In Times of Rupture

Larissa Sansour & Søren Lind. Still from In Vitro (2019). Courtesy of the artists.

Many of us grew up playing 'home', creating and recreating it in many forms with our friends, both indoors and outdoors. We drew homes, modelled them out of sticks and pencils, built shelters out of sheets and trees- we've all done that at some point and these were mostly creative and positive memories. But for me home has also been associated with rupture and even catastrophe. I grew up with my parents' and grandparents' stories of repeated exiles and bombing in London and across Europe during WW2. My earliest memories are from hiding in a shelter near the border during the 6 Days war in Jerusalem, where home- a small flat only a few flights of stairs above us was replaced, for what seemed like eternity, by a dark and musty space where we each processed the trauma in our own ways. While the elderly fretted (and shouted in their sleep), we the children played games we made up, dreamt of getting back to the fields which were our playground and counted the explosions we heard. After that war ended the border line moved out of sight, nearer the horizon. We grew up under the looming shadow or the Holocaust only to learn many years later about the Palestinian Nakba (the Catastrophe), which was masterfully kept under wraps, for the sake of a poisonous nationalistic ideology.

This partly explains why the works of Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour cast their spell on me, and most recently In Vitro struck a particularly powerful chord. This two-channel science fiction film (available to watch online though sadly only till the 27th May- please hurry!) was first exhibited at the Danish Pavilion at 58th International Art Exhibition. Working collaboratively with Søren Lind, Sansour’s In Vitro, which features internationally-renowned Palestinian actors Hiam Abbass and Maisa Abd Elhadi, reflects on the ways in which intergenerational trauma plays out. The film also highlights how strongly our identities (and the memories attached to them) are bound with home. Following a a major disaster the community has been forced to live underground, in a bunker where an attempt is being made 'to re-cultivate crops and plants in the hope, one day, to be able to replant fields if normal conditions were to be re-established'. Alia - the film's young protagonist - although born below ground had had detailed scenes from life before the apocalypse implanted in her, becoming a living archive and growing increasingly critical of the political and nationalistic project. She lives behind glass, attending to Dunia - her elder and questioning the use of the past as a means of rebuilding a future at the brutal expense of the present. 'Are the heritage and the memories passed on to Alia of any use, whatsoever, when the world has been destroyed and a new one must be rebuilt? Does it make sense to cling to the past, reproduce its myths and recreate its constructions?'*

Screened currently, during lockdown, while we are all living behind glass following a major disaster, In Vitro's reflections on the lasting effects of collective memory, exile and inherited traumas on identity, seem more prescient and universal than ever. While lockdowns the world over are being eased and the calls to find new ways of being in the world grow daily, clearly the outbreak's trail of death and destruction is a legacy we will live with for the rest of our lives. Watching the film now- while working on Draw Me a Home project I am left wondering what we will learn from these momentous months - what will be the legacy of Covid 19 and how do we make sure our shared experiences do not get hijacked by the political forces that govern our lives?



Larissa Sansour & Søren Lind. Still from In Vitro (2019). Courtesy of the artists.