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Holy Air, 1996

The notion of the sublime grew out of general reflections on man’s domestication of his environment. Following my reflections on the nature-culture dialectic, I contracted Air Monitor, a private research and development company, which aims at purifying ambient air thanks to its advanced technologies. Their activities enhanced my awareness of the fact that our technological age represents the first total threat to the simple but vital act of breathing. Due to pollution and artificial indoor climate, we are increasingly exposed to unnatural and distorted electrical fields that exert pressures on our body chemistry translated into acute migraines, respiratory ailments, and general anxiety.  I began to experience the sublime as my imagination and perceptions, painfully receded, overwhelmed by the air vast and powerful possibilities. This led me to meditate on the infinite vs. my own finite nature as I started my journey through the Kantian sublime. In my solo show at the Herzliya Museum, A Voyage into the Sublime (1997) I used Air Monitor‘s machines to purify the air inside the spaces of the exhibition and created a special edition of Holy Air cans sealed with purified air.

Later Holy Air was incorporated together with Holy Land for Sale and Holy Water in Provision #1 which was exhibited at the Jewish Museum in New York in the show, ‘After Rabin, New Art from Israel.’

Holy Air

The pure, clear, mountain air touches infinity. Paradoxically, though, this invisible air is a most banal and quotidian element, inhaled into every living body and exhaled into the physical world. Littman-Cohen’s exhibition includes sealed cans that seem empty, but are full of technologically purified air. The artist thus evokes philosophical and ecological dilemmas, pertaining to the delicate balance between the purification and the abuse by man and his technological inventions.
Related issues were raised by the artist in her previous installations, which transformed the entire exhibition space and the “real” objects within it into a charged, magical and metaphorical domain, expressing personal, collective and philosophical concerns. For example, in the exhibition, Nature Morte (Bograshov Gallery, Tel Aviv, 1992) the artist constructed a pink greenhouse. The installation raised poignant questions related to the complex relationship between nature and culture; to the Zionist ideal of making the desert bloom; to forestation – a ritual act of Jewish rerooting in the Holy Land; and specifically to the artist’s family’s own internalization and implementation of this ethos.
The show titled Virgin of Israel and Her Daughters (the Artist’s House, Jerusalem, 1995) presented a poetic and potent installation composed of rows of artificially-lit beehives. This work merged biblical connotations, evoking “the land of milk and honey,” with the symbolic significance derived from the observation of the matriarchal society of bees, a society that embraces the cycles of life and death within its womb-tomb structure.
In the Herzeliya  Museum shows, artificially-produced pure air embraces the exhibition space and penetrates into the bodies of the viewers. Pure air is also stored in cans, ironically comodified and labelled by the artist as Holy Air, alluding to the.Holy Land. Simultaneously – the purified air also reminds us of the Swiss mountains, the domain of Littman-Cohen’s childhood memories and desires.

Extract from Prof. Gannit Ankori: Where nought and all are one

Ariane Littman