Eight photographs capturing the gradual metamorphosis of a black Hasidic garment into a salt-encrusted bridal dress are on view at Marlborough Contemporary, London. This is the latest project of Israeli artist Sigalit Landau.
Landau has been experimenting with the transformative power of Dead Sea crystals in her work since 2009. At her solo presentation in the Israeli Pavilion of the Venice Biennale in 2011, one of her exhibits was a salt-covered fishing net. The artist had submerged the fishing net into the Dead Sea, which is known for its high concentration of salt, and left it there for several months.
Pairs of shoes, a noose and a violin feature among the other objects that Landau has immersed into the Dead Sea. However, her work steers clear of the political sensitivity of the Dead Sea, which is bordered by Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory to the west and Jordan to the east.
For her latest project, Landau suspended a synthetic net and fibreglass replica of a Hasidic dress in the Dead Sea for two months in 2014. It is based on the traditional Hasidic costume worn in the Yiddish play, The Dybbuk, written from 1913-1916 by S. Ansky. In the play, a young bride is exorcised as she is believed to be possessed by an evil spirit.
During the two months that the garment was in the Dead Sea, its transformation into a white wedding dress was captured in underwater photography by Yotam From. Salt crystals adhered to the fabric, organically turning the black frock into a white gown. Hovering in the green water, the dress takes on a dark, haunting presence, veering towards a surreal apparition as the crystals begin to form.
Another group of photographs document the white dress, which Landau has titled Small Salt Bride, being carefully lifted out of the Dead Sea. Fastened onto a wooden plank, it looks like an exquisite white sculpture, a relic from the past bejewelled by the encrustations of salt.