A little known film by Pier Paolo Pasolini, Sopralluoghi in Palestina (Location Scouting in Palestine, 1963) shows the Italian director planning the filming of The Gospel According to St Matthew (1964). Pasolini was so disappointed by what he found or didn't find on the trip, that he decided to shoot the film about Jesus' life in Italy instead. Sopralluoghi became a making-of documentary of a film that was never made, at least not as planned. Pasolini's failed film serves as a conceptual and formal reference in Uriel Orlow's Unmade Film (2012-13) also set in Israel/Palestine. Fragmented into its constituent parts, it too is an impossible film; an expansive collection of audio-visual works that point to the structure of a film but never fully become one. Orlow's exhibition at Seventeen creates a suspension between the two ends of this ‘film': the recce and the closing credits.
A sound work, Unmade Film : The Reconnaissance, orchestrates a conversation between Pasolini and Robert Smithson that might have taken place sometime between 1963 and 1967, somewhere between Palestine and New Jersey. Their conversation is spoken by three voices and evokes expectations and disappointments, conjures false futures and lingers on ruins in reverse. The backdrop for their exchange is a rudimentary set composed of images that span a continuum between photography and film: a wall-sized backdrop, photographs as props and a sequence of slides. Images of two ruins are mixed and connect past and present: a village in Palestine depopulated in 1948 and a deserted, contemporary Palestinian settlement.
Unmade Film : The Closing Credits is a 16mm film that shows barely anything. Instead of a scroll of names, white dots appear and disappear on black leader, placeholders of the over 400 Palestinian villages depopulated in 1948. They don't draw a map and reveal nothing but themselves as stand-ins for names, histories and locations at the outer edges of memory and representation.
"Uriel Orlow deliberately focuses on the potential interchangeability of researched historical sources and fabricated documents. In Unmade Film: The Reconnaissance we are confronted with ruins – not backlit, ivy-covered romantic ruins, nor the bombed-out, gutted ruins of a war, but with uninhabitable homes that are abandoned or that nobody has ever moved into. The images are from Lifta, an old Palestinian village on the outskirts of Jerusalem that was depopulated in 1948 and has remained uninhabited since, and also from around Ein Sinya, a new Palestinian settlement near Ramallah, the construction of which was halted by the State of Israel. The complete absence of human beings does not blind us to their history; on the contrary, it arouses curiosity about the silent story told by these derelict and unfinished buildings.
In the confines of the installation, which interlocks images and language, these abandoned architectural fragments bear witness to the state of exile, to the inescapable, perpetual foreignness that Edward W. Said describes in Reflections on Exile and Other Essays (2000)."
– Hans Rudolf Reust
The work in the exhibition has been realised with the support of Al-Ma'mal Foundation for Contemporary Art, Jerusalem, Bergen Assembly and Pro Helvetia – Swiss Arts Council.
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