerism and the commoditization of human desires. Attempting to exorcise the demon, the force of Yoana’s blows increases, Leiberman’s spirit, in the form of direct quotes, manifests itself from within Ela’s body. Traditionally objectifying close-ups, alternating between her mouth, breasts and increasingly bruised buttocks underscore notions of sexualized power and prurient, orgiastic violence. Yoana’s words continually foreground the film’s (and Rosen’s) ideological work, elucidating her attraction to BDSM, she asserts that its power arises from the tacit acknowledgement of the fact that sex devoid of power relations, is sex which does not actually exist.
Her penetrating statement unlocks the idea that even our most vulnerable and intimate moments can be a tenuous discourse in power relationships. Much like Pasolini’s Salò, sadomasochistic tensions serve as allegory, heightened by Shapira’s relationship with and to the Israeli foreign minister. For Rosen an identity like Ela’s, essentially dictated by racialised political rhetoric, serves as a warning to the Jewish community, as Leiberman’s vitriol often conjures the tone of Adolf Hitler’s own ghastly exhortations.
The triumph of Rosen’s work, like BDSM, is in his capacity to spotlight identities and relationships, urging us to consider their subversive possibilities. Rosen’s characters utilize the various types of otherness embedded in their identities, to protest and ultimately resist the aggressive desire of the state. Out is a clarion call. Its revolutionary nature reminds global citizens that our identities are a source of power in the face of oppression, and each person’s ability to cultivate and control their own should never be taken for granted.
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