A Matter of Blood
In the Jewish religion, blood is a cornerstone embodying the religion’s precepts. From their diet to whom belongs to the faith, the red liquid is replete of numerous connotations. The Israeli artist, Sigalit Landau centers part of her artistic practice in blood and the land where she was born.
Navigating Israël allows the wanderer to understand the visual poetry and the significance of the symbols in the artist’s oeuvre. Starting with blood one can read her work as a metaphor of the violent events that have agitated the country from its creation in 1948. Growing during the Intifada years, Landau witnessed the commence of the brutality that continues – perhaps less deadly now – to shudder the region. As mentioned before her work favours red, her sculptures reminds us often of the Viennese actionism and of Francis Bacon taste for fleshy compositions.
The Dining Hall a sculptural installation mimicking the interior of a house is flooded with structures with red and visceral textures. If there is amy similarity to the Viennese Actionism in this work is not by mere coincidence as Landau’s grandparents were very close to the movement during the 60’s. “I grew up inside some Viennese Actionists, my grandparents were very radical. (…) I’ve always been very interested in this, it’s in my DNA”, declared the artist during our conversation.
Human anatomy is dissected constantly in her work reflecting her background as a dancer. As she studies human body and gives it a political meaning, she touches upon femininity and the way it is viewed through the male gaze. Dead Sea for instance is a video in which the artist is floating naked on the sea with watermelons surrounding her body. The body here is freed and shamelessly presented in a natural context, it is acknowledged and put under the spotlight. Furthermore in her salt sculptures the spectator is introduced to feminine cloths reminiscent of Victorian fashion. During this period of English history, women were confined to the household, their rights were no less than non existant.
Starting with blood one can read her work as a metaphor of the violent events that have agitated the country from its creation in 1948.
The submersion of this dresses in salty water transforms them into crystalised objects mirroring the customs and values from that epoch, same that prevail and preserve women stigma. Another video exploring this is Barbed Hula wherein Landau dances the hula with a barbed wire. Although not directly mentioned during our exchange, the artist did alluded to the importance of pain in her artistic practice. The previously mentioned shows Landau dancing without any protection moving the barbed wire all over her naked body. While she examines feminine pain, she too delves on Jewish suffering.
Symbols of Jewish traditions and rituals appear in Landau’s work, such is the case of salt and blood. As stated before, she submerges objects in the Dead Sea, a salty body of water so saline that no animal or living being can survive to the levels of salt. The Dead Sea is a symbol for both, Jordan and Israel and serves even as a border between the two countries. Traditionally, salt is used to dry and preserve food, and in the rituals rabbis recommended it to drain the blood from the meat which is a procedure to purify food and make it proper to eat according to the Bible, another term for this practice is Kosher. Sigalit Landau’s body of work manifest contemporary Israeli society, from its roots and its ideology, to its metamorphosis over the years.
Sigalit Landau’s work touches upon different aspects on Israeli culture and lineage, it explores present day customs as well as subjects such as identity and the bridging of cultures. One of her most ambitious projects yet to date is to construction of structure joining Jordan and Israel through a salt bridge built with the salt of the Dead Sea. This particular enterprise testifies of the state of mind of Israeli contemporary artists encouraging dialogue and peace instead of deaf conflict. Through the prism of sharing, blood gains a different connotation as it units rather than tear apart.