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Maker: Christine Dixie
born 1966, South Africa
To Sleep
Date: 2009-2010
Medium: Etching on paper
Dimensions: Framed: 217.5 x 145.3 x 7.1 cm (85 5/8 x 57 3/16 x 2 13/16 in.)
Credit Line: Purchased with funds provided by the Annie Laurie Aitken Endowment
Geography: South Africa
Object Number: 2011-6-10
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Object is not currently on exhibit

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. This print is the first in the series and depicts a sleeping boy, his body partially covered by a woven blanket--the warmth and comfort of the mother. A toy gun lies next to him and represents the masculine world. However, as a toy, it is useless as a means of defense. 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, according to Dixie. 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.

This etching, "To Sleep," is the first print in the installation "The Binding," and is a required element for the complete installation. The etching features a young sleeping boy lying on his side on a white background with a white blanket covering him below the shoulders. His proper right arm is visible, lying over the blanket, and a toy gun lies next to him, pointed in his direction. "The Binding" is a 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 Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists, Savannah College of Art and Design Museum of Art, October 16, 2014-January 25, 2015; National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., April 8-November 1, 2015

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.

Dixie, Christine. 2010. The Binding. Exhibition brochure. Johannesburg: Gallery AOP.

Njami, Simon and Susanne Gaensheimer. 2014. Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists. Frankfurt am Main: Museum fur Moderne Kunst; Washington, D.C.: National Museum of Africa Art, Smithsonian Institution; Bielefeld: Kerber Verlag, p. 138.

Roodt, M.C. 2010. "Bound to the sacrificial altar." Exhibition review.

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