Edith Dekyndt

In 1977, copies of a golden phonograph record filled with sounds bearing witness to human civilization and Earth’s flora and fauna were shot into space onboard both Voyager probes; they have been hurtling through space and time ever since. It will take forty thousand years for one of them to reach another planet, where—at least this is the hope—it will give whomever or whatever it finds there a notion of life on Earth: They will hear Bach and the Beatles, greetings in more than fifty different languages, and the sounds of the surf and a beating heart. The Belgian artist Edith Dekyndt has picked up on this back-story for her recent exhibition “At Night I Lie,” in which a monitor displayed, like the credits at the end of a movie, the history of the golden record along with a description of the imperceptible changes in the shape of Earth’s surface. The show thus pivoted around our continuing fascination with the ungraspable entities of space and time and the limitations of human communication and perception.

Master Tom, 2009, a silver-gray helium balloon approximately five feet in diameter, ethereally floated in a darkened room in the gallery. From time to time it crossed the path of a video projection, capturing the images of a moonlike landscape on its surface. The video’s title, Les ondes de Love (Love Waves), 2009, refers to the British mathematician Augustus Edward Hough Love, who first described so-called Love Waves occurring on the earth’s surface during earthquakes. It shows a karstified volcanic landscape filmed on the island of La Réunion; planted amid the detritus is a gray flag waving in the wind and flapping about like a long tail. The aggressive gesture of claiming territory—a flag’s typical function—is counteracted by the calmly fluttering monochrome fabric. The sound of the surf alternates with pulsating frequencies that recall a pounding heart, creating a minimalist play on the tides. The flag itself makes no claims; it merely follows the wind’s wavelike motions.

Dekyndt’s work often cites Minimalism, but these formal borrowings also suggest poetic and narrative references. Circumnavigating the peacefully floating helium balloon, we become aware of the relational framework of space, subject, and object, at the same time, the work does away with the rigid severity of cubes and other strong gestalts, yet the light and ephemeral sphere also generate an illusion of endlessly expansive space, giving the viewer a sense of being buoyed up and carried off. Alluding to the story of the Voyager journey—a scientific mission driven by human dreams of going beyond measurable space—the piece transforms both sculpture and gallery into an expanded perceptual field, a vision of the infinite. That Dekyndt, a midcareer artist, is having more frequent and international shows now than ten years ago may well have to do with increasing interest in revisions of Minimalist and Conceptual forms—but perhaps it also has to do with her revelation of an immeasurable, nonterritorial politics of space.

Nina Möntmann

Translated from German by Oliver E. Dryfuss.