The Breakup: A Project for Jerusalem by Michael Rakowitz
The Breakup, Episode 1The Breakup, Episode 2The Breakup, Episode 3The Breakup, Episode 4The Breakup, Episode 5The Breakup, Episode 6The Breakup, Episode 7The Breakup, Episode 8The Breakup, Episode 9The Breakup, Episode 10
The Breakup Radio Series
We are standing on a roof, looking down over the ledge from atop a five-story building. It is a northern winter. Cold.

One has to wonder if any of the four men thought to jump, as a curious crowd began to assemble, with bystanders gazing upward…

3 Savile Row. London. January 30th, 1969. The last public appearance of a cultural phenomenon called The Beatles transpired for a brief forty-five minutes during lunch that day. By this time, they had ceased to exist as a unified entity. Indeed, they had over the past three years collapsed and separated into four individuals, each their own nation state: One Paul, one John, one Ringo, one George…

So begins Michael Rakowitz’s The Breakup, a ten-part radio series originally commissioned by Al Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art, Jerusalem, in 2010 for a Palestinian station in Ramallah. The Breakup considers the intricacies of The Beatles’ 1969 disbanding as an example of a collaboration that grinds to a halt amid unraveling negotiations and failed communication.

Working from a complete set of the 150-hour audio tapes generated during the shooting of Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s documentary Let It Be, Rakowitz created a series of cascading narratives of the rise and fall of The Beatles, pinpointing the precise moment when alienation and isolation gave way to collapse, amid marathon meetings, wheedlings, rehearsals, and conflicts. There were, clearly, allegorical echoes between that collapse and the breakdown of political negotiations in Israel, Palestine, and across a Middle East that once dreamed of uniting under the banner of Pan-Arabism. But there was, oddly, a more direct connection: those 1969 rehearsals were supposed to lead to their first live performance in three years, and Paul McCartney’s dream was for The Beatles to make their triumphant return with a concert in North Africa—amphitheatres in El Jem, Tunisia and Sabratha, Libya were booked. The band ultimately reached an impasse; Ringo and George vetoed the final proposal. The epic concert in the “exotic location” would not materialize, and the compromise was a short and sweet and pathetic rooftop concert one chilly afternoon in London. Disembodied but familiar voices wafted over pedestrians in the street, broadcasted from the same height as church bells or minarets: one final call to prayer for the fanatics down below.