Caroline Faigan, Lilith
The bedroom is a place of nocturnal habitation that is historically the site of birth, death, sex, dreams, privacy, and transformation. The circle, square and triangle, architectural details of Babylonian temples, sit within and alongside the mirror, the body, the stripe and the fruit.
Faigan was first introduced to Lilith during a visit to the Paris Museum of Jewish Art and History in 2015 to see the exhibition, Angels and Demons in the Jewish Tradition. The exhibition presented an abundance of amulets, evil eye protectors, good luck charms, and the demoness Lilith. Appearing as a naked figure with unkempt hair, sometimes bound in chains, sometimes as a serpent, Lilith was decidedly macabre and starkly interesting. Faigan was enchanted.
The earliest written account of Lilith, the First Woman, is found in The Alphabet of Ben Sira, an anonymous Babylonian text written between 650-1050 CE. A commentary on Hebrew mythology, the text includes a parallel book of Genesis, the Biblical story of creation. In Genesis I, Lilith was created by God from the same earth as Adam as his equal, his wife. Adam did not consider Lilith his equal. Lilith was discontented, she defied her creator by demanding independence, leaving Adam in favour of living alone at the Red Sea. In the more commonly-known creation mythology of Genesis II, Eve was created as a wife for Adam from one of his own ribs. She was lured by a serpent to eat forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, resulting in their banishment from the Garden of Eden. As Lilith’s story evolved in parallel with Eve’s, she became prevalent in superstition as a harmful demoness and a shapeshifter, conflated as the snake that led to Eve’s moral demise.
Largely absent as a figure in present-day Jewish practice, Lilith has endured in art and literature as an archetypal seductress. She is the subject of many historical paintings and mentioned in the writing of Goethe and in the literature of Primo Levi. In recent years Lilith’s negative reputation has wavered. As the First Woman who showed independence and courage by leaving Adam to live alone, she is now championed as a feminist icon. Her name is borrowed by independent Jewish feminist magazine Lilith. Lilith has become a duality, both feared and revered. It is for this reason that Lilith fascinates, she confounds the traditional biblical binary roles of women as good-evil, mother-lover, demon-heroine. This is especially relevant to consider today as these binary codes begin to shift and dissolve in contemporary culture.
In this exhibition Faigan reimagines a contemporary interior and exterior space for Lilith. The bedroom is a place of nocturnal habitation that is historically the site of birth, death, sex, dreams, privacy, and transformation. The circle, square and triangle, architectural details of Babylonian temples, sit within and alongside the mirror, the body, the stripe and the fruit. All aspects working together to explore the construction of identity, the serpentine line, dualities, fertility and desire.