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Citizens

Curator: Neta Gal-Azmon 6.4.2017 - 5.8.2017

In 26 September 2014, 43 students who protested against the new government's education reform were kidnapped in Mexico. Two weeks later their burnt bodies were found in a mass grave. An investigation revealed that police and government forces collaborated with major drug dealers to commit this terrible crime. Julia Kurek's brave act of protest was performed in solidarity with the students and other protesters against the corrupt government, military and police in Mexico, organizations dominated by the large drug cartels.
Equipped with a mask supposed to protect her against identification by the various law enforcement bodies, Kurek is seen forcefully breaking through a police barrier, knocking barefooted on the heavy gates of the presidential palace. Unlike the mirror shield Perseus received from goddess Athena when he set out to fight Medusa, Kurek's mask does not protect her from the monster she is trying to fight. In fact, it seems to put her at greater risk, eliciting objections by some of the audience to the event. As in gladiator fights, the audience is granted violent, passionate, life or death entertainment.
Kurek's mask colors her protest with a theatrical, circus-like vein. Like the court jester — or a fearless super-heroine — she voices the citizens' cry vis-à-vis the authorities' corrupt indifference. Surprisingly, the audience of her one-woman protest is divided between cheering fans and booing foes who identify her foreignness (due to her golden hair), claiming that she insults government symbols. Kurek seems to throw herself at the mercy of the authorities as well as the masses in whose name she embarked on her action. Being a women, the cops are not allowed to touch her, so they try to prevent her motion by using their bodies to erect a human wall. Along with her, they move right and left in a comical dance, as she sets the direction and rhythm. Her provocative, colorful appearance is antithetical to their restrained manly uniforms. Although she fails in her mission to enter the palace, the calls of the crowd at the end of her act — Freedom! Freedom! Justice! Justice! — nevertheless attest to success.


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