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We are standing on a roof\, looking down over the ledg e from atop a five-story building. It is a northern winter. Cold.\n

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

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3 Savile Row. London. January 30th\, 1969. The last public appearance of a cu ltural phenomenon called The Beatles transpired for a brief forty-five minu tes during lunch that day. By this time\, they had ceased to exist as a uni fied entity. Indeed\, they had over the past three years collapsed and sepa rated into four individuals\, each their own nation state: One Paul\, one J ohn\, one Ringo\, one George…

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So begins Michael Rakowitz’s T he Breakup\, a ten-part radio series originally produced for a Palestin ian station in Ramallah\, and also a multifacted multimedia event at Lombar d Freid Gallery\, New York\, featuring video\, drawings\, memorabilia real and imagined\, and a limited-edition gatefold vinyl LP. 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 fail ed communication.

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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 alienat ion and isolation gave way to collapse\, amid marathon meetings\, wheedling s\, rehearsals\, and conflicts. There were\, clearly\, allegorical echoes b etween that collapse and the breakdown of political negotiations in Israel\ , Palestine\, and across a Middle East that once dreamed of uniting under t he banner of Pan-Arabism. But there was\, oddly\, a more direct connection: those 1969 rehearsals were supposed to lead to their first live performanc e in three years\, and Paul McCartney’s dream was for The Beatles to make t heir triumphant return with a concert in North Africa—amphitheatres in El J em\, Tunisia and Sabratha\, Libya were booked. The band ultimately reached an impasse\; Ringo and George vetoed the final proposal. The epic concert i n the “exotic location” would not materialize\, and the compromise was a sh ort and sweet and pathetic rooftop concert one chilly afternoon in London. Disembodied but familiar voices wafted over pedestrians in the street\, bro adcasted from the same height as church bells or minarets: one final call t o prayer for the fanatics down below.

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The Breakup culminated in a recreation of that final concert\, three decades later\, against the backdrop of the Old City and the Dome of the Rock. Members of the celebrate d Palestinian band Sabreen—who met at university in the early 1980s and beg an their career playing Beatles songs at wedding parties\, and who had brok en up in 2002—came together to perform five Arabic-inflected Beatles songs on the roof of the Swedish Christian Study Centre in Jerusalem.

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The songs were selected and ordered to form a kind of poem about collaboration and collapse\, and about dreams that cannot be deferred indefinitely.

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TWO OF US

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THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD

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DON’T LET ME DOWN\n

GET BACK

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LET IT BE

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Sabreen’s concert will be availab le for purchase as a deluxe long-playing record\, pressed on sky-blue vinyl \, along with extensive liner notes documenting The Breakup’s variou s iterations. Live in Jerusalem 2010 is a joint project of Lombard Freid Ga llery and Bidoun Projects.

DTEND:20121017 DTSTAMP:20141226T075143 DTSTART:20120906 GEO:40.7456825;-74.0070396 LOCATION:Lombard Freid Gallery\,518 West 19th Street \nNew York\, NY 10011 SEQUENCE:0 SUMMARY:The Breakup\, Michael Rakowitz UID:231009 END:VEVENT BEGIN:VEVENT DTEND:20120906T200000 DTSTAMP:20141226T075143 DTSTART:20120906T180000 GEO:40.7456825;-74.0070396 LOCATION:Lombard Freid Gallery\,518 West 19th Street \nNew York\, NY 10011 SEQUENCE:0 SUMMARY:The Breakup\, Michael Rakowitz UID:231010 END:VEVENT END:VCALENDAR