Edith Dekyndt
 
The Pinault Collection’s artist residency welcomed Edith Dekyndt for its second season. the artist paused to describe the projects she developed during her eight months in Lens, which have since been shown in major exhibitions in Europe.
 
<div class="col m-10"> <span class="title">Edith</span><br><br> <span class="title">Dekyndt</span> </div><br> <div class="col m-4 auteur pull-right noclick"> <div class="inner"> <div class="white"> <a class="switch">Text</a><br> <b>Céline Doussard</b><br> </div> </div> </div> <div class="clear"><br><br><br></div> <span class="alinea"></span>Edith Dekyndt is no stranger to the mining landscapes of northern Europe. Born in Ypres, in Belgium, she studied in the Borinage area before settling in Tournai. During a 2009 exhibition at the Musée d’Art Contemporain du Grand-Hornu, located in a former coal quarry, she became interested in the large-scale industrialization of these ancient agricultural areas and its impact on the local environment and population. <br><br> <span class="alinea"></span>She found out that she had been chosen to participate in the Collection Pinault residency program as soon as it was established. When she attended the inauguration of the space, two years ago, she was preparing to move to Berlin for another residency program, this one sponsored by the DAAD. <br><br> <span class="alinea"></span>For Dekyndt, her time in Lens was an opportunity to experience life at a different pace, “to change her city-dweller’s habits, which soon become automatic” by experiencing a new “relationship to domestic life” and spending more time “inside, in the studio.” However, it was in the garden of the residency that she first began to work, burying fabric there, continuing a ritual initiated in Tournai then Berlin. The vast garden surrounding the former rectory allowed her to work on a larger scale than ever before, thus giving new meaning to this process: “I had to take advantage of the land, in this place where the ground itself has been so important, so valued, since it yielded the coal industry.” Invited by curator Christine Macel to present a new work in the international pavilion of the Venice Biennale, she began to produce a work that soon occupied the entirety of her studio. <br><br> <span class="alinea"></span>For this piece, <i>Slow Object Zero Week</i>, Dekyndt covered a curtain with silver leaves and used it to line the walls of the exhibition space in which she presents the work <i>One Thousand and One Nights</i>. In this installation and performance, which Dekyndt previously presented at Wiels as part of her solo exhibition “Ombre Indigène” in 2016, a bright spotlight is projected onto the ground, revealing the dust that has settled there. Every hour, a performer with a broom gathers the dust into that brilliant space, whose position changes regularly. This poetic evocation of <i>Arabian Night’s</i>, flying carpet does not disguise the “Sisyphean nature,” of the performer’s task. Dekyndt encourages the viewer to reflect on the roles assigned by western society to immigrant populations—who sweeps our streets today?—as time passes and the silver leaves of the curtain slowly oxidize. <br><br> <span class="alinea"></span>Curtains of various shapes, sizes, and materials appear regularly in Dekyndt’s work: “Everywhere,” she insists, “even in my studio shots.” It is not surprising, then, that the first grants she received were from the TAMAT (Center for Tapestry and Fabric Art of the Wallonie-Bruxelles Federation). For Dekyndt, this “non-defining wall, which can, or not, partition a space,” is at times protective, when it isolates or encloses; at times exhibitionist, as a stage curtain in a theater; at times warm and welcoming, as in a bourgeois interior. Dekyndt sees her interest in using curtains as originating in her work as an architect. In the 1990s, she was part of the architect collective L’Escaut, led by Olivier Bastin. This experience continues to influence her work today as she conceives her exhibitions. Her conviction that “architecture has an uncanny tendency to acquire too much power over people’s lives” ultimately led her to create works that are “more ephemeral and that change over time.” <br><br> <span class="alinea"></span>Her work is always created in response to the site where it will be presented. In 2013, for the Biennale de Lyon, she was inspired to create her first silver-leaf curtain. She was influenced by the history of the city, where the textile industry once thrived and which had been the home of Auguste and Louis Lumière, the inventors of photography. “Photography at the time relied on the silver gelatin process, and photographs would alter with time,” she explains, adding that in the same way, “this work—<i>Slow Object 06 (grey fabric with silver leaf)</i>—is like very, very, very slow cinema.” <br><br> <span class="alinea"></span>Dekyndt was included in the Belgian Art Prize at the Bozar in Brussels in March 2017, where she presented an immense curtain in the round space of the rotunda, its comforting, luxurious velvet texture presenting a striking contrast with the thousands of nails piercing it. These nails, turned toward the viewer, act as a protective barrier, which the artist describes as a “’means of safeguarding its secrets.” When she visited the exhibition space in fall 2016, Dekyndt noticed that the hallways through which visitors once accessed the museum had been closed by gates after terrorist attacks that took place in Brussels in March 2016. She was also thinking about Donald Trump’s election in the United States and his threats to close the country’s borders “little by little, throughout the world.” She reflected that “the Palais was closed off, both on the outside and on the inside.” Photographs taken during dance marathons are projected in her curtained exhibition space. These shows, during which impoverished youngsters would dance day and night in exchange for a meal, were very popular in the US during the Great Depression. According to Dekyndt, these dance marathons “could be considered as the first reality TV shows.” She titled this piece <i>They Shoot Horses</i>, a reference to Horace McCoy’s book <i>They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?</i>, published in 1935, which she describes as a “small masterpiece, rediscovered by the Existentialists after the war,” and adapted into a film by Sydney Pollack in 1969. The novel takes place during the Great Depression, a period of economic and social crisis, during which the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels was built, designed by Victor Horta, from 1922 to 1929. Dekyndt even discovered that delays in construction were caused by these same market crashes. <br><br> <span class="alinea"></span>When we visited her studio, several of the works hanging on its walls were about to be sent to Berlin for the artist’s first solo show at the Konrad Fischer gallery. Footage of dance marathons will be included there, projected vertically this time, to honor the fortitude of these exhausted dancers, who continued their efforts day after day. In response to these savage events, Dekyndt wanted to “work on something animalistic.” For several years, she has been researching the notion of man’s “superiority” over animals, reading works of cognitive science, neuroscience, and philosophy (such as the writings of Vinciane Despret). For a long time, she sought out means with which to explore this question “ethically.” As luck would have it, her assistant discovered a crate filled with furs as he was packing up his apartment in preparation for a move. The apartment he was leaving was located across from Hermès’s tanneries, which they deduced must be the source of this “treasure.” Once mounted on planks of wood, the furs were partially covered with staples. Dekyndt’s violent gesture toward these “magnificent skins” was a conflicting experience, “a mixture of attraction and repulsion.” The artist compared this gesture to “what Plains Indians may have once done with animal skins.” Eskimos traditionally employed all kinds of furs as well as the guts of animals, for instance using the intestines of seals to make anoraks. Dekyndt “[adores] those kinds of objects.” <br><br> <span class="alinea"></span>Dekyndt also presented paintings in fabric and resin that she had made for her exhibition “Mer sans rivages” at Les Sables-d’Olonne, in partnership with FRAC Pays de la Loire. This time, she removed the canvases’ chassis, so that they now seemed like animal or vegetable membranes. <br><br> <span class="alinea"></span>The final series of works presented in Dekyndt’s Berlin show <i>They Shoot Horses (Part Two)</i> was inspired by the artist’s travels in Brazil, in particular by some embroidered weavings she purchased from inhabitants of Belo Horizonte. Their technique, passed down through generations since the region was colonized by the Portuguese, intrigued her, especially as she noticed that lace is “rather similar to the knot-tying techniques used on ships.” Dekyndt deconstructed these fabrics, mounting them on chassis then carefully removing all horizontal threads. These grid patterns remind her of the white and blue ceramics used by Lina Bo Bardi in her design for the Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo. During her travels, she also noticed that some iconic Brazilian monuments were falling into disrepair, such as the group of five buildings designed by Oscar Niemeyer and located around a man-made lake: “there’s a garden at the entrance, but the buildings are empty, no one visits them, no one even knows about them.” For Dekyndt, the action of unweaving is a metaphor for what is happening today in Brazil, “a contamination of modernism and its resulting decrepitude.” <br><br> <span class="alinea"></span>After Lens, Dekyndt will be traveling for several months, returning regularly to Berlin. She plans to continue her research in Brazil during a two-month residency in Salvador de Bahia, at the Goethe Institute. She then hopes to go to Mumbai. Her friend Amaryllis Jacobs, co-founder, with Kwinten Lavigne, of <i>Maniera</i>, a laboratory and design showroom in Brussels, has made plans for her to collaborate with the architects of Studio Mumbai. She is particularly interested in “traditional Indian building methods, like the use of raw brick or woven plants.” This is an interest shared by the artisans who collaborate with Studio Mumbai on their very simple, very minimal designs relying on traditional methods. The local customs of these areas will no doubt, as she discovers them, inspire Dekyndt’s new work.
Edith DEKYNDT <br><i>They Shoot Horses</i>, 2017 <br>Velvet curtain, nails <br>Variable dimensions <br>Exhibition view, Konrad Fischer Gallery, Berlin, 2017
Views of the workshop, April 2017
Views of the workshop, April 2017
Views of the workshop, April 2017
Views of the workshop, April 2017
Views of the workshop, April 2017
Views of the workshop, April 2017
Views of the workshop, April 2017
 

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Pinault Collection Magazine - Issue #09

 

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