Critics’ Picks

Liliane Lijn, Woman of War, 1986, Painted steel and aluminum, synthetic fibers, glass prism, aluminum mesh, audio system, 5-milliwatt helium laser, smoke machine, computer, 9 x 7 1/2 x 3 1/5'.


Liliane Lijn

Rodeo | Greece
41 Polidefkous
September 12–January 12

Nearly fifty feverous drawings crowded with body parts and biomorphic motifs, made between 1984 and 1994, hang in this gallery’s antechamber and serve as a premonition for what lies beyond. In the main room, footsteps trigger the whirring of a motor. Behind a vast entrance that evokes a tholos tomb, one sees Liliane Lijn’s almost nine-foot-tall totem: Woman of War, 1986. The figure, unmistakably female in the cave-like space, unfurls her yellow and black wings in a gesture of warning. Mist emerges from the dry ice at the base of the statue, freezing beams of red lasers. We hear a woman’s chanting from copper folds that extend from an African beaded mask. “I’m a woman of war ... / I am the Medusa ... / The Dancing Lady / The Lady of a Thousand Guiles,” the figure shrieks to a smaller counterpart, Lady of the Wild Things, 1983, who keeps vigil nearby and is built, in part, from a centurion tank. Vast shadows fly upward as the sculpture gently closes her wings to the sound of electronic chanting both threatening and seductive: Medusa and Artemis as a contemporary, apotropaic cult.

This startling museological piece emerged as a reaction to the male-dominated kinetic art movement of the 1970s. It represents also, a material successor to the influential Hélène Cixous essay from 1975, “The Laugh of the Medusa.” But it’s rendered extraordinarily timely today as we revisit the canon of feminist theory that acknowledges Medusa as a rape victim, a monster, a seducer—a fabled figure who continues to mirror contemporary concerns. Freud reminds us that, even beheaded, she embodies the primal male fear of female power. Lijn’s installation offers us a rare chance to experience the animistic ritual of myth as a concrete, chthonic vision.