Hefter Hefter

Faktories und Felder
Video, 42 mn, 2012 
Produced by One Fifty Productions, in association with the Israeli Center for Digital Art

A 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)