From a Drop of Milk to Drops of Blood
In preparation for the multimedia performance Drop of Milk held at the last Acre Festival, Hila Lulu Lin wrote: “For the first time in my work I hope to tangibly create a tension between materials taken from the physical, public, Israeli reality, and a personal, corporeal, and intimate space.” In this statement Lin has embodied the lines she has crossed, not only in the conversion of the visual language of the plastic arts into a theatrical, staged language, but in expanding her field of vision from the zone of the corporeal, private, enigmatic, and intimate to the expanses of the scorched and conflicted reality that is the external Middle East.
The first time Lin crossed the lines from the private to the public in such an extreme and severe manner was in the triptych In Cold Blood: Song in Three Parts, created specifically for the “Desert Cliche” exhibition shown in the United States. The work was created in 1995, after the assassination of Rabin, and the subsequent rise to power of Benjamin Netanyahu. The skies of the Middle East, like the eyes of the artist, were slabs of exposed and bleeding meat. In Drop of Milk, the weave of hallucinatory events that Lin has created causes just as difficult apocalyptic feelings. It was a spectacular sight that mixed club music, acrobatics, personal erotic texts, Sisyphist choreography, the aesthetics of scout camps, fire ceremonies and Zionist songs of the land saturated with sacrifice and pathos.
Hila Lulu Lin continues to create these fantastic impossible hybridizations in her current exhibition. It seems that the sentence “the personal is political” / “the political is personal” was made especially for her, perhaps now more than ever. On the one hand, there are images with clear affinities to the body, such as the burning heart, the stretched skin, the bleached pupils, or the bleeding fingers. That is to say, the body is still the principle site of her work, a body that is formulated within the discourse of sexuality and erotica, a body that is seemingly experienced from the inside and testifies to the horror of internal complications, to the painful and frightening experience of exposed sexuality, whose nerves have been torn. But on the other hand, the soundtrack of Hebrew songs, familiar to the point of loathing, penetrates the gallery with the Israeli political experience in a surprising and emotional way.
The soundtrack has a central role in this exhibition. It establishes the atmosphere and strengthens the action on the screen. It is the adhesive, the manipulation, the anchor that allows an additional twist of meaning. In the video work Hebrew Blood Saturated to Satiation Lin’s eyes turn white until they are blind, while the words of the chorus echoing in the background suddenly gain an new, hair-raising meaning that emphasizes the stupidity inherent in the infinite blood letting. Yossi Banai’s wonderful and sensuous song My Beauty, played against the background of the artist’s bleeding fingers, gives the words “We knew fire, we knew pain” a difficult and painful symbolic meaning. The licking of the blood makes the pain real, full, and without cynicism. The feeling that there is no longer any division between the private body and the public space also guides the video work My Man where we see a body part stretched and fade into a section of asphalt while in the background can be heard Yoram Gaon’s well-known song, “I see you far away / Like a princess held prisoner in towers.” Here the dividing fence that stretches between the personal and the public, between the beloved and the homeland totally collapses.
Magical hybridizations also existing as objects are spread around the dark space, they light themselves from within. Here Hila Lulu Lin returns to the original sculptural language that she developed at the start of her career and that was already exhibited ten years ago at her first solo exhibition at the Bograshov Gallery. It is a language of fantastical grafts of surrealist, alienated, sterile, fictional, and threatening presence. A wall made of hollowed loaves of bread, a dividing wall made of pink cloth cushions, a cradle padded with egg shells dipped in vibrant red, a miniscule bedroom made of sugar cubes, a lampshade shaped like a skull, sabra [prickly pear cactus] leaves dipped in nail varnish, shells with fingernails, a cage with a house’s remains, balls of red wool and a mound of coarse salt – these are but a few of the objects that characterize the enigmatic and morbid Lulu-Lin aesthetic. The combination of these objects with the video works creates here an atmosphere of extreme physical and corporeal sensations, of beauty, dread and panic.
In my eyes, the key image in this exhibition is the fire writing of the burning heart that appears on the large video screen. The name of the work, Call Me, You Bastard, ridicules the romantic pathos of the burning heart. Against the background of the other works it is no longer possible to know if the heart burns from desire or end it all because it can’t keep going here any more. The lack of satisfaction from the body, from the situation of being within the body, is trapped here with the dissatisfaction of the situation, with existence in this part of the world.
“Crying in Eight Minutes” is an exhibition with a precise combination of emotion and alienation. At first glance it seems to be romantic, but actually it talks of the collapse of romantic images along with the collapse of the calming separation between the interior and the exterior. It reflects a state of great vulnerability, of exposed nerves, of emotional turmoil bursting forth and of the horror of the outside penetrating inwards to the point of yearning, until it is impossible to contain the pain any longer.
© Tami Katz-Freiman, November 2002