Q&A with Sigalit Landau
From where do you draw your inspiration?
I only feel inspiration from very "real life" events and memories. My subconscious delivers models and patterns, usually via "connections" to words. In certain good moments when the back of my mind is able to open up, there is a stream of free "knowledge," which chases each other. Often, such a falling and flowing of ideas and words will arrive when a mild depression kicks in, after facing everyday hell, violent situations, violent climate conditions, during work, difficulties with people and pressure, and plenty of loneliness, I suppose. For example, the work you are showing, Dancing for Maya . . . It was the same year my mother died, 2004. It was the third year I had been living in Israel after making the decision to change my life and to return to Israel to live and work, with a studio, within and not away from my troubled and problematic materials, and near my small, troubled, and problematic family. Dancing for Maya was made as a part of a large installation, which I titled very early on in the process: The Endless Solution. Maya was the name of my mother.
What do you hope people glean by watching the video installation?
I hope the viewers understand that women can cross borders peacefully. They don’t have to meet repetitiously, agree on everything, share beliefs, share territory, but their commitment to their role in life can overcome their national and political differences, endlessly making time and laboring love.
Given a manual task, drawing almost childish shapes of snakes, of waves, hands between legs, their body is in a primal/plowing sexual movement I invented.
How do you think one defines a border?
A border is mainly and first of all a word that can be used in all directions—painful and essential, beautiful or disastrous, sane or hysterical. I admit to borders in my works. I expose them, question them and embroider roots of invisible borders. Even though I think borders are not good for art and for the senses, they are our "foot mines" and find themselves in my works in the explosive fundaments. . . . In a way, borders are the "skin" of places and also a rough skin to most ideas . . . Borders are too thin. There is nothing to hold because we don’t see the other side of the border properly.
You have described yourself as a “bridge-maker”; how and why do you strive to achieve this goal?
Living today in Israel feels like living on a bridge between past and future, East and West, life and death. History has led this bridge . . . beginning in the past and in the West, and we needed to build this bridge in midair and with few scaffolds, to "make it" to a better future. My bridge’s destiny is East and targets the normality of life . . . understanding society, demography, psychology, I hope to be one of the builders, and that I can succeed in the task more and more as I gain perspective and ability to act.
How did you become interested in video as medium?
I remember very many visits to London to see my maternal grandparents. These annual visits took place throughout my childhood, until my army days. I saw a lot of nature, art, dance, and theater during these visits. . . . Around 16, due to a mysterious injury and then a standard rheumatic fever, I stopped dancing and started sculpting, writing, and making films; my narratives were nomadic, adolescentric, surreal observations of the unique landscape I grew up in. Usually, the worst years of a young Israeli woman’s life occur during her obligatory army service. Despite all inadequacies, my family insisted that I would enroll and not claim I was too fragile . . . In good time, much before entering basic training, I managed to find my way into the Education Unit's filmmaking department, where persistent sexual harassment by the reserve soldiers [professional film directors] and too many sleepless nights resulted in a fierce nervous breakdown. Today, many years after, I am sure that the films, which I edited in the IDF from 1987 to 1989 . . . as impossible, tragic, and perverse as they certainly had to be. . . were meant to help young soldiers in coping with the infants, women, and youth of the first intifada and with everyday, grinding occupation routines. Among other struggles I survived, it was a lesson I won’t forget in East-West history, in the potency and impotency of art, in policy implementation, camera, production, and filmmaking.