Inferno: It’s What You Make Of It

Yael Bartana Neon SignThe Maltz Museum is embarking on an exciting and daring exhibition venture this summer with a single work by celebrated Israeli artist Yael Bartana. Delving into the realm of video installation, we’re creating a large-scale cinematic viewing experience of a film that’s only been shown in the U.S. once before— Inferno (2013). The film challenges viewers. Not only does it take on a provocative topic, but it does not tell a story in the traditional sense. Inferno is based on the real-world construction of the third Temple of Solomon in São Paulo, Brazil by a Neo-Pentecostal Church. This church will be a massive replica of the first temple in Jerusalem, the violent destruction of which signaled the diaspora of the Jewish people in the 6th century BCE. Bartana describes Inferno as an “historical pre-enactment” that commingles fact and fiction, prophecy and history. She poses the question of whether the structure’s destruction is inherent in its construction.

The film raises questions more than it provides any clear meaning or answers.  Your challenge is to remain open to that ambiguity.  Rest assured, though, we won’t leave you out there on your own to process and interpret the rich imagery and layers of meaning.  To that end, we’re partnering with The Laura and Alvin Siegal Lifelong Learning Program to explore the film from a variety of perspectives through a series of public programs.  We are gathering the knowledge and opinions of clergy, filmmakers, cultural anthropologists, comparative religion and art scholars, and experts on Brazil with the intent of generating some fascinating, once-in-a-lifetime discussions.

We hope you’ll contribute your own questions about and reflections on the film. With the myriad of issues it raises about religion, monument, identity and memory, Inferno is sure to deliver as part of our ongoing effort to spark conversations that are relevant to our lives today.  – Ellen Rudolph, Executive Director, Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage