Critics’ Picks

View of “Yi Dai: Misfits, Offcuts and Castaways,” 2016.

View of “Yi Dai: Misfits, Offcuts and Castaways,” 2016.


Yi Dai

House of Egorn
Potsdamer Straße 96
April 30–July 16, 2016

By the end of the century, the Marshall Islands will no longer exist. Owing to the rapid pace of sea level rise, they will be submerged underwater and more than seventy thousand inhabitants will be displaced. Yi Dai’s current exhibition is rooted in both the nefarious past––a couple of the islands were used as testing grounds for the nuclear bomb by the US military––and the uncertain fate of the country, where the artist worked as a volunteer five years ago. The series “Catalogue of Light,” 2016, serves as the recurring motif throughout the exhibition; it consists of sixty-three small wood panels, mounted on which are circular drawings of the outlines of the islets belonging to the atolls where the military tests were carried out. The drawings have been rendered with lit incense on thin strips of Japanese paper. Below each work, a QR code sticker appears, which viewers can scan with their phones to see a Google Map image of the depicted landmass for comparison.

The largest work in the show, Miniature Catastrophe, 2016, has been described by the artist as an instance of “poetic story-telling through cartography.” Nearly six and a half feet in length and width, this wall-spanning piece depicts the atolls that make up the Marshall Islands in Indian ink. A cube of ice was placed in the middle of each form, resulting in a diffusion of ink into the white oceanic surround––a poetic evocation of the dissolution that will actually occur if nothing is done to stop the melting.