THE BINDING

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Transitional Spaces

The Binding, a multi-media installation by South African artist Christine Dixie, was acquired in 2010 by the National Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Dr Karen Milbourne, a curator at the museum, interviewed Christine about the process of making the work.

Extract from interview:

CD: The next component of the installation, the embodied shadows, was inspired by seeing Daniel at play with his little army figures, placing these shadows onto an altar/bed. So these dormitory beds, altars, hospital beds for the wounded, all refer to a transitional place, the kind of space where bodies are in transition, where they are being altered in some way. I call these figures embodied shadows because they have a dimensionality to them and they are also the mirror image of the child in the prints, but with one important difference: each figure is amputated at the knee.

Enacting Gender

The Binding, a multi-media installation by South African artist Christine Dixie, was acquired in 2010 by the National Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Dr Karen Milbourne, a curator at the museum, interviewed Christine about the process of making the work.

Extract from interview:

KM: Firstly, what drew you to look at this narrative of sacrifice?

CD: I read a book by David Lee Miller called Dreams of the Burning Child: Sacrificial Sons and the Father’s Witness, in which Miller looks at different texts and images from The Aeneid through to Freud that use the narrative of the sacrificial son. He attempts to explain why this image has had, and continues to have, such uncanny power and fascination. In The Aeneid, there is a description of Trojan boys at six years old leaving their homes for military training. That was at the back of my mind when Daniel, my son, turned six.

I became aware of Daniel in this in-between moment of life as he maneuvered himself around different roles—cowboy, Spiderman, soldier—and then went to sleep at night sucking his thumb. In sleep his body looked so vulnerable, in such stark contrast to the combative role models he mimicked during the day. So that was the beginning point, the idea of my child sleeping and dreaming, in a transitional state.

Embedding Materiality

The Binding, a multi-media installation by South African artist Christine Dixie, was acquired in 2010 by the National Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Dr Karen Milbourne, a curator at the museum, interviewed Christine about the process of making the work.

Extract from interview:

KM: How did these copper plates become prints?

CD: The prints are a combination of etching and collagraph, which was blind embossed. Placing these two techniques alongside each other set up a dialogue between what can be read as ‘real’ and what remains illusion. The etching component was about trying to create the illusion of the real, of a three-dimensional body, through the tonal qualities of aquatint. The collagraphic component is indexical, it has a physical reference back to the real. I used a real blanket or sheepskin, but what is finally embossed into the paper is only the trace of the real. The slippage between the ‘real’ and the illusion of the real helped enhance the dreamlike quality I was trying to achieve.

KM: I love that you have both the real and the trace in each.

The Observed Viewer

The Binding, a multi-media installation by South African artist Christine Dixie, was acquired in 2010 by the National Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Dr Karen Milbourne, a curator at the museum, interviewed Christine about the process of making the work.

Extract from Interview

CD: Burning, references the biblical …. Isaac’s binding but I was more drawn to the psychologically complex interpretation of a dream analysed by Freud in The Interpretation of Dreams. Freud writes of a female patient who recounts a dream about a father who dreams that his dead son awakes. The child wakes up and says, ‘Father, don’t you see that I am burning?’

Burning is the most confrontational of all the images, the only one in which the child looks back. For me that was a very important moment, having the child open his eyes and look back at the viewer. In my mind, I imagined him looking back at his father and questioning his decision. When I first started the series I imagined the viewer as the father figure, but that changed during the process of making the installation and the idea of witnessing became a more central concern. The witness to the moment the boy child symbolically dies. The witness to that moment, male or female—who is also the viewer of the installation—becomes a crucial component, in fact is needed there to complete the work.

Narratives/Intertextuality

The Binding, a multi-media installation by South African artist Christine Dixie, was acquired in 2010 by the National Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Dr Karen Milbourne, a curator at the museum, interviewed Christine about the process of making the work.

Extract from interview:

CD: The prints To Sleep and To Dream frame the narrative and are obviously a reference to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In both of these prints the child is covered by a blanket. The blanket is very much about a maternal, comforting space.  However, if you look closely, inserted within the blanket is an embossed gun. I think that the gun, based on a toy gun of Daniel’s, is about deliberately disrupting the image of the innocent sleeping child, it anticipates the next phase in his life.

Bind refers to the actual binding of the sacrifice in the Abraham and Isaac story. In his book The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son: The Transformation of Child Sacrifice, Jon D. Levenson suggests that binding a person was a standard procedure in human sacrificial rites. The bandages that I used in this print also reference the swaddling cloth that Christ was wrapped in as a baby, as well as Christ’s shroud. So this image incorporates the baby, the sacrificial child, the death of Christ. The act of binding is enacted from birth to death.

Burning, references the biblical …. Isaac’s binding but I was more drawn to the psychologically complex interpretation of a dream analysed by Freud in The Interpretation of Dreams. Freud writes of a female patient who recounts a dream about a father who dreams that his dead son awakes. The child wakes up and says, ‘Father, don’t you see that I am burning?’

End

THE BINDING

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