Journey to the Far East

Journey to the Far East

2016, In collaboration with Omer Krieger. HD Video, Stereo sound, German narration. 7 min

Birobidzhan is the capital city of the Jewish Autonomous Region (JAR) in the Russian Federation. It was founded in 1928, with the intention of forming a territory for Jews in the Soviet Union, as a communist alternative to the Zionist national project in Palestine, and later the state of Israel. As “Red Zion” or “The First Jewish State”, Birobidzhan fed the imagination of non-zionist socialist jews all around the world throughout the 20th century, many of whom migrated to the “Jerusalem on the river Amur”, and built social and cultural institutions, some of which still exist today. Hannes Meyer (1889-1954) was a Swiss architect and the second director of the Bauhaus school in Dessau. Alongside his architectural work, Meyer experimented with Theatre and invented a new form of propaganda play or performative installation that he called “Co-op Theatre”. After his dismissal from the Bauhaus school in 1930 he moved to the USSR, where he taught and was employed by the state to plan cities and other large-scale projects. In 1933 Meyer visited the city of Birobidzhan, one of his most elaborate projects, for which he made the first city plan and several buildings. Another outcome of his visit was what may be considered a synopsis for a Co-op theatre play, titled “Birobidzhan 1933”. Written in German and found in Meyer’s personal archive, this cryptic text serves as the skeleton and source of inspiration for the video “Journey to the Far East” (2017). The video was shot entirely in Birobidzhan, and combines documentary footage with staged scenes performed by local theatre and puppet theatre groups. The original musical score is a new pop composition that will be released following the video’s premiere.