Larissa Sansour

When settling in a desert, survival depends on the occasional rain. In Larissa Sansour’s desert, salvation arrives in the form of a porcelain monsoon. Conjuring a sci-fi war zone in shades of mud and rust, the film In the Future, They Ate from the Finest Porcelain presents a dystopian view of the Israeli occupation of Palestine not too long from now. Populated by figures in either traditional Palestinian dress or modern, sculptural clothing, the film concerns the story of two sisters, one killed at the age of nine, the other living on. Cutting between decimated empty landscapes, moving portraits of characters and studies of objects set against a black void over an ambient score, we piece together the older sister’s fantastical plan to artificially age fragments of porcelain dishes, decorated with designs from the Palestinian keffiyeh, and bury them throughout the West Bank. Thus, she takes Israel’s tactic of justifying territorial expropriation through archeological claims and turns it against itself, laying the groundwork for future generations of Palestinians to excavate these shards and prove their rightful claim to this land.

In voiceover, Sansour provides narration in response to the probes of an unidentified interrogator. As the hidden voice claims, most radical activity is grounded in trauma. The artist was born in the most intensely disputed of the occupied Palestinian territories, East Jerusalem. Though she left to study art in Europe and now lives in London, she is still in possession of a Palestinian passport. To have the elemental details of one’s life — such as one’s place of origin — subject to intense controversy is not so much dramatized in plot points as it is expressed in a kind of routine rerouting.

As in her previous films, Nation Estate (2013) and A Space Exodus (2009), Sansour has borrowed the look and tropes of science fiction, using our imagined future’s dismissal of such relics as nationalism to reflect on territorial disputes in the present.

Flash Art #307, March–April 2016

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