Luciana Kaplun’s work takes the form of collective action and is rooted in social and political engagement.
I use various models and platforms of popular culture as vehicles of collective memory and social identities. Manipulating these models, I attempt to expose and transform the mechanisms at work in the creation of collective experience. However, it is important to me that I don’t simply replicate the original model, but rather breathe new life into it by relating it to lived experiences and real-time processes providing the framework for a new and unexpected form of social interaction.
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1981, now live and work in Tel Aviv, Israel. Studied Sciences of education at the Buenos Aires University, in Israel graduated from Minshar School of Art, Tel Aviv in 2005 and Midrasha School of Art Advanced Studio Program, Beit-Berl College, 2012.
Who is Atallah Abdul Rahman el Shaul?
Three channel HD Video / Sound / 09:26 min / 2016
The film ‘Who is Atallah Abdul Rahman el Shaul?’ was shot in July 2016 in Lagos, Nigeria. The scriptwriter, the actors and all the local crew are part of the Nigerian movie industry known as Nollywood and considered the world's second-largest movie industry (after Bollywood) in number of films produced annually.
The film presents three versions of a rumor that reached Luciana Kaplun when she was working with children of the Sudanese and Eritrean community at the Levinsky Library in Tel Aviv, according to which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was born in a village in northern Sudan.
Each version begins with the Griot, the traditional African storyteller who sings and narrates the tale in Yoruba. The actors speak in Pidgin English interspersed with Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba, Nigeria's major languages. The film is shot in full Nollywood tradition—melodramas motivated by love, jealousy, greed and power lust—with exaggerated acting, raised voices and expressive hand motions.
The tales take place in Sudan, Ghana and Nigeria, respectively, and each presents a different narrative grounded on details from the rural legend. Kaplun's video is homage to Nollywood, to African folk tales, to imagination that is not necessarily bound by the edicts of reality. The bizarre starting point places African-Israeli relations in an absurd, fantastic context that might turn out to be quite an accurate characteristic.
Ella La Telenovela
HD Video / 15:00 min / 2011
“Ella La Telenovela” is a segment of a fictional Latin American-style soap opera, or telenovela, centered on a mysterious maid who never actually makes an appearance.
The actors are foreign workers who have legally or illegally come to Israel for work. Through dialogue and improvisational rehearsals, Kaplun combined their personal stories into a fictive narrative, which they in turn act out.
The class dynamics at play in this video are especially poignant considering the intertwined relationship with the maid, Ella. Her name translates in Hebrew to “goddess,” but is more commonly understood in Spanish as “her” or “she.”
The ironic undertone, of course, is that here the foreign workers are playing the role of the privileged bourgeoisie and they are the “she,” the “Other,” working menial, thankless jobs in service of Israel’s middle class population.”
HD Video / 13:28 min / 2014
For “Gilda,” Luciana Kaplun worked with Latin American foreign workers who clean Israeli homes and businesses for a living, including the CCA, The Center for Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv.
In the video, they exhibit strange behavior, such as fantasy or role-play in their usual places of work. One of the cleaners is shown vacuuming smoke from the CCA galleries. Another cleans the corporate offices of Haaretz newspaper, acting like a machine amongst other devices, and in addition to cleaning, she makes impromptu sculptures from office supplies. Other cleaners take on more risqué behavior, like doing a strip dance routine, or trying on their clients' clothes. Finally, another character is featured at the banquet hall in which she works, singing a famous Cumbia song by “sainted” Argentinean pop singer, Gilda.
The cleaners’ seemingly strange behavior might be explained by their connection to a fictional guild that congregates in a blue “temple” complete with candles. Beyond serving as a union and support network, the guild takes on pseudo-religious attributes akin to a cult inspired by pagan-catholic saint worship.
Two channel HD Video / Sound / 14:33 min / 2015
In the project ‘The Squad’, Luciana Kaplun integrates elements of personal memory with the history of different but very similar countries: the twenty-one-year experience of living in the native land of the legendary Che Guevara is brought into an analogy with Israeli mythologisation of the heroism of guerrilla groups and subversive actions in ghettos, and culminates in the renewed interest in investigating partisanship, which has been experiencing a new upsurge in Slovenia over the recent years. The manifestations of partisanship among the youth that was born too late to be given an opportunity to directly identify with the partisans led the author to research the homage to one of the most spectacular battles of the World War II in Yugoslavia, the film ‘Battle of Neretva’.
As the bearer of an idealised aesthetic form legitimising the power of the ruling elite after the war, it served the artist as the starting point of re-enactment, while the differences between the two existing film versions provided her with the cause. For the screening (of shots cut out for the shorter English version) she engaged Memorial Company Under the Sun of Freedom.
The resulting videos Audition and Script Reading do not seek the reasons for carrying the partisan spirit into the present. In the aforementioned videos, individuals assume their respective roles in relation to the film story and, indeed, renew the dialogues and reconstruct the scenes, but nevertheless remain stuck in the present, with their performance turning into a series of repetitive rhythmic acts that are becoming meaningless and speech morphing into a string of unrelated words. Kaplun, however, goes even further by also leaving bare all the used media and narrative structures of the film.