Sarah Dobai: The Donkey Field - Film screening and discussion

Archive Shelf Location BALTIC2022M
Publication Date 12 Jan 2022

This online event documentation features the introduction to the screening of The Donkey Field and then discussion between Sarah Dobai, Dr. Martyn Hudson and Dr. Elizabeth Fisher. It does not include the artists film which was only available to view online for a limited time.

The discussion explored, among other things, the relationship between place and historical memory and how the process of reconstructing passages from Robert Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar allowed the artist to approach a charged historical legacy.

About the artist: 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.

About the film: The Donkey Field 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.


Sarah Dobai’s lens-based work reflects on the central position of a photography and cinema in relation to on-going debates around representation, realism and authorship. Recent projects have focused on re-constructing and repurposing historical works of literature or cinema as a means to animate present-day social and political concerns. Recent projects include The Overcoat, published by Four Corners Books, a republication of Nikolai Gogol’s classic novella (1842), her solo show Principles & Deceptions at Or Gallery (Vancouver) and Filet (London), Twenty Second Hold at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery and Bees in a Hive of Glass, a collaboration with novelist Tom McCarthy produced for TANK Magazine & Whitstable Biennale. Her work features in Charlotte Cotton’s Photography as Contemporary Art, Photographie Contemporaine by Michel Poivert (2nd edition) and Phillip Prodger’s forthcoming The Photographic Portrait A History.

Lizzie Fisher is currently Leverhulme Research Fellow in the Department of Arts, University of Northumbria. Her current research, ‘Negotiating Modernism: experimental and expanded practice in the rural north, 1945-80’ examines postwar artists’ engagement with place. She teaches into BA Fine Art and MA Creative and Cultural Industries Management and is a member of the Visual and Material Cultures Research Group. Previously she was Curator of Exhibitions and Collections at Kettle’s Yard, University of Cambridge (2004-2013). She first worked with Sarah Dobai in 2002.

Dr Martyn Hudson is a critical theorist and applied sociologist of art and cultural landscapes, and Senior Lecturer at Northumbria University.

A BxNU event supported by University of Northumbria, Arts Council England, The Elephant Trust and University of the Arts London.

Speakers Sarah Dobai, Dr. Martyn Hudson, Dr. Elizabeth Fisher
Formats MP4, Zoom recording
Related Artist Sarah Dobai
Month January 2022
Category Film and Artists' Moving Image
Keywords BxNU Institute of Contemporary Art, Memory, Collective memory, Place, Refugees, Religions and religious concepts, antisemitism, Judaism, persecution, Displacement, History, Violence
Language English

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