September 8, 2011
Sigalit Landau represents Israel at the 54th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia in Venice, Italy. Landau conceived a site-specific installation, the main themes being water, soil, and salt. The installation is titled One Man’s Floor is Another Man’s Feelings, a variation on the familiar saying “one man’s floor is another man’s ceiling”. Hit the jump for more info and the press release.
Sigalit Landau: One Man’s Floor is Another Man’s Feelings. Pavilion of Israel, 54th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. Venice / Italy, June 4, 2011.
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Excerpt from the press release:
The spiral staircase leads the visitor directly to the upper floor. Unlike the bottom floor, this one is nearly empty. The relatively large space is entirely dedicated to a video film that is screened on a diagonal wall. In the film, cinematic in size and quality, a pair of shoes is shown in close up, covered with salt crystals, lying on a layer of ice. The shoes, which Landau previously dipped in salt water, underwent a process of natural crystallization until they were covered with a thick layer of salt. Next, the shoes were flown to a frozen lake in Gdansk (Danzig), Poland – an area that in the not too distant past was the focus of a feud for possession between Germany and Poland – and placed on ice and, in a slow process, the shoes melted the ice until they fell into the hole they created. The sinking of the shoes is connected with a sense of melancholy, loss of control and even physical collapse, a condition in which “the ground plummets underfoot”. The size of the screen is significant since it embraces the viewer and sharpens and heightens the experience of being part of the installation.
Middle floor and courtyard
The middle floor was deliberately selected as the site for the exhibition’s central installation; the middle is both the average and the place where opposites can meet. This is also the floor that connects the two other floors into one entity, which here receives its full significance and meaning. Erected on this floor is an installation consisting of a round conference table with a wide-open gap in the middle and chairs around it. Scattered on the table are laptops and shown on their screens are scenes from a movie depicting a little girl hiding under the same table and tying together the shoelaces of the people engaged in debate; perhaps a prank, perhaps an innocent act intended to force the debaters to remain seated until they find a solution to the issue they are discussing. But it turns out that despite this, the debaters desert the conference table and flee barefoot, leaving their shoes behind them. From the loudspeakers concealed in the walls, the voices of the absent debaters are heard, speaking in Hebrew and Arabic, or in English with typical accents. The topic of the debate is the construction of a salt bridge that will connect the Israeli side of the Dead Sea to the Jordanian side. The discussion centers
4on practical and technical aspects of the concept of the bridge. Several white flags are propped against one of the walls, objects that Landau dipped in the Dead Sea until they were covered with salt crystals. An echo of the tied circle of shoes is also found in the courtyard, where a circle of bronze shoes, tied to one another, is located.
(…) shoes are the motif with the greatest presence in the exhibition and their location in the conference room increases their presence tenfold – twelve pairs of shoes (the number of the tribes of Israel). The circle of shoes tied to one another emphasizes the circle in which the debaters are trapped, unable to untie or open the knots. The shoes are also a metaphor for a state of wandering and being a refugee, subjects frequently addressed by Landau. Abandoned or grouped shoes are linked to the Holocaust in Israeli consciousness, as well as in Landau’s consciousness, and she explicitly referred to this subject in The Endless Solution exhibition. There, we also saw the presence of many boxes of shoes numbered 39-45, the years of World War II, as well as pairs of clogs scattered around the space. The most notable work dealing with shoes in the context of the Holocaust was created by Joshua Neustein, Georgette Bélier and Gérard Marks, and exhibited at the Jerusalem Artists House in 1969. This work made a very direct statement; thousands of pairs of shoes were placed in piles throughout the spaces of the House in a manner reminiscent of the piles of shoes found in the extermination camps, and even the manner in which such piles are displayed in various Holocaust history museums. Additionally, a row of bronze shoes (by Giola Pauer) was installed on the banks of the Danube River in Budapest (shoes of all types – men, women and children) in memory of Jews shot and thrown into the river by Nazi collaborators after being ordered to remove their shoes. In other contexts, the most famous shoe paintings are Van Gogh’s; some of these are reminiscent of the pair of shoes that Landau chose for her video work on the upper floor. Other well-known shoes are Andy Warhol’s, who repeatedly referred to shoes in the context of mass culture, and even as a type of self-portrait, in a manner similar to Van Gogh. One piece that Warhol entitled My Shoe Is Your Shoe even recalls the title of the current exhibition.
Without being overtly political, the exhibition (also) deals with the political in life and in art and, inherent in it, is criticism of nationalism and national ego, which always undermine rationalism and the positive potential inherent in cooperation and a just distribution of resources and wealth. Landau’s perspective is dialectic; from below, through the eyes of the little girl hiding under the table, as well as from above, over the heads of the men playing the Countries game. The exhibition attempts to bridge the gap between the childlike, innocent, ideal perception, and the world of adults, the estranged, calculated work of policymakers (political, social and economic), in a search for synthesis and unity of opposites.
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