The Collective Man

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(Collage #2, storyboard for The Collective Man, 2009)

The Collective Man systematizes the results of a long process of collection and research. It is the reconstruction of the history of the failing of Kibbutz Yad Hanna, a kibbutz that was founded by a small group of 100 Hungarian communists in 1950.

One of the results of the research conducted between 2008 and 2009 is a photoarchive of appr. 1200 scanned images. It is an archive that consists of photographs taken by ten different members of the former kibbutz Yad Hanna: Founders, 2nd and 3rd generation members, and volunteers that started to appear from the early 70-s onwards. The archive documents the life of the community from the start to its gradual disintegration in the 1990-s.

During the archiving process I discovered photos of purim celebrations and performances, Purim Spil-s.

Purim is a Jewish holiday, sometimes referred to as the Jewish carnival, that is celebrated with fancy dresses and performed sketches. Traditionally, in religious circles, it’s is the reenactment of the story of the Book of Esther’s, but in atheistic communities, like in the case of the Yad Hanna group, only the tradition of the community play is kept. This holiday was probably the most important festivity in kibbutzim in general, as it is the event that unites the members of the community during the process of preparation for the acts to be performed. Work and life stopped for a week or two, and props and sets were made, sketches were written and rehearsed without regard to age.

(Sets, props and costumes of The Collective Man, ISCP, 2009)

As the archive reveals, the tradition of purim dies with the idea of the collective in a period of maybe 45-50 years. We recognized an analogy between the failing of this community and the concurrent history of post-war socialism in Europe, as if the events taking place in this small territory were episodes of a play, that is a caricature or a parabola of the ongoing global events.

We decided to reanimate this tradition of the Purim Spil and wrote a sketch of 7 scenes, in a manner that we imagined to resemble the making of the sketches from the archive. The plot of the sketch, and all the details of the performance, sets, props and costumes, storyboards, are based upon references from the archive and stories told in a series of interviews that we conducted with members of the kibbutz.

The sketch is a fairytale about a community that tries to share and live together but falters on obstacles along the way and fails within the lifespan of a single person.

The play was performed on three occasions, once in NY at the ISCP, once in the framework of a performance program of Witte de With in Rotterdam, last but not least in Budapest, during the exhibition on this project at the Ernst Museum.

(The Collective Man, ISCP 2009)

On all three occasions, it was performed by amateurs, friends, mostly artists who volunteered to interpret and retell this story together.

In the latest representation of this project, which was developed for an exhibition at M.A.I. in Montreal in 2014, still and moving images of original sites are displayed next to images of stage settings and costumes and dialogues of the play’s characters are audible next to video interviews with inhabitants of Yad Hanna. The collective story told in the audio-drama is being supported or scrutinized by the video projections, which give individuals a voice and provide visual references. By integrating the project’s theatrical aspects as equal parts of the overall archive, the lines between documentation, performance and imagination begin to blur. The verbal and visual micro-stories are being detached from their original geopolitical location, thereby enabling the creation of a larger narrative about the clash of utopian concepts and the challenges of communal life.

Find detailed documentation on The Collective Man here.

 

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