Critics’ Picks

Krijn De Koning, Het zwaartekracht museum, 2009, wood, dimensions variable.

Krijn De Koning, Het zwaartekracht museum, 2009, wood, dimensions variable.

Oostende

Beaufort 03

Beaufort Triennial
Various Locations
March 28–October 4, 2009

There are forty miles of North Sea coast in Belgium. Like a watchful guardian, Wim Delvoye’s steel backhoe with gothic chiseling stands near this strip of land (now overrun by apartment buildings): a reference to the architectural sins committed here, and a call for their cessation. The sculpture was created for the first Beaufort Triennial. This year, in the event’s third edition, thirty artists have continued the tradition, situating their works—formulated as unexpected physical experiences and intellectual challenges—on the beach, in the towns, on dunes, or on promenades. Some works, such as Aeneas Wilder’s fifty-seven-foot-high wooden dome, are conceived as open, contemplative spaces, while others, such as Niek Kemps’s fascinating metal construction with mesh walls, recalling a photographic lens, initiate a complex interplay of insight and overview. Other works augment the perception of the surrounding area’s formal qualities, such as Matt Mullican’s piece, in which cast-iron sheets with pictographs and texts handwritten on them have been placed into the ground in front of the coast trolley station, or the work by Leonor Antunes, who refashioned fifteen beach shelters, drawing attention to this common form of beach furniture.

The history of Belgium’s coastal towns informs all these works. Each piece is embedded along one of the perfect walking paths that meander through the different locations. As such, the Beaufort Triennial gives rise to multilayered connections between the past and the present. It also benefits from the sculptures' not standing out as obvious works of art. Since many of the works exist outside any context that designates them as art, they demand a heightened aesthetic sensibility. Only Daniel Buren’s forest of one hundred flagpoles, bearing colorful, striped weather vanes, can be seen from afar, as it playfully dominates the beach. His contribution refers to the name of the triennial’s site; in 1806, Francis Beaufort invented a now-widespread scale to measure the force of wind, an innovation that Buren’s installation unforgettably illustrates.