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Video still of The Undertaker (detail), 2019, by Yael Bartana
Video still of The Undertaker (detail), 2019, by Yael Bartana (Israeli, born 1970) Courtesy of Petzel Gallery, New York; Annet Gelink Gallery, Amsterdam; and Sommer Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv, Israel

The Undertaker by Yael Bartana


Watch the American debut of Yael Bartana’s latest film, staged and shot at sites across Philadelphia—including the museum, Independence Hall, and Laurel Hill Cemetery—as part of the artist’s 2018 public performance organized by the museum, Bury Our Weapons, Not Our Bodies!

Film Synopsis

The film chronicles an enigmatic leader and her armed followers during a choreographed procession and burial of weapons. Philadelphia, the birthplace of American democracy, plays a prominent role as this group of dancers, war veterans, and activists from a variety of local communities moves across the city’s charged historical landscape. Their procession and slow, deliberate gestures are grounded in the movements of Israeli dance composer Noa Eshkol (1924–2007), particularly her 1953 ceremonial performance in remembrance of the Holocaust. Rather than a memorial to the dead, Bartana’s symbolic burial is a monument for the living, an invitation to consider our bodies as both carriers of trauma as well as vehicles for hope and resistance.

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About the Artist

In her films, installations, photographs, and staged performances, Yael Bartana (born Israel, 1970) investigates subjects like national identity, trauma, and displacement, often through ceremonies, memorials, and public rituals. Her work has been exhibited worldwide, and is represented in the collections of many museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Tate Modern, London; and the Centre Pompidou, Paris. She currently lives and works in Berlin and Amsterdam.

the artistArtist Yael Bartana. Photo by Itai Neeman, 2013 (Courtesy of the artist)


This installation has been made possible with support from the museum’s endowment, through the Daniel W. Dietrich II Fund for Excellence in Contemporary Art.


Amanda Sroka, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art
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From the Archive
From the Archive
Explore the 2018 exhibition Yael Bartana: And Europe Will Be Stunned.
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