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Sigalit Landau, Miqlat

Sigalit Landau Miqlat. Shelter

daily, starting from Saturday, October 1, 2016 - 10:00, until Sunday, March 26, 2017 - 23:59

Monumental bronze sculpture in the courtyard of the Hôtel de Saint-Aignan

(born in 1969) is one of the leading figures on the Israeli art scene. Since her first achievements in the 1990s, she has asserted herself as a radical figure, confronting the events that shake her country, exploring through a multifaceted work the concepts of border, memory, identity or control. Benefiting from international recognition, she represented Israel during the International Biennial of Contemporary Art in Venice in 2011. Sigalit Landau presents for the first time in Paris Miqlat (Abri) (2012), which will be exhibited in the courtyard of honor of the hotel in Saint-Aignan until March 2017.

To All Considering Immigration:

To All Seekers of Shelter

by Moshe Ninio

The Sculpture Shelter  is a life size bronze cast of an obsolete public bomb refuge, abandoned: as derelict remains of an urban blister. The mold for this cast bronze was prepared on-site, on a pavement in South Tel Aviv. Executed in two stages: the top, above street level, tactile and visible part was traced, in resemblance to other urban and rural communal shelters throughout Israel, and it was treated first; The second part -- the invisible lower half of the shelter -- an underground passage, was traced thereafter. Then the two elements were reconnected and  welded back into their original relational positions, recreating a three-dimensional gaping hole: Both a threating and an accommodating image was crafted: this open bi-leveled revelation is like an Escher illusion-drawing.

Sigalit Landau is first and foremost a producer of powerful visions and suggestive images. Shelter, which was produced as a quasi-factual presentation without being aesthetically manipulated, resembles a kind of ‘finding’; both removed from its everyday context and elevated from its ordinary materiality – it’s appearance is as of an edge of a rifting sink-hole.

More than often, in the traditional “lost wax” bronze pouring technique, the spectator is unaware of the fact that the surface of a bronze cast is but a textured envelop of an entrapped void of stagnant air: the form, within, is an empty unventilated space – this ‘insider’ fact lays well embedded in the very essence of the work. In Shelter we are examining another link in a multitude of salient appearances in Sigalit Landau’s work where openings, holes, apertures, tunnels, building chutes, pipes and other sites and thresholds unfold. The descent down and under into a shelter is indeed a significant act of transition. A threshold – meaning, a passage which signifies two sites marked and enclosed - two distinct modes of existence: just a step away from each other. 

Now, in its mere presence as an ‘appearance’ of a descent into safety [uprooted and transparent], the bronze shaft is held up by a robust iron construction  –  which is esthetically unpretentious, especially in comparison to the intricacy and nobility of the traces in the bronze. This contrasting banality of the armature emphasis the vulnerability of the “finding” and its history. The two openings on both ends and levels of the work, which originally had both led ‘down and under’, to what is supposed to be a hiding place in times of danger (but also down to a host of symbolic figures tied to underworlds) – are now exposed and offer themselves to casual examination like an archio-zoological-minuscule dinosaur from pre -1967 Hebrew Zionism (that is, before the emergence of the current Judeo-messianic phase of Zionism). This context pairs Shelter  with a complementing finding from the age of Hebrew-Socialist Zionism, of which its destruction is an ongoing subject of lamentation for Landau: the kibbutz dishwater in the installation The Dining Hall (2008): a faltering and rattling sculpture-performance-on conveyor belt, that operated like a ghost abandoned by its community and oparators/participants.

In retrospect, 1967 is regarded by some, as the last days of the essential Hebrew chapter in Israeli history . To our subject: these were also the same years in which the last air raids had threatened civilians [with enough time to run and seek communal shelter]. In the early 90’s the Homefront was developing defenses against missile attacks which provided almost no alert-time [home owners and institutes addressed this. However, privatizing many of the services which the state had formerly provided, as a part of the transition into a capitalistic economy, had left civilians as customers, responsible for their own defense in their everyday surroundings. Even on the need for physical survival in times of war, the neo-liberal class gap halted the building of new, and refrained from maintaining the old public shelters).

Landau’s evocative finding – which was temporarily titled “Jacob’s Ladder”, a vision of angels going up and down upon a threshold of dream hood – is (if it isn’t obvious) a concise metaphor of “Israel”;  an entity that appears in various guises (sarcastic-poetic) in her intensive installations: beginning with The Country (2002), an installation of a massacre scene from the second Intifada, that staged a Tel Aviv rooftop inside a basement gallery; as also in the acidic clever, witty title of her gutter installation The Endless Solution (2005), to which visitors entered through three large concrete sewage pipes.

The seemingly technical conversion between something already in existence (in a lowly material order) into its bronze facsimile- already creates the expressive-dramatic power of this urban blister, which is overlooked daily by all who pass by it, and makes it into a mini-monument of itself as a “not- real-self”.  The inevitable material abundance accumulated by this converted and displaced archaic construct, with its bronze and the desired aging effect of the patina leads us in the old sense of the practice and in monumental sculptural terms, to what Western sculpture has been invested in since the Renaissance: A heavy looking mass seeking its transcendence. It is this massiveness, that is here supported – like the familiar figures of time-lost melancholy in a paintings by Salvador Dali – with stilts, without which it images, clocks and bodily or organs would collapse: The visual brilliance that activates the sarcastic pathos lingering over all of Landau’s work is felt here too: the outline of the sculpture resembles a ramp leading from a run-way onto an airplane boarding apparatus, that is – the opposite of the original content and aspirations of the builders and its 20th century dwellers. So, at the same time, also a preferable solution salvation and suggestion is posed.

In another inversion of meaning; Shelter also refers to the most iconic sculpture of Hebrew Zionism: Avraham Melnikov’s Roaring Lion Monument (1934) in Tel Hai. Upon completing the piece, on which he had worked for a decade, the modernist-archaic-revisionist Melnikov sobered and disillusion of the Zionist project, he abandoned the ideal of Hebrew nationalism and Palestine Eretz-Israel in favor of a humble academic career in London.

Shelter is one among many “holes” that recur in Landau’s urgent artistic practice – an urgency generated from the beginning by the desire to be extricated from the swamp of The Endless Solution, which defines both her and the materials she works with. In 1994 in a pioneering, first of its kind local biennale, Landau showed the nighttime hideout of illegal Palestinian workers in a building site – a sculpture-installation of a vaginal aperture, which was cut through a pile of wooden doors, stacked on top of each other in a way recalling violent sex, rape (Many Scratched Doors, 1994). This motif – as well as other signs of abuse – recurs in various ways in other works, and is the poetic heart of the matter in the moving image I Wanted Better for Her, Not Worse (2016), which touches upon accelerated withering.

These two mature works preceded the interference of two major issues in Landau’s work: the female body and territory – a stretch of vaguely bordered land, now known as “Israel” which appears as a female entity (in whose heart lies the Dead Sea – a killing vagina adorned with swallow-holes and salt crystals). Her oeuvre is perhaps the most succinct expression from the past two decades of the impulses of the post-traumatic clan to which she refers, in the realm between the memory of real trauma and the conversion of memory into a collective psychosis of victimized narcissism.

The relation between these issues is calibrated in the video work most associated with her, Barbedhula (2000) that illustrates the interferences between the body (her young body) and the country that limits and hurts her as she performs, and between the Eros eroused by Hebrew Zionism) and the enclosure created by the tension between the infinite, open horizon and the body framed by the barbed wire hula hoop (and its constant piercing of the skin in an act of female Passion). This relation was expressed also in Resident Alien (1997), a work that in many respects preceded Shelter: a simulation taking place in a sealed space of a shortened trip in the country between two openings, one completely open (yet it closes behind the visitor) and the other, opposite it, an improvised aperture that allows desperate reaching for oxygen via an upside down toilet-bowl target. The trip takes place inside a shipping container of the type where once in a while the suffocated bodies of refugees are discovered; a container whose rusted floor was redesigned by Landau, hitting at it violently with a hammer so that it would resemble the raw landscape of the country. Two decades later, Shelter is no longer a work offering movement (not even contained, in relation to a limit or block), or a horizon of immigration – but an acceptance of a horizon-less existence. Yet more than all it brings to mind the opening of a burial cave, of the sort still found abundantly in the Land of Promise. 

MOSHE NINIO (né en 1953) est l’artiste lauréat du Prix Maratier 2015 décerné tous les deux ans par la fondation Pro mahJ. Une exposition personnelle lui est consacrée au musée jusqu’au 29 janvier 2017.
Grand connaisseur de l’œuvre de Sigalit Landau, avec laquelle il a souvent collaboré, il livre ici son analyse de Miqlat (Abri), en replaçant cette sculpture dans la trajectoire de l’artiste.

Fanny Schulmann

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