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The U-V Sterilizers, 1994

I had first seen this small object with a blue light at my hairdresser. We were told that because of AIDS it was necessary now to disinfect scissors and blades. A new reality had entered everyday life, I decided to use the sterilizer and create an interior with personal pictures and objects in a sort of symbolic memento mori, even though I knew it was vain to keep memory from being erased. Especially as colours were slowly fading away under the U-V light .

There is something surrealist about this work and about the way I rectified the objects I put in ‘Interior.’

Two years later for the show ‘A Voyage into the Sublime,’ I created three new sterilisers which all relate to my brother Daniel who had died 10 years earlier.

Tami Katz Freiman:

“….Another work that dealt with the notion of the abject and the concepts of dirt and contamination, although from a different point of view, was Ariane Littman-Cohen’s Sterilizer (Interior, 1994). A sterilizer is usually designed for cleansing and sterilizing, neutralizing the virus that threatens to contaminate the body. An assortment of personal items was inserted into the sterilizer: a photograph of the artist as an infant, curled in her mother’s arms; cosmetic products for preventing premature wrinkles; a reproduction of Manet; a photograph of a street in Prague; some sweets, condoms and dried flowers. These articles resembled laboratory samples from outer space, exposed to ultraviolet lighting, to a sterilizing and purifying mechanism, that neutralized them of the ‘real’, of childhood memories and remnants of life which clung to them.

Interior reminded me of the bubble metaphor formulated by French philosopher Jean Baudrillard when he compared our lives to the life of that sick boy, who grew up in a sterile, medical environment, a vacuum barring any possibility of germ penetration that protected his vulnerable body. His mother caressed him with rubber-gloved hands through a sterile sleeve built into a glass tent. He grew up in an ex-territorial atmosphere, under the constant supervision of science, threatened by his mother’s kiss. According to Baudrillard, we are all bubble children; we are all afraid of touch. Our brains and bodies have already become analogous to this sanitized sphere, a transparent envelope within which we seek refuge in vain. “The extermination of mankind begins,” he said, “with the extermination of germs.” For “man, with his humors, his passions, his laugh, and his genitalia, is nothing more than a filthy little germ disturbing the universe of transparency.”

Extract from: Bad Girls – The Israeli Version 
Contemporary Women Artists in Israel, published in Jewish Feminism in Israel: Some Contemporary Perspectives (edited by Kaplana Misra and Malanie Rich), University Press of New England, 2003

Barry Schwabsky:

“… Ariane Littman-Cohen’s Interior, 1994, a sterilizer (normally used in beauty salons to disinfect scissors and other implements) containing objects redolent of personal identity-objects that are gradually being drained of color, rendered ghostly by the ultra-violet light and heat that is sterilizing them. The melancholy of this work brought out the grave undertone in an exhibition that valued playfulness, a light touch…”

in  Metasex 94Art Forum International, June-July1995

Prof. Gannit Ankori:

 ‘…The act of purification is linked to death in the three sterilizers that the artist exhibits. The sterilizer preserves and purifies with ultraviolet light. The rays render everything within the sealed-off space pure yet sterile, hence lifeless. 

Sterilizer 1: The Blink of an Eye

Like snow white’s glass coffin, the transparent vessel contains as image of Daniel. Daniel looks through the lens of his camera. The gazing eye is seen through the lens. The viewer views another viewer. For a split second, the duration of the blink of an eye, subject and object merge.

Sterilizer 2: The Gaze

Within this pure lifeless space, images seen by Daniel are preserved. The viewer peers through the peepholes: images that Daniel saw and photographed as part of his quest for the sublime are seen. We see the sublime through Daniel’s eyes.

Sterilizer 3: Still Life

The space within the sterilizer is transfigured into a quiet, ascetic and spiritual realm. Upon a black carpet of active carbon particles, fossils are placed: silent traces of petrified lives.

Extracts from ‘Where nought and all are one (Extracts) Published in A Voyage into the Sublime, Herzliya Museum of Art, Spring 1997

Ariane Littman