les presses du réel

One Man's Floor is Another Man's Feelings


Jean de Loisy
(excerpt, p. 7-8)

Robert Smithson's imperative, calling on every artist to “investigate the spirit of pre- and post-history” and go “where the far future meets the far past” *, precisely corresponds to Sigalit Landau's stubborn persistency in remaining on the banks of the Dead Sea. She has worked there for years, at the lowest place on earth, in the desolate landscape tormented by the sulfur and fire sent by the biblical God, wounded by history, injured as a result of a longstanding ecological disaster, a hotspot still wracked by numerous regional conflicts. Every movement under this merciless sun has a price, and the movements performed must be economical. They must be efficient and sufficiently meaningful to justify the fatigue they cause. Similar to these efforts that are accurately forecast, all of the artist's works are characterized by extreme compression or compaction. A painting, a photograph, an object that underwent transformation are often sufficient to convey a range of meanings or fix a metaphor that immediately echoes in our mind. For example, a net submerged in this sterile sea, that is later pulled out covered with salt crystals or a barbed wire encircling a woman's belly, her own—a recent sculpture and old video that became a collective icon.These two works, that were created ten years apart, bear a universal symbolism whose power reflects the sites in which these images were created. Without chatter, psychology, or an artist's narcissism, only quiet elegance and power. These are powerful objects that impact the spirit as triggers. There is no doubt that they appeal to our conscience, pose before us the most essential questions, yet without preaching or reproach, except for the pre-planned impact of their laconic presence that effects us.
Sigalit Landau reacts like a poet to the warning signs of her time, as did, in their own ways, artists so different from her such as Goya or Beuys. But Sigalit Landau does not do this by emphasizing the tragic spectacle of destruction or barbarism, or by political actions such as creating a student party for political change. Instead, she simply turns up the volume on reality and specific situations. The other, water, work, the community or the distribution of resources. Thus, while invoking big themes and subjects, Sigalit Landau succeeds in reducing the distance created by daily reality through constant repetition. The same issues, that have become abstract due to their treatment by the media, find new links and connections to our basic daily experiences: carrying, picking, fishing, swimming, playing, living, remembering. They are expressed simply in her video works, often consisting of a single, fixed shot, without any apparent editing, or through her figurative sculptures that succeed in compelling us to touch the grave facts they convey. Indeed, despite such innovative forms of expression and techniques, temporality and memory have penetrated into them without contradicting the possible modernity of the context or tools. For example, the unwinding spiral of watermelons, floating on the Dead Sea, seems to connect us to times in the past when other wounds could, like today, open the red flesh of life. The same is true for the bronze sweat that drips from the clasped bodies pushing a rock to find water, or the pink sugar masks that the artist created for her audience in 2001. Sometimes it is the themes, sometimes the materials, sometimes the characters that create the link to the art's source: the mask, the bronze and especially the ritual—that organized behavior of bodies in a space and time in which performance art is still soaked and seemingly sprouts out of her works and gives them their depth and power.

Venice: One Man's Floor is Another Man's Feelings. This time the title is also an aesthetic and political programme. Initially scribbled on a restaurant tablecloth, it looks like the traces, maybe the essence of a conversation we were not party to. Through the transparency we can deduce, as the fruit of a previous conversation, the other words that hardly differ from one another. We thus become aware of a porosity, a faint hubbub mingling what is above and below. The separation does not divide, a process of chemical exchange occurs between the ink, the pressure of the pen and the weakness of the paper, the existence of what is underneath is united with that of the top in a visibility in which both sides are enriched by the mutual interference. In the aesthetics of this simple paper, we can already distinguish the general attributes of the work and of the project. Indeed, as is often the case in her work, Sigalit Landau insists on the link that connects two people, a group or neighbors. This idea of a community and lack of separation constitutes the foundation of this pavilion, which is imagined as a single, unique creation. It recalls the video Dancing for Maya from 2005, in which the bodies of the two main actresses encounter one another as they moved in a curve on the beach, their interlacing traces looking like a DNA string. Or perhaps that situation she invented in which the visitor brought a key (The Dining Hall, 2007, Berlin), and this was immediately duplicated into its mirror image. When leaving, he held the key of a possible neighbor he could think about, since a joint although inverse line now connected them. Similarly, in the Three Men Hula video work, the bodies of three men are shown rotating their hips in order to adjust their movements so as to manage to balance the hula hoop that connects them. There are numerous examples, and they all lead to the same statement: One Man's Floor is Another Man's Feelings—the title given to the project in the Venetian pavilion.


* Robert Smithson, “A Sedimentation of the Mind: Earth Projects”, Artforum, September 1968

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