Artforum / January 2009
Like a gothic remake of the mysterious globular security drones that were the bane of Patrick McGoohan’s existence in the 1960s TV classic The Prisoner, Edith Dekyndt’s Ground Control (all works 2008) hovers a little too close and a
little too large for comfort. An inky black, helium-filled polypropylene balloon, this ominous airborne sculpture laid claim, in distinctly intimidating fashion, to the front of Parker’s Box’s Brooklyn space during the Belgian artist’s recent New York solo debut, easily the most assertive work in an otherwise gentle exhibition.
While Ground Control might recall Fiona Banner’s experiments in concrete typography (think of the balloon as a blown-up period), Dekyndt’s most obvious counterpart is another Brit, Ceal Floyer. Both artists are concerned with the ephemeral and the immaterial, and with exploring those interests through minimally invasive aesthetic strategies derived from the deadpan, “informational” presentation common to minimal and conceptual art. In Gowanus, for example, Dekyndt takes a highly systematic approach to representing a fleeting physical phenomenon—the surfacing of oil spots on water (here in the notoriously polluted
Brooklyn canal). The set of fifty-two uniformly scaled prints additionally recalls Ed Ruscha’s 1969 print portfolio, Stains, and Roni Horn’s 1999 photographic sequence, Still Water (the River Thames, for Example).
But despite the clear precedents for Gowanus and other works here—the video One Second of Silence (Part 01, New York, 2008), which shows a clear plastic fl ag fluttering in the wind, for example, reaches back to Jasper Johns’s White Flag, 1955—Dekyndt’s work does stake out territory of its own. Her fascinations are particular enough that few others are likely to have examined them in an artistic
context; the video One Second of Silence navigates via scrolling text a
constellation of odd data concerning time and motion, including the fact that sound travels 372 yards in the titular interval. (And did you know that the second itself was defined, at the 1967 General Conference of Weights and Measures, as the duration of “9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the fundamental state of the cesium 133 atom”?)
Voyager II Golden Record also sprang from nerdish fascination with scientific trivia; a wall text recounts the entries on an audio recording emitted by the eponymous space probe in the event that it should encounter alien life on its voyage through the cosmos. These include animal and human calls and the sounds of wind and fire, an F-111 flyby, and the Saturn 5 launch, some of which play in the gallery, though so softly that it is often difficult to identify them, even
with a checklist. Dekyndt’s work thus pays nostalgic homage to the original project by subtly emphasizing its futuristic ambition and nowdated technology and curatorial choices (it’s tempting to consider what might make the cut today, though technological advancements have to a large extent destroyed the challenge by allowing for a vastly expanded selection).
Finally, in the hypnotic video XY2, we see Dekyndt toying with a loop of thread kept in midair by the warmth rising from an old heater (whenever the thread drifts toward a cooler area, it starts to descend, and she must cajole it back to safer space). Dekyndt reportedly adjusted the video’s color to emulate early Flemish Renaissance painting, but there the manipulation ends. The artist lives for such fragile loveliness, and encourages us to follow.
Image: Edith Dekyndt, One Second of Silence (Part 01, New York, 2008), 2008