Space Lasers (And Other Fantasies)
“The past keeps seeping into the present”
Dara Horn, 2021
Aided by social media platforms, antisemitic conspiracy theories, ideas, and images are once again entering mainstream political discourse in Europe and the US. “Space Lasers (And Other Fantasies)” traces the origins of anti-Jewish images, going back 2,000 years to the first antisemitic depictions of Jews in art to show how contemporary antisemitism is built from a reservoir of ancient images that has been woven into the fabric of Western society over centuries.
The series focuses on animals as, since the Middle Ages, artists have visualised Jews as reviled creatures: ravens or toads to indicate greed, or with horns and beast-like features to signify the devil. Since this point, animal motifs have stayed popular in depicting Jews, from snakes and pigs to rats, vermin and parasites.
The images combine different elements: my own photographs and photocopies of animal masks, self-portraits and stuffed animals are combined to create collages – abstracted to show how the image of the Jew has taken on a life of its own, fantastical and removed from reality. By focusing on the antisemitic gaze, the experience of being the outsider – othered and dehumanised – is explored. These are combined with text and archive images from key periods of history to demonstrate how the past continues to overlap with the present and the real-world violence it has led to.
Inspired by my own experiences and the resurgence of antisemitism in mainstream society in recent years, the work asks us to reconsider anti-Jewish racism as not something confined to an isolated dark point in European history, but as woven into the fabric of Western society that continues to permeate our culture in subtle ways through conspiracy theories, tropes and images.