The central feature of the exhibition will be a single screen film titled The Donkey Field. The artist’s new film weaves a link between an antisemitic attack in 1944 on a young boy on a piece of common land known locally as ‘the donkey field’ and the story of the persecution of Marie and Balthazar in the acclaimed film Au Hasard Balthazar (Robert Bresson, 1966).
The film features a text, based on sections of a memoir of Budapest in the last year of the war, and scenes which re-enact and reframe Bresson’s allegorical story about the scapegoating of innocent subjects. Partly shot on the streets of present-day Budapest, under a regime criticised for its anti-immigrant policies and harsh treatment of refugees, The Donkey Field underlines the relevance of the boy’s story to other, more recent stories of displacement and persecution.
The exhibition also includes several new photographic works that depict landscapes whose pastoral qualities become shadowed by their association with dark episodes of European history. An artist book of The Donkey Field, containing stills from the film, the script and an appendix, with historical details of the events that are alluded to in the film, will be available at the gallery.
To coincide with the re-opening of its Second World War and Holocaust Galleries, the Imperial War Museum, London will be screening The Donkey Field from 28 to 31 October 2021.
Alongside the exhibition the gallery has commissioned an essay on the work by artist and film writer, Lucy Reynolds.
Sarah Dobai is a London based artist who works with photography, film, publication, and performance. Her recent work has re-enacted and repurposed historical works of cinema or literature, frequently working between image and text, as a means of addressing present day concerns in a historical setting.
The Overcoat (published by Four Corners Book 2015) brought together Nikolai Gogol’s darkly comic novella of 1842 with Sarah Dobai’s large format photography and in the film Hidden in Plain Sight, she reworked passages from Pickpocket. Both works were featured in exhibitions at Or Gallery, Vancouver and L’été Photographique de Lectoure, France (curated by Catsou Roberts). Sarah Dobai’s work has been presented in solo and group exhibitions in national and international galleries and museums including FotoMuseum Antwerp, FotoMuseum Winterthur, Whitstable Biennale, Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Or Gallery and Kamloops Art Gallery (British Columbia), Kuandu Museum of Fine Art (Taipe), Kettles Yard (Cambridge) and Artist’s Space (New York). Her work is featured in The Photographic Portrait & Contemporary Photography as Art (both Thames & Hudson), Photographie Contemporaine (Flammarion Press) among other publications.
This exhibition would not be possible without the funding and support from Arts Council England.