Resident Alien 1, 1996-98. Mixed media, 250 x 250 x 600 cm.

Sigalit Landau: Surviving in a Hostile Environment

“My art is not meant to be provocative. It is simply a quest for some truth, justice, and order in a chaotic world,” says Sigalit Landau, an Israeli artist whose socially themed installations, performances, and video works have attracted international interest.1 In 1994, when installation art was still regarded with suspicion in Landau’s home country, her debut appearance in a group show in Tel Aviv did indeed seem provocative, but it was also unique. With exhibitors showing their work in unoccupied shops in the city’s newly opened bus station, Landau set up in a space that had served as living quarters for the homeless and illegal foreign workers, which she found and entered through a hole in a wall. This work, the first in a succession related to the outcasts of society, led to Resident Alien 1 and 2, installations in the summer of 1997 at the Venice Biennale and Documenta X in Kassel.

For Alien 1, Landau hammered the floor of a standard sea cargo container into a landscape resembling the contours of the Judean desert. Visitors were invited to enter through the open door and clamber over the surface to reach the far end of the metal box, where two objects were sited: a primitive toilet and a radio tuned to an Arabic station. She created a similar rocky terrain inside Alien 2, but there, one’s path led to a bundle of old clothes and a piece of paper on which was written the true story of two women who journeyed from Thailand in a cargo container to seek a new life in Europe. At their destination, both were discovered frozen dead.