SIGILIT LANDAUInterview by Paulina Pobocha. . . sigalit landau, resident alien, 1997, mixed-media installationIn 1997, Sigalit Landaus Resident Alien I debuted in Catherine Davids Documenta X. A work about borders, Resident Alien I, consisted of a standard shipping container whose floor Landau hammered out to resemble the Judean desert. Once inside, viewers peered through a hole in the ceiling. Sticking their heads through the opening, they found themselves at the bottom of a toilet-hole commonly used throughout the Mediterranean region, listening to an Arabic-language radio station. Though not all of Landaus projects have been this direct, her work frequently deals with issues of borders, chiefly the shifting definitions of center and periphery. These interests are in part a consequence of her biography: born in Jerusalem and currently living in Tel Aviv, the turmoil of the region impressed itself early on Landau. However, it would be shortsighted to consider this the sole impetus behind her rich and varied uvre. Landaus ambitions transcend such specificities. While rooted in the local, her work carries a larger weight, implicitly asking viewers to reconsider their allegiances and sympathies through transformations of the cold, hard facts of the world into beautiful, often dreadful, abstract tableaux. Paulina Pobocha: How did you become involved in video, performance, and installation art?SIGILIT LANDAU: didnt knowingly move to video. I happened to have a few ideas, which, however I tried, I couldnt express in still sculptures. I had a few years of experience with filmmaking and editing in my army service. I had to make educational films to help new soldiers in hard situations. This kind of creativity damaged my being, and I didnt manage to finish my service, so I was dismissed earlier than planned, but not early enough. I always made installations. I attribute my attraction to installation to my love of the stage, a fascination with archeology, and the influence of Paul McCarthy and Louise Bourgeois. The only real performance that Ive ever done was the sugar transformations piece at the Thread Waxing Space. It had to take place before the visitors eyes because sugar melts and transforms so quickly, which dictated a month and a half of thatching, spinning, and cocooning audiences in real time, for whole days. The rest of my performances have been for the camera and passers-by. sigalit landau, thread waxing space installation, 2001, mixed media, performancePobocha: You play a lead part in the video works, and yet, despite your physical presence, they never simply read as self-portraits. Your work seems much more abstract than that, much more open-ended. LANDAU: They are not self-portraits. I am the most generic person. I dont express myself in my roles, something that many performers feel a need to do. I have a nothingness in me that serves my works very well. I dont see acting, representing, directing, or staging as relevant to my visual art because the figure is anyone. Also, I am able to hurt myself and exhaust myself for shoots. I could never ask this from a dancer or an actor. sigalit landau, barbed hula, 2000, video-documented performancePobocha: This year, you had a Projects show at The Museum of Modern Art, which included three video works: Barbed Hula (2000), DeadSee (2005), and Day Done (2007), accompanied by the sculptures Barbed Salt Lamps (2007), which are lampshade-like objects handmade from barbed wire that you submerged in the Dead Sea, where salt accretions formed on their surfaces. The entire show was titled Cycle Spun (2007). Can you explain the selection process? Why did you choose to show these three videos in particular? Though the videos functioned as a triptych in their configuration at MoMA, they range in tenor.LANDAU: I think that the curator, Klaus Biesenbach, saw the pieces as formally composing a story and as a selection that stands in for my entire uvre. The show is very dietetic and shows a specific layer of my otherwise pretty wild [appetite]. Everything that I do ranges in tenor because I respond to situations, sites, and life. In just one installation, there are whispers, screams, and five art languages. There is a formal connection, which is obvious in all of the four pieces in the cycle: they all have circles, circular movement, centers and peripheries, inner and outer spaces, and patterns that accrue from coils and radii. sigalit landau, barbed salt lamps, 2007Pobocha: By saying that the show was dietetic, you reference ingestion rather than output.LANDAU: I [use many] metaphors relating to food, digestion, and cooking, and I work with the bodys entrances and exitsskin, ears, and tears, the less obvious ones. I use food, digestion, edible components, consistencies, physical phenomena, and medical terminology in order to explain. ricardo rodriguez . Barbed Hula, the one in which Im in the center of a hula hoop dancing, is about the vagina and wounds in my flesh. At first, I called the work Nest. android application development . DeadSee is the one in which I am in the midst of a fruit raft being saved from the Dead Sea in a reversed Whirlpool, even though there are no whirlpools in the Dead Sea because, as far as I know, the water is too heavy, and you cant even drown there. Some of the watermelons are wounded, and one of my eyes is inside the salt water. At first, I called this work Raft. In the third piece, Day Done, I am in a house, painting a circle as far as my arm goes around a window. The building is damaged. The house is dilapidated and crumbling. Used Cars Denver . Paint wont help it, and the black paint looks more like a black flag or a fire-and-smoke trace than a DIY job. My act turns the standard window into a hole, a wound in the building. As the video progresses and night falls, a man takes my place and paints over my black mark with a circle of Mediterranean whitewash. A midnight sun rises over the shabby gray house. In all of the films, there is dramapain, some death, water or some liquid, a state of alarmand in all, there is a de-dramatizing positive agent that cannot undo the harms but introduces sensuality and tenderness into life. sigalit landau, day done, 2007, video (color, silent)Pobocha: DayDone is also a work that references ritual. It is a reinterpretation of an ancient Jewish custom whereby a portion of a newly built house is left unpainted. Your video of course is a reversal of this tradition.LANDAU: The house in the video has been repaired with cement. Many cracks and holes are covered with a gray cement mass. There are more repairs than actual yellowish wall, but the person who did these repairs did not do the obvious: paint this wall to hide the crack fillings. So, the circle that I paint is the only mark of skin, or fresh paint, that this southern wall has. This is an old house in an already existing homeland, Israel. But the tradition was practiced in the diaspora before the Jews had a land to call their own. Its a country with war, terror, occupation, and corruption, and in it is a poorly built, dilapidated, ugly, barely surviving house. The house marks a memory from the days when the Jews were land-less and mourning the destruction of the temple and evacuation into the Diaspora. The mark on the building can now be a reminder that there is still unresolved tragedy in post-Diaspora existence. The man who paints with the white roller at night is the one who wants or needs something to be forgotten. Also, he is communicating in a dogmatic way with his partner. He would do better to get on a scaffold and paint his house properly from the outside.Pobocha: Ritual comes up quite a bit in your work.LANDAU: Rituals are performances. They return in time. They live in collective memory, images, symbols, and natures seasons. I like to summon forgotten ones that carry ancient cultural beliefs, preserved in literature and folklore: I dont live according to my religions rituals, but I am aware of all three religions [with major ties to Jerusalem]. I was brought up by people who put their religious way of life far behind them and were in a bit of an intellectual void.Pobocha: One of your most well-known works, Country (2002), is a life-sized papier-mch installation in which flayed figures and fruit are made of the popular Israeli newspaper HaAretz, a title which can be translated as The Land or The Country. Elsewhere youve said: Art is an opportunity to survive the tragedy of my country, and this is the one that deals most directly with this tragedy. Since this work, which Philip Leider compared to Picassos Guernica, the other works that followed have been more abstract.LANDAU: The horror and terror in Country, which referenced the Second Intifada, was replaced by melancholy in The Endless Solution. Then, my mother died while I was in the process of making DeadSee, and melancholy was possibly replaced by panic. In The Dining Hall, it was about [the Israeli conflict with] Lebanon and my daughter being born in the midst of the projects realization. My senses are directed to the personal and local out of choice after ten years of roaming and trying work with the common denominator in mind.Pobocha: At the same time, your work is informed by feminist art practice. Barbed Hula is probably your most overtly feminist-themed piece. Do you think about your work in general as being feminist? How do you conceive of the relationship between your practice and historical feminism?LANDAU: I instinctively think of my art as feminist without running it through feminist history scans and criteria. Feminist art already made a difference for artists of my generation. When I was in my fourth-year exchange at the Cooper Union, I closely followed the show Bad Girls at the New Museum and took it as my starting point in a relatively easy way. I remember Annie Sprinkle and all the artists there gathered at an excellent, hilarious show. But, political-ness, for me, is a mixed position; it is hard for me to dissect the different concepts and fragments of my identity and claim one work to be more feminist than another.Pobocha: So, politics are at once diffuse and ever-present in all the pieces.LANDAU: Where does feminism end and socialism start? sigalit landau, dining hall (detail), 2007Pobocha: Your work has to do with borders, literal and abstract. In Dining Hall, you ask visitors to offer their keys to be copied, and the copies are actually negatives, unable to open anything. In Resident Alien I and II, Barbed Hula, and Barbed Lamps, you use barbed wire, which is closely associated with literal borders, of course in the Israeli landscape, but also everywhere.LANDAU: Yes, the key machine produced small borderlines between the contours of the keys that the visitors handed to me and the duplicate keys that I produced for them: my aim was that the audience members carry with them, in their functional key rings, this dysfunctional mini-borderline and a reminder of a place beyond it, where things dont work and dont open like they shoulda key that is not useful as a key but useful as a small memory and commitment to a home or a dream. A border is mainly and firstly a word that can be used in all directionspainful, essential, disastrous, sane, or hysterical. I [use] borders in my worksnatural borders such as the sea in Dancing for Maya, Barbed Hula, and Phoenician Sand Dance, and structural borders like houses, containers, and hoops in Three Man Hula, Day Done, and Resident Alien I. I expose them, question them, and embroider roots of invisible borders in a piece like The Endless Solution (2005). Borders find themselves in the explosive fundamentals of my works. In my attempts to transcend borders, I find that they are never soft enough, as was the case in the domestic Barbed Salt Lamps. In a way, borders are the skin of places and also a rough skin to most ideas. Borders are our definitions. Borders are too thin. There is nothing to hold because we dont see the other side of the border properly.. . .2008