A different way of seeing: Larissa Sansour’s Nation Estate
Larissa Sansour’s short film/video installation, ‘A Space Exodus’, was an ironic take on Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ where she plays an astronaut taking ownership of the moon with a Palestinian flag. But this was an act of survival, a million miles away from a superpower strutting its colonising stuff, and represented the Palestinian people/nation displaced from Earth and finding a new home in Outer Space.
Sansour continued to subvert the sci-fi genre, turning notions of the outsider inside-out – an unlawfully ousted insider in this universe – with her controversial, as it turned out, and most prominent piece, ‘Nation Estate’. It’s another short, sitting on the borders of video art and experimental film – a distinction fast losing any relevance – and serves as a reminder to film programmers that the shorter format, just like in literature, is a means to an end in itself and not, simply, a stepping stone – a glorified promo – en route to a coveted feature.
Playful yet deadly serious, Sansour returned to terra firma in ‘Nation Estate’ for another satirical sci-fi solution to the Palestinian dilemma. It’s one that sees the shrinking state downsized to a single building – a gargantuan skyscraper, quite literally – which extends vertically almost ad infinitum and gives us a utopian town planner’s (wet) dream turned dystopian.
Sansour plays the main and only substantial character, an unnamed woman wearing gear from an undetermined future but it’s close enough to now, in the same way as Spike Jonze’s more recent ‘Her’, to serve as an analogy of a contemporary reality at a very slight remove. And just like ‘Her’, the sci-fi has a retro feel – Sansour argues, with some force, that this is always a trait of the genre – which traps the current Middle East in a claustrophobic virtual time zone sandwiched between an interchangeable future and past; triggering a wholly appropriate anxiety within the viewer, in the most abstract sense, to echo the position on the ground, one where the political standoff is destined to remain at a standstill.
She takes the elevator to Bethlehem, each floor has its own city, where hints of former Palestine float within a hyperreal simulacrum of faux historical monuments – an inverted theme park – combining high tech with ancient culture; the ultimate in designer alienation and post modern despair.
Her flat is as austere as a hospital clinic; boxes within boxes. But we see her watering an olive tree – something real – and it comes across as a silent and impotent act of deviance; clinging on to a fading past with a private act that should be public and becomes so by virtue of Sansour’s film.
And it’s the film as a political statement – weapon perhaps – that caused a media storm even before entering production. Various photo sketches that Sansour was developing for the film’s launch as part of a multimedia event Wilson Twins style received a nomination for the Lacoste Elysée Prize. That is, until the sponsors blacklisted the photographs as ‘too pro-Palestinian’ and removed them from the process.
Sansour turned art whistleblower and the usual latent price of corporate sponsorship became very public and, under pressure maybe, the Swiss Musee de l’Elysee withdrew from hosting the prize and showed ‘Nation Estate’ instead in a rare victory of sorts.cialis online without cialis online in usa cialis cost cvs generic cialis uk online pharmacy cialis cost canada cialis price with insurance cialis 10mg cost