You Are All Red, and So Very White
Red wax stalactites drip out of hanging white gauze cloth, creating a poignant, sculptural installation. The work captures the viewer within its walls, leading him into the heart of an unresolved experience. Is it an external news-breaking scene of violence, or is it an opening into a place of inner pain, spreading out like an ancient landscape, wishing to touch the indescribable? In her new work, Esther Naor continues to explore the different manners in which matter can embody evasive contradicting feelings, such as eroticism, fear, beauty and suffering. Through such matter, Naor creates a fantasy space which evokes the duality of the feminine experience whilst seeking to undermine the possibility of a single emotional or conceptual interpretation.
The installation “You Are All Red, and So Very White” is site-specific – it addresses the space in which it is created. The flowing gauze cloth and the dripping red wax, form intertwined vertical and horizontal axes, creating and castrating the installation’s space. The lightness and transparency of the gauze cloth is paradoxical to its conventional medical usage in halting the flow of blood from open wounds as bandaging. Such a contradiction initiates a sensation of ambivalence – softness and gentle movement hides pain and wrought suffering. This sense of ambivalence is manifested and reinforced by the red wax pulling the cloth downwards, as it crystallizes into ethereal forms that remind us of stalactites in nature. Stalactites infinite evolution, as sediment slowly accumulates, is now brought into dialogue with an immediate sense of pain, as evoked by the colour red.
In Naor’s work, the viewer enters a mysterious and implausible, dark landscape. The wax stalactites intertwining with the falling white cloth appear to denote traces of a violent, external act or an experience of bodily pain. The artist wishes to reveal that which is secretive in regard to the woman’s body. Naor seeks to expose the mysterious and implausible landscape of the feminine, out in the open, as matter in space.
Luce Irigaray, one of the prominent voices in the second feminist wave of the 1970’s, based her feminist theory on the corporeal body and on its sexual specificity as consciousness and as an entity, both of which go beyond cultural discourse. According to Irigaray, the distinction between women and men, is substantial and critical. It is a difference which generates another language, another imag
ination, another kind of existence. Irigaray speaks of femininity outside the dominant, reason-oriented, phallocentric logic that generates and sustains Western culture. In her seminal thesis This Sex Which Is Not One, 1977, Irigaray discussed the need for a new language – women should not have to speak the language of men since it will only propagate the same order, the same stories. Women need to find a new language which will be their own, and in which they will not be talked about as a secretive entity. It will be a language in which the woman will be present – a language which will express Her body and Her sexuality. According to Irigaray, it is a language which will be dominated by duality and duplication, inter-subjectivity, associativity and contingency, and primarily by dialogue. Irigaray expresses inter-subjectivity through the concept of white blood (sang blanc), which symbolizes the destructive connection between father and son vis-à-vis red blood (sang rouge), which symbolizes the dialectical connection between mother and daughter: “No need for a wound to remind us that blood exists. It flows within us, from us. Blood is familiar, close. You are all red. And so very white. Both at once. You don’t become red by losing our candid whiteness. You are white because you have remained close to blood […] whereas red’s whiteness takes nothing away. Luminous, without autarchy, it gives back as much as it receives.”
Esther Naor relates to Irigaray’s philosophy and at the same time expresses the manner in which she experiences her body as a woman and as an artist. Her work deals with the duality of control and the loss of it, with the beautiful and the abject, with the logo-centric white and the spreading passionate red, with the pure and the blemished and the inherent tensions between them. The duality presented by the work is both a trap and an introduction to another repressed and ambiguous world, centered on threat and fear, sexuality and eroticism. In Naor’s work, expressiveness meets the limitations of clean aesthetics to create a space in which everything is turned from the inside to the outside. The resultant effect evokes an experience of the suppressed, of the “Other” – an “Other” in a continuous search for her own voice.
Luce Irigaray, ‘When our Lips Speak Together’, Luce Irigaray and Carolyn Burke, Signs, Vol. 6, no. 1, Women: Sex and Sexuality, Part 2 (Autumn, 1980), pp. 69-70