If you were in New York earlier this year, you might have caught Israeli artist Sigalit Landau's exhibition at MoMA. If you did, the first room of Landau's exhibit here in Paris at Kamel Mennour will look very familiar. On one wall is her alluringly beautiful video performance DeadSee, where the artist floats nude in the Dead Sea coiled between 500 watermelons all linked with a cable, and slowly unraveling as they are pulled to shore. Accompanying the video are dozens of Landau's salt chandeliers, crafted from wire, barbed wire no less, then dipped into the Dead Sea long enough for thick salt crystals to form.
Downstairs Landau has created an immersive installation, as the audience treads through salt, piled like sand on the gallery floor. A table in the middle presents the red flesh of some exotic-looking fruit, lightly covered with salt, its pulpy innards suspiciously resembling real flesh, bright and juicy. As you continue on, the room leads to a tiny entrance where another video plays, a provocative work with a sound track of eerie Middle Eastern sounding music and masses of spun sugar, saturated with a sickening sweetness, slowly, ritualistically, almost pornographically disgorged from a mouth at the end of the video.
These works show how completely immersed she is in these simple materials, to the saturation point, where crystals form. The works, inspired by the Dead Sea and its unique properties--from the unusual buoyancy, to the watermelons grown there, made sweeter by the salt water--are in many ways intrinsically connected to Israel, what the artist describes as "a crystallized chunk of stories more than a place."* The use of barbed wire in her pieces as well as the red flesh of fruit is symbolic perhaps of centuries-old, as well as fresh, wounds.
*Centrifugal Force: Unraveling the art of Sigalit Landau, interview by Leslie Camhi, http://www.nextbook.org
(*Images, from top to bottom: Sigalit Landau, Salt Sails + Sugar Knots, October 25 - November 22, 2008; Kamel Mennour, Barbed Salt Lamps, 2007, barbed wire dipped in Dead Sea water dimensions variable, Installation view, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, photo by Uwe Walter. Sigalit Landau, Salt Sails + Sugar Knots, October 25 - November 22, 2008; Kamel Mennour, DeadSee, 2005, video performance, 11:37 min, courtesy of the Artist. Sigalit Landau, Salt Sails + Sugar Knots, October 25 - November 22, 2008; Kamel Mennour, Barbed Salt Lamps, installation view, photo by Natalie Hegert.)
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