Originally published in Siglit Landau, Gabriele Horn, Ruth Ronen (Hrsg. / Eds.), HATJE CANTZ, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Kunste-Werke, Berlin, e. V., 2008
alLuPiNiT, Vol. V
Hunter Reynolds / Survival AIDS 2011
alLuPiNiT, Vol. V
Hunter Reynolds / Survival AIDS 2011
The occasion to return to Siglit Landau's 2001 untitled installation for New York's Thread Waxing Space coincides with the origin of our meeting, which for me began exactly one decade ago. Visiting Berlin en route to Kassel and Venice, it was Landau's 1997 solo exhibition at Berlin's Contemporary Fine Arts that served as guide to the outskirts of the monolithic exhibitions taking place in these cities, seeking further ruptures instigated by Landau. Although it h would take subsequent years of correspondence to arrive at the realization of our project, Landau's resolution aptly said bittersweet farewell to a decade-old alternative space, and to certain dreams that would also soon collapse.
What I experienced in Berlin in 1997 was a constellation of sculptures in which spaces of safeness-home, nest, tent, bed-turned rancid, damaged by accumulation, by excesses, for example of heat (charring, burning), dampness (mold, Fluids), or rubbing (gnawed holes or scratching). These early works posited monstrous heaps, charred tents, scratched doors, and other unsettling items amid typically austere architectural surroundings, corrupting their boundaries with her bold entries at the Venice Biennale and documenta X that endeavored to place topographically transformed cargo containers on exhibition grounds, Landau further established her status as disturbance. Resident Alien I was situated on the wrong side of the tracks, an obscure participant in the public sphere of the documenta exhibition. Excluded from the Biennale Garden, her Resident Alien II also resided on the periphery, an excursion from the ordered path of geographically delineated pavilions. Landau's detachedteritory was also a container, "its social content imprinted into the formal structure, emerging from the violent confrontation of ready-made sculpture." "A Bataille-like encounter with the real" was evoked by the excessive labor of the artist within the too-close limits of the hermetic container. 2
Written prior to the realization of Landau's project, "Rotten Sun," a text produced for her 2001 Thread Waxing Space exhibition, perhaps can now be seen as a prequel. 3 Drawing from Bataille and Julia Kristeva and their prescient thoughts on abjection and melancholy seemed adequate, in an immediate sense, to delineate the theoretical and aesthetic boundaries Landau sought to address. But with time and evolving context, it is disquieting to look closely, again, at the decomposition of latent meanings that Landau inscribed into this unprecedented work. What was perhaps veiled by sentimentality (regarding the intense collaboration whose realization would be a culminating project) and spectacle (of total reconfiguration and relative obliteration of a previously experienced space) was, in fact, just the place where we were heading.
An activated scale arena of pouring sugar make a crater of cotton candy. Soft floss melts into a rigid structure, still upside down. The mirror image position in which the structure evolves is the prologue for the eventual outdoor decline, flipped over into an urban puddle that mirrors itself, the city, with the first rain. 4
Initial readings of Landau's prior work described a conceptual engagement with specific issues of conflict, territory, occupation-insinuating maps. However, what becomes apparent, over time, is the emergence of expanded processes of deterritorialization and reterritorialization, or Landau's invocation of "a map and not a tracing," as described by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guttari as a continuum of dissipation and maintenance, action and restraint. "what distinguishes the map from the tracing is that it is entirely oriented toward an experimentation in contact with the real…. It fosters connections between fields, the removal of blockages on bodies without organs, the maximum opening of bodies without organs onto a plane of consistency." 5 Borrowing a phrase from Antonin Artaud's radio play, to have Done with the Judgment of God, Deleuze and Guattari at times describe "the body without organs" as an unconstrained limit, whereby systems of regulation and control become indistinct, unrestricted, and a plane of consistency could suggest complete freedom, or sheer loss.
Now, from the midst of what Slajov Zizek would describe as a condition of endless war or prolonged state of emergency, to reflect on Landau's smudging of boundaries, her figuration of futile labor, un-nourishing food, and meaningless shelter, looks like the end result of many decades of surfeit, taking the shape of escalating violence and spiraling de-evolution due to habitual war, rapid climate change, and the increasingly de-contextualized events that occurred shortly after the sticky sweet summer of 2001. In retrospect, Bataille's rotten sun takes on other meaning, as chronic processes of expenditure, retrogression (bothered with an incessant energy that "sees the light of night" 6), rather than being cyclical, seem stuck in a holding pattern, in which "the summit of elevation is in practice confused with a sudden fall of unheard-of-violence." 7 Seeking to break this inert cycle, Landau stages intimate ordeals, ruminations in reverse, centripetal archaeologies, spaces in which hostile vomiting can also be a sign of love. (I love you so much I think I [h]ate you. 8)
The planetary systems that turn in space like rapid disks, and whose centers also move, describing an infinitely larger circle, only move away continuously from their own position in order to return to it, completing their rotation. Movement is the figure of love, incapable of stopping at a particular being, and rapidly passing from one to another. But the forgetting that determines it in this way is only a subterfuge of memory. 9
Preparations for Landau's installation at Thread Waxing Space were perhaps not unusual. Drawings and diagrams flowed from the fax machine, outlining plans. Research was directed, and excursions in search of materials, specifically air cargo containers, were exacted according to long distance instruction. That all preliminary planning would be abandoned upon Landau's arrival in New York, yielding an altogether different outcome, was yet unknown. Looking through the files, drawings of alien fruit, mutating vines, and congested containers bear a striking resemblance to the project that would inevitably follow; and unbeknownst to Landau, the material that would ultimately comprise this work was piling up in her studio in Tel Aviv during her absence. The Country, an installation at Alon Segev Gallery in 2002, would be populated by works made of paper and pulp from two years of the daily newspaper Haaretz, beginning with the outbreak of El-Aqsa Intifada in late September 2000, through early September 2002 when the exhibition opened.
Research for Thread Waxing Space involved a proliferation of cyclical diagrams, evolution ay miscellaneous speeds, and inscrutable wordplay, which preceded Landau's uncharted venture toward large-scale aggregation and imminent breakdown. She invoked the notion of centrifuge: any of various rotating machines that separate liquids from solids; any of various rotating devices for subjecting human beings or animal to varying acceleration. Occupying a second floor loft space above Broadway in SoHo, she described the proposed work as a spectacle of animal-like labor occurring in a space transformed into a runway that spirals into a large hemispheric negative - an immoderate cycle of production and consumption inaugurated by degraded processes of eating, expulsion. Remedial cannibalism, inordinate futile labor, the valuing of dead (unusable) matter, and a large-scale binge of sugar would announce that someone is hungry, but isn't being fed.
With the Thread Waxing Space installation, as with other works that would follow, Landau visualized the soon-to-disappear "jettisoned object" 10 as a corpse of her own production. In forms ranging from images in the video work Arab Snow to performances taking place inside the vast volume of sugar, Landau' mummification proved that too much sweetness produces well-spun remains. Surplus clogged the workers' shower and encrusted the artist's living quarters with unwholesome residue. A spectral video projection, slowed down, revealed images of sugar dispersed in all directions, a hanging body spun in floss, spider-like fibers being removed in reverse: vomited and licked. And perhaps what was not known, and what is retained most vividly as physical memory, is conjectured by the smell of burning sugar.
The ascendance of sight … is paralleled by the disqualification of smel. We find one repercussion of its primacy elaborated y the philosophy of Emmmanuel Kan: The beautiful does not smel …. Nenetheless, the primacy of the visible still requires the kitchen as its backdrop. That which smells muddles vision. But when withdrawn from vision, assingned to the register of the hidden, relegated to the junk room, far from simply disappearing, odor remains affirmatively inscribed in an economy of the visible. 11
Landau's visibility re-oriented spaces, along with their evocation of persistent odors, suggest mappings of territory's edges, "roofless situations," multiple entryways, belonging ad expulsion, and the flexible membranes that delineate such thresholds. Their actualization is deliberately misregistered: branching, spiraling, reversed, turned upside down. Her 2004 exhibition The Endless Solution (at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art) while addressing "abundance as the antithesis of Modernist and Minimalist idioms," 12 as well, caused visitors to enter through a cast cement structure modeled on the sewer pipes that filter into the Dead Sea. Entering the museum-as-sewer, one is consumed by procedures such as entries and exits, trash and waste removal systems, and then into a place replete with the refuse produced by a hostile atmosphere, in this case, objects crystallized by submersion in the Dead Sea.
Characteristic of her continued work, Landau stages such archaeological sites - halted in time for the examination of material remains. What she refers to as "speed archaeology" in terms of her own production was manifested at Thread Waxing Space in the form of the relics of petrifaction by sugar: and more recently, in The Endless Solution, with remains caused by petrifaction by salt. With The Dining Hall, unappeasable cravings are met with watermelon flesh served on a tablecloth of salt. Viewing Landau's work as a cyclic pattern, east to west, sweet to salty, instead of halting or repeating, discloses discontinuous points external to such binaries, indicating a necessary multiplicity, described in terms ofart as "a book all the more total for being fragmented" by Deleuze and Guattari: "The world has lost its pivot; the subject can no longer even dichotomize, but accedes to a higher unity. The world has become chaos, but the book remains the image of the world." 13
1. The title comes from the final inter-title in The Deadman, directed by Peggy Awesh and Keith Sanborn (1990), 40 min., 16 mm.
2. Sarah Breitberg-Semel, Friction, exh. cat. Israeli Pavilion, Venice Biennale (Venice, 1997).
3. "If … one obstinately focuses on it, a certain madness is implied, and the notion changes meaning because it is no longer production that appears in light, but refuse or combustion, adequately expressed by the horror emanating from a brilliant arc lamp…. In the same way that the preceding sun (the one not looked at) is perfectly beautiful, the one that is scrutinized can be considered horribly ugly." George Bataille, "Rotten Sun," in Visions of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927-1939, trans. Alan Stoeckl (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985) pp. 57-58.
4. This quotation is from Siglit Landau's project descriptions in "Rotten Sun," in ex. cat. Thread Waxing Space, (New York, 2001).
5. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guttari, "Introduction: Rhizome," in A Thousand Plateaus, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), p.12.
6. Alan Stoeckl, "Introduction," in Visions of Excess (see note 3) p. xiii.
7. Georges Bataille, :Rotten Sun," in Visions of Excess (see note 3), p. 58.
8. See note 4.
9. Georges Batalle, "The Solar Anus," in Visions of Exces (see note 3), pp. 6-7.
10. "The abject has only one quality of the object - that of being opposed to I. If the object, howver, through its opposition, settles me within the fragile texture of desire for meaning, which, as a matter of fact, makes me ceaselessly and infinitely homologous to it, what is abject, on the contrary, the jettisoned object, is radically excluded ans draws me toward the place where meaning collapses." Julia Kristeva, " Approaching Abjection," in Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, trans. Leon S. Roudiez (New York: Columbia Univerity Press, 1982), pp 1-2.
11. Dominique Laporte, "the colonial thing," in History of Shit, trans. Nadia Benabid and Rodolphe el-Khoury (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2000), p. 38.
12. Mordechi Omer, "The Endless Solution," in exh. Cat. Siglit Landau: The Endless Solution, Tel Aviv Museum of Art (Tel Aviv, 2005) p. 40.
13. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guttari, "Introduction: Rhizome," in A Thousand Plateaus (see note 5) p. 6.