Loosely based on the Biblical narrative of the near sacrifice of Isaac by his father Abraham, Christine Dixie's installation "The Binding" centers around the intrinsic role sacrifice plays in shaping the male identity, and its link to the subterranean role of the mother as witness to the father-son relationship. Isaac's story, also known as "the binding" or "aqedah" refers to the ancient practice of binding a human sacrifice before placing it on the altar. In the story, the child symbolically dies and is then reborn through the hand of the father--visible evidence of fatherhood which, unlike motherhood, is biologically invisible.
Dixie photographed her son, six at the time, to serve as the reference for the six prints and sculptural elements that make up the installation. To Dixie, six is an important age--a transitional age where one hovers betwixt the worlds of the mother and the father. The print components combine etching and collagraph and are deliberately created to scale, encouraging a more intimate relationship between the child and the viewer. Here, Dixie's intent is a dreamlike illogicality, where the collagraph forms a blind-embossing from an actual sheepskin or blanket, and the etching forms the main image, cut from a copper plate and thereby creating an embossed edge that is sympathetic to the blind-embossing. The three-dimensional illusion mirrors the real and the unreal world of the young boy.
In the installation, the prints are to be hung along one wall, invoking a hospital, dormitory or army barracks, with a bed--which can also read as an altar or operating table--below each. An altar cloth is hung over each depicting a mirror image, or shadow of the sleeping child. This embodied shadow is composed of mass manufactured toy soldiers that often lost limbs during the artist's process, a metahpor for the real violence of war. This reflexive tableau between the sculptural and the narrative print series combines the contemporary symbolism of the regimented patriarchal world to which a mother sacrifices her son.
Throughout the installation, toy guns, knives and grenades are used to represent the masculine world. However, as toys, they are useless as a means of defense. According to Dixie, boys are inundated with games and toys associated with war from an early age, socializing and numbing them to violence. This causes a disjunction between fantasy and reality, obfuscating the reality of loss, which is beyond a child's comprehension. Further, the artist herself grapples with the silent grief of a mother as she witnesses her son gaining consciousness of an imposed gender division. The horizontal expanse of the gallery is covered in veils that conceal this silent grief. Onto these maternal veils are printed figures of her son, re-enacting the bravado of the toy soldiers, and embroidered with toy guns, knives and grenades.
The installation images associated here depict these veils.
Mixed media installation consisting of multiple parts, including 6 sculptures, 6 altars with veils & lamps, 6 etchings (documented as individual objects 2011-6-5 to 2011-6-10) and 2 digital prints (documented as individual objects 2011-6-12 and 2011-6-13). The etchings and digital prints are discrete works of art, but are required elements for the complete installation of "The Binding."
The Binding, Christine Dixie, Gallery AOP, Johannesburg, South Africa, May 8-29, 2010
Buys, Anthea. 2010. "'The Binding': Christine Dixie at Gallery AOP." Exhibition review. http://www.artthrob.co.za/
Dixie, Christine. 2010. The Binding. Exhibition brochure. Johannesburg: Gallery AOP.
Roodt, M.C. 2010. "Bound to the sacrificial altar." Exhibition review. http://www.artlink.co.za/