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Sigalit Landau

Around an ideal roundtable, each participant is on equal footing to negotiate and join a dialogue. No head of the table exists, as the seats are positioned symmetrically, following the symbolic shape of the world. United together but with conflicting interests, each member speaks, as well as listens. The Israeli-British artist Sigalit Landau’s video installation Laces gives us a seat around a roundtable, where bridge-building is debated. Might there be hope around the table, or is it all a utopia?


Diplomacy is the art and science of maintaining peaceful and prosperous relationships between nations, groups, or individuals, and has likely existed as long as humans have had the need to interact with each other. Diplomacy shines in its ability to find common ground among rival interests. It cultivates compromises where interests align, and diverging differences become harmonized.


In Landau’s video installation, negotiation skills become urgent when tailored shoes begin to tap nervously against the floor. Shirts stick to the sweaty skin, blood pressure surges, and heated arguments begin to boil in the gut. Here, diplomacy could be described as the art of keeping the conversation going before someone storms out of the room. Will the communication dissolve and the diplomatic lines crash? While some around the roundtable might fall into the lures of fallacies, personal attacks, or out-of-line aggressions, others hold their tongue in the fear of being ostracized, censoring themselves before being muzzled by someone else. How to build bridges when the land is infested with traps?


Although more urgent than ever, engaging in a dialogue might never have been as difficult as it is today. The current climate for dialogue can be characterized by the attention economy, where reactions and empty storms weigh more than constructive content, even if human life is part of the equation. Dialogue might also transform into an attractive buzzword or a cosy façade feeding more to propaganda than actual progressive and authentic discourse.


While the air thickens in the room, a child carefully ties the participants’ shoelaces under the negotiation table. One after another, connections are established, and the diplomatic lines might be restored. But as long as the desired goal lies in winning arguments and proving points, no agreement can be reached – in a negotiation, conflicts of interests must be balanced and restored in order to move forward. Mouths have grown where there used to be ears, and the cacophony of personal statements rush towards no one in particular. With determined tucks and pulls, like persistent whispers, the shoelaces are getting tighter. Perhaps they are brought permanently together, as seen in Landau’s sculpture cast in bronze, Oh My Friends, There Are No Friends (2011).


Endless orbs on a Dead Sea salt island are projected on the wall at Kunsthall 3,14. Landau’s new film There for Good (2023) might remind of the circular rings of arguments swimming around the roundtables and comment sections flooding the society. Where the thought begins, it also ends, however attractive it might first seem. How to build a bridge that could save us from the sickening loops? The binary logic of this or that, us and them and either or must be broken by a third agent – civilians, the blackened ground under one’s feet, others waiting to be heard.


Art might hold the power to disturb the compulsive circles, too. In addition to commenting and criticizing, art can create a nonlinear logic to exchange thoughts and actions, challenging what we might take for granted. Its critical potential and openness enable the construction of complex understandings of phenomena, deconstructing the narrow gaze overwhelmed by the attention magnets of social media. When words reach their limit, artistic visions might continue the dialogue, moving beyond language and the loops of cemented thoughts. Challenging the deadlocks of dialogue, art might ask us to sit down together around a table.


Born in Jerusalem in 1969, Sigalit Landau is an interdisciplinary artist who works with installation, video, photography and sculpture. Landau graduated from the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem in 1994. After several years in Europe and in the United States, she returned to Tel Aviv where she currently lives and works. Throughout her career, Landau has received significant awards, and her work has been exhibited globally in museums and leading venues, including: MoMA, NY; The Brooklyn Museum of Art; MAGASIN III, Stockholm; Yokohama Triennale, Japan; KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; The Israeli Pavilion, The Venice Art Biennale (1997, 2011); Documenta X, Kassel; MACBA (Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona), and many more. Landau’s works are included in major collections: The Brooklyn Museum, MACBA, MoMA, Centre Georges Pompidou, The Israel Museum, The Tel Aviv Museum of Art and MoCK (The Museum of Contemporary art Krakow).

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