It is two minutes minutes to midnight.

It is urgent that, collectively, we put in the work necessary to produce a 2019 Clock statement that rewinds the Doomsday Clock. Get engaged, get involved, and help create that future. The time is now.

– Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 2018

Yael Bartana’s What if Women Ruled the World is an experimental performance that combines fictional settings and real life participants to set up a particular forum for action while exploring possible alternatives to a world dominated by men. Having taken place on different occasions and within different contexts (Manchester International Festival and Aarhus European Capital of Culture, 2017), the performance offers a platform for the political imagination and re-evaluation of national, social and gender paradigms and thinking patterns. Intertwining fiction and reality, satire and serious experimental politics, the women spend the evening attempting to solve the global emergencies, and to stop the Doomsday Clock from reaching midnight.

Stanley Kubrick’s satirical film Dr Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb from 1964 sets the starting point to Bartana’s project. Kubrick’s film depicts the macho-oriented interaction in an all-male dominated War Room, as generals, ministers, diplomats and the President bring the world to its end, following a nuclear catastrophe. What if Women Ruled the World uses these settings to create a counter situation, a War Room has become a Peace Room, which is led and dominated by women.

In an all-female cabinet of a fictional country with a pacifist constitution and a governmental program of disarmament, the President and her ministers are facing a dilemma. Another country, lead by a male president, is breaking an international agreement by declaring the increase of its nuclear stockpiles. Having to decide whether to confine their unilateral disarmament or continue with their original program, the president decides to consult with some of the leading minds of the world—all of which are women.

Joining the fictional government members, each night of the performance, five internationally renowned women—defence advisers, soldiers, lawyers, peace activists, humanitarians, politicians and leading thinkers—are invited to sit together in the Peace Room with the cabinet of the fictional government. They are asked to use their real life experience and expertise to formulate new policies on how to handle the crises while inevitably reflecting on the today’s current crises.

The premise of the project is to experiment within a set of conditions in order to simulate the unthinkable. The panel must tackle the most urgent questions our world is currently facing: nuclear weapons, climate change, gender and racial inequality. Yet, they must examine them in relation to the male dominated power mechanisms that lay beneath our economic and political structures. Reversing the scenario of a men-only War Room in Kubrick’s film, What if Women Ruled the World creates a simulation for emancipation. The women who are involved in the project, become agents for what could be potentially a new movement.


Volksbühne Berlin

12-13-14 April 2018


Yael Bartana’s films, installations and photographs explore the imagery of identity and the politics of memory. Her starting point is the national consciousness propagated by her native country, Israel. Central to the work are ceremonies, public rituals and social diversions that are intended to reaffirm the collective identity of the nation state.

In her Israeli projects, Bartana dealt with the impact of war, military rituals and a sense of threat on every-day life. Between 2006 and 2011, she has been working in Poland, creating the trilogy And Europe Will Be Stunned, a project on the history of Polish-Jewish relations and its influence on the contemporary Polish identity. The trilogy represented Poland in the 54th International Art Exhibition in Venice (2011).

In recent years Bartana has been experimenting with different mediums and expanding her body of work, presenting projects such as Inferno (2013), a “pre-enactment” of the destruction of the Third Temple in São Paulo, True Finn (2014), that questions the national Finnish identity, Simone The Hermetic, a site-based sound installation which takes place in future Jerusalem, and Tashlikh (cast off), a visual meditation that gathers personal objects linked to horrors of the past and the present. Her latest work, What If Women Ruled the World is an experimental performance which combines fictional settings and real life participants, setting up a particular forum for action while exploring possible alternatives to a world dominated by men.