Produced by One Fifty Productions, in association with the Israeli Center for Digital Art
speculative biography of Joseph Otmar Hefter, a Jewish territorialist
active in the 1930's and who disappeared from public attention soon
after. What begins as an investigation of Hefter's elusive life between
the eastern marches of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, New York, and
Mexico, soons turns into questioning the biography genre - the stuff a
life is made of, and the ways to make sense of it.
Furthermore, research showed that Hefter had a flexible relation to
facts and a tendency to fabricate parts of his own history. Eventually,
the project's nature was re-defined as it developped, shifting from one
narrative to another: Hefter's bio pitch, a visit to a Jewish archive
in New York, a phone call to a military history buff and publisher of
Hefter, as well as a trip to Cuernavaca, Mexico, which culminates when
Hefter's house is eventually located.
Why Joseph Hefter? After all, there have been other Jewish
territorialists who were far more interesting than him. The initial
reason was obviously Nai Juda, the utopian Jewish state he
conceived but failed to realize, where happiness took the shape of
Faktories und Felder, Factories and Fields. Hefter, who loathed
Zionism, envisioned his state far away from Palestine:"The claims of
organized Zionism to a Jewish Palestine are anachronistic, insincere,
unjustified, politically and economically untenable and unfair.
Physically, the Jews have outgrown Palestine. What may have once been a
land of milk and honey to a hundred thousand liberated Egyptian slaves
is but a slippery toehold to the teeming millions of 20th century Jews.
Politically and economically, a Jewish Palestine would mean subjugating
a native Arab majority to the rule of a minority imported from abroad",
he writes in Room for the Jew.
Eventually, Hefter's elusiveness makes it ultimately difficult to grasp
the nature of his legacy. Who was he really among all the identities he
claimed? A soldier in WWI Austria, a settler in the North American
wilderness, the author of Room for the Jew and creator of Nai Juda, a
graphic designer in New York, a military illustrator in Mexico, an
engineer in French-ruled Indochina, a CIA agent, a cosmopolitan target
for right-wing groups in the US? With Hefter, there is no grand
narrative, but a collection of facts that don't quite fit. The video
purposely maintains the ill-assorted and deceptive feel and doesn't aim
at providing a definite narrative.
Where to?, The Israeli Center for Digital Art, Holon/IL, 2012 (cur. Udi Edelman)