Sigalit Landau — Soil Nursing
Past: June 2 → July 25, 2012
There are still such things as fireflies, as Pasolini charmingly calls them. Well, if they do still exist, Sigalit Landau is surely one of them.
The artist draws us into a land of dreams, a sort of Eden. We enter into a fable, in an olive grove in the Negev Desert in southern Israel. Poetic and dreamlike, the exhibition Soil Nursing — which takes place at galerie kamel mennour — shows a collection of photographs, three videos and seven sculptures that give an account of flashpoints where the intimate and the political, the ordinary and the unusual converge to combat the total devastation of well-known dividing lines. Sigalit Landau has already familiarised us with testing them in Israel’s Dead Sea — that matrix-like and metaphorical motif in her work has been connected with both the flow of consciousness of flux and reflux, far from stable borders, and with fundamental permanence, far from any ethnic tensions. Her exceptional symbolic and political submission for the 2011 Venice Biennale has left us with inviolable memories of implementations of force in her project of a bridge of salt between Israel and Jordan.
Sigalit Landau would have agrees with Virginia Wolf that she was going to wage her “Great War… waged on behalf of things like stones, jars, wreckage at the bottom of the sea…” (1908). Soil Nursing establishes a metaphor related to the ground, for it is the solid ground which inspires the artist here. A ground to protect — one that belongs to an olive grove in the Revivim kibbutz. In Hebrew, the process of harvesting olives is called Masik; it is the name of one of the three films and the subtitle of her photographs. Sigalit Landau explains that the same word also means “to draw conclusions”. It is, indeed, up to us to grasp these works: the fables she shows us are constructed in successive layers, built up over a whole lifetime.
Her colour photographs depict men engaged in harvesting olives in the olive grove. The young farm workers are equipped with sticks and choreograph a curious ritualistic dance around the trees — a hunt, almost a beat. The faces, covered up to protect them from the dust, turn reality into something menacing. Nets on the ground catch the olives. The still images could be fragments of a silent narrative. The olive harvest takes a turn that is quite distinct from mere documentary. The nets on the ground transform them into prey. Sigalit Landau superposes speech onto this. All her images make use of polyphonic structure. One might even say that she conceives of an image as a symptom, the motifs circulate repeatedly in the reading of her work. Moreover, there is in these photographs an incredible, divine light that pierces the olive trees. There are the bundles of lines that are laid across all the scenes: “…it was plain enough, this beauty (…) one shape after another of unimaginable beauty…” (Woolf). Higher up, the openings in the sky filled with clouds, the luminous cut-outs, the dense clouds beckon us towards the heights of a world of dreamlike rapture. We are motionless within something in the nature of suspense and vehement emotion. Sigalit Landau transforms these moments of existence into moments of epiphany.
It carries on. Her three Masik videos continue the same logic. A video of an olive tree projected vertically, another of four trees shown horizontally and another very dense and very dynamic one recreating the harvest in a complete and complex way.
All these videos show us that Performance, as an artistic genre, captivates Sigalit Landau’s videographic images. The video A Tree Standing shows the harvest in action. She speaks of a sort of “olive intifada”, or an “essential war”. The shots alternate between trees shaken by machines and by men; the fruits fall into the nets; the men hit the trees as if they are adversaries, but it also captures gestures of the utmost tenderness, such as the image a man sorting bits of tree from fruits on the ground. The normal links between elements are avoided: some of the men, seen from behind, are wearing t-shirts bearing pictures of wings. Angels are present.
The rhythms vary subtly. All of our perceptions are bound up in different logics. The extraordinary soundtrack lets us hear the noise of the harvesting machines, snippets of the men’s conversations, and the hymns of women whom we never see — funeral hymns. It is the total vanquishing of identification: angels, workers, laughing adolescents, etc. Sigalit Landau echoes the surf on the sea by filming the nets rolling the olives like waves, like rolls of water, leaving behind a high watermark of olives, similar to what is left on the beach when the waves recede. A dreamlike close-up of the olives.
The shaking of the trees continues in the other films in which the men are absent. The framing of the olive trees focuses on the trees, shaken violently by the machines. The sound becomes hysterical, turning the visuals into a crisis. The trees are taken on a traumatic, anthropological, mythical adventure. The viewer is in cahoots with the trees, even fused with them. And when it “stops”, the machine and the sound, we feel as if we have experienced a disturbance bordering on a revelation. Fable interacts with timeless myth.
Post-fiction. Pause. Sigalit Landau ties together these astonishing images with static objects: seven quiet, peaceful sculptures, all of different dimensions, in brightly polished marble, where tenderly feeding the ground becomes another possibility: at the heart of the exhibition is raised the question of sharing, of love. Her attachment to the sculptural world of Camille Claudel allows her to get close to the intimate ordeals of a woman artist immersed in the act of creating. She turns the “deposit of experience”, as Virginia Woolf calls it, into marble. From lovers’ bodies, there remains an emblem of maternity, Madonna and Child, abstracted to a breastfeeding cushion that takes the form of a dissected Möbius strip. This radical simplicity generates a force of momentum, of possibility, like Brancusi’s bird on its plinth. Another crossing of boundaries. Bodies are present here in order to begin another story — in order to remove fixities and perimeters. To be continued.
Soil Nursing. Sigalit Landau believes in radiant beauty against deadly powers. Towards people who believe what they see, Sigalit Landau responds with another fable: the high watermark of olive trees, coming close to the “power of grace”.
Sigalit Landau was born in Jerusalem. She lives and works in Tel Aviv. Her work has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions, including at the Museum of Modern Art in New York; the Kunst-Werke Institute of Contemporary Art, Berlin; the Tel Aviv Museum of Art; and the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, as well as group shows at the Koffler Centre of the Arts, Toronto; the SCAD, Savannah; the Bass Museum of Art, Miami; and the Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin. Sigalit Landau represented Israel at the last Venice Biennale.
Opening Saturday, June 2, 2012 2 PM → 7 PM
47, rue Saint-André des arts
6, rue du Pont de Lodi
T. 01 56 24 03 63 — F. 01 40 46 80 20
Tuesday – Saturday, 11 AM – 7 PM