Sunday, October 10, 2010

Michael Rakowitz - The Breakup

Chicago based artist Michael Rakowitz first came into contact with Jack Persekian at the 8th Sharjah Biennial in 2007 and was actually invited to participate in the 2009 Jerusalem Show but couldn't make it. This year, however, he brought a multifaceted and meticulously designed project called The Breakup.

Mindful of the exhibition’s goal to serve as a metaphor for approaching the many facets of a contested city divided by occupation and segregation, “The Breakup” considers the intricacies of The Beatles’ 1969 breakup as an example of a collaborative cultural phenomena that over time stops functioning and reaches a point where negotiation fails as a tactic and communication is halted. How does this happen? What can be learned?

The central part of the multi-event public project is a ten-part radio program that will air on Ramallah-based Radio Amwaj (92.3 FM). Here The Beatles’ breakup will be dissected from the more than 100 hours of tapes generated during the filming of "Let It Be" to gain insight into the moment when enlightenment gave way to collapse, and to understand the feelings of isolation and alienation sustained at the time by both Paul McCartney and John Lennon. The project will culminate with a recreation of The Beatles’ final rooftop concert—but on a roof in Jerusalem in 2010 instead of London in 1969, with some of the new and former members of local Arabic music ensemble, Sabreen. An LP and a CD of the concert will be released in Palestine; the list of songs, on the album cover, will function as poetry, a demand for something that does not function to be fixed, for a dream denied to finally be realized:

Two of Us
The Long and Winding Road
Don’t Let Me Down
Get Back
Let It Be

The ten radio broadcasts were recorded in Chicago. Michael Rakowitz provided the central narrative thread and interspersed this with excerpts from the Let it Be tapes, and often unusual Beatles archive performances.

The recreation of the Beatles final rooftop concert was performed on the roof of the Swedish Christian Study Centre near Jaffa Gate with six local musicians who are part of, or connected to, the band Sabreen or to the Sabreen Organisation which now runs community music education programmes. Special guest musician for this event was Uriel Barthélémi on drums but the array of classical eastern and modern western instruments resulted in a truly unique reinterpretation of the five Beatles songs listed above. Although following the basic form of each track, Sabreen introduced extended improvisational sections as well as dedicated solo sequences that allowed each instrument to be heard in its own right. These included oud, qanoon, flute and several tablas in addition to the lead and bass guitars.

It is hoped that a further stage of the project will be based on the internet phenomenon of the Beatles ‘Fantasy Last Album’ in which people from all over the world have made fantasy artwork for this imagined work that never appeared because of the break up. In one case in Japan this was extended beyond the album to include detailed and entirely plausible documentation of imagined correspondence with producers and others who could have been involved.

In the context of the whole project, the idea is that this element can be transposed, and then juxtaposed, with a similar imagining of ‘Palestine’ in terms of design for currency and other symbols of statehood. The entire project would then be assembled as an audio visual installation.

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