The Dead Sea is notably one of the saltiest bodies of water on the planet. With the high saline content, no fish, animals or plants can exist in the environment. But what does this salinity do to something non-living?
Israeli artist Sigalit Landau, inspired by the Dead Sea, decided to try it out to create a piece of art. What would happen to a wedding dress submerged in the salt water over time?
It’s transformative in a way that many probably wouldn’t guess.
Her project, called Salt Bride, involved a dress with special meaning to Landau. Not a family heirloom, but rather a recreation of a gown worn by a local actress from the 1920s. Her Salt Bride art was inspired by a 1916 play called The Dybbuk, a story of a young Hasidic woman engaged to be married, who is possessed by her dead lover’s spirit.
A bit eerie, right? It’s a chilling inspiration for her salty project.
Landau worked in cooperation with the Habima National Theatre in Tel Aviv to create a replica of the costume worn by an actress in a 1920s production of The Dybbuk, then submerged it in the Dead Sea. She checked on it every few months to see what transpired from the salt. Interestingly, the gown, which started out black, began to transform as the salt built up over time.
She explained in a statement: “Over the years, I learned more and more about this low and strange place. Still the magic is there waiting for us: new experiments, ideas and understandings. It is like meeting with a different time system, a different logic, another planet.”
Two years later, the dress saw a dramatic change from the salty soak – no longer black, the gown was pulled from the water, very heavy with salt crystals that had gradually adhered to the fabric, and completely transformed from when it started.
Landau explained the almost magical results, noting: “It looks like snow, like sugar, like death’s embrace; solid tears, like a white surrender to fire and water combined.”
Gorgeous. The Salt Bride project was photographed underwater by photographer Yotam From and the photo exhibition of the dress transformation was on display at London’s Marlborough Contemporary last year.
Landau explained the challenges of the project, telling Artsy.net: “It was very hard to sink [the dress] and dive in the Dead Sea, where everything floats.” She added, “The water is saturated with many materials apart from salt, and visibility is not easy to achieve. Yotam needed special equipment and weights of 70kg on his body in order to go down.”
The museum notes that “Over time, the sea’s alchemy transforms the plain garment from a symbol associated with death and madness into the wedding dress it was always intended to be.”
The Marlborough Contemporary further explains: “Landau’s practice is deeply connected with the Dead Sea. The artist shot some of her most iconic videos in its water, and has been experimenting with the salt crystallization of objects for years. The Dead Sea – the lifeless, lowest place on earth, in which the dress was immersed in one state, and from which it was pulled out in a very different form – sets an anticipated yet uncontrolled organic process in motion.”