Are you experienced?

Cecilia Bezzan


In accomplishing her creative acts by way of an experimental approach to the world, Edith Dekyndt relates to that driving force which is desire, comparable to the constructivist sentiment defined by Deleuze and Guattari: “Desire is always assembled and fabricated.”1 Driven by this dynamic aspiration, as embodied in the alternating laboratory practices of evasion and observation, her work is nurtured by a meticulous attention to the physical world. Its epitome is not dissimilar to Stimmung, which has been studied for a long time in numerous disciplines (philosophy, aesthetics and literature). This German concept could be summarised as the expression of a harmonious unity and sensation of plenitude we experience when faced with a landscape, to the extent that it brings about the desire to be absorbed by or even become the landscape (Liquid States-Weather Indices, and Stimmung). Whilst assembling a coherent whole, Dekyndt confounds improbabilities, which reveal the intention of her work and give it a poetic power of persuasion. First there is movement, then hands. Beginning with the liquid, aerial movement, the shift is always a generic, operational device, to the point of overstepping boundaries and proposing the mad design of filming the explosion of a bottle of water in the far north of Canada (Program for a Cold Place). This futile plan if ever there was one, to organise an artistic expedition in the manner of the great exploratory missions, the height of utopia in its enthusiasm, now governs the course of her work under the title Universal Research of Subjectivity. The physical anchoring point in the real world of her elusive and molecular, fragile and unstable work always results from an intuition. The artist seizes on a moment of life and focuses on it tenaciously, revealing its free configurations of movement. She presents the imperceptible movement of dust in a shaft of light (Discreet Piece), or plays on the length of time accorded to insignificant objects, so as to magnify the element in suspension and its trajectories (Parallelepiped of Air). If sometimes the experiment involves a geographic displacement, this desire for movement also reveals changes in state (liquid/solid – invisible/visible), sustaining itself on the immediacy of and at the same time revealing their sensuous qualities2. Paradoxically, the creation is worked out through manipulation in the sense of handling, rather than some manoeuvre which aims to hatch some plot or other or misrepresent reality. Hands shape matter (Martial M), they delimit it (Provisory Object 01, 02, 03). Confronted with the vision of the latter, the renunciation of the notion of nothingness emerges. As Gaston Bachelard wrote in his essay Water and Dreams: “By remaining long enough on the iridescent surface we understand the price of profundity.”3 This image of the abyss, paradoxically introduced by a surface, offers an astonishing insight into Dekyndt’s approach to her work, which absorbs. It is interesting in more than one respect to re-read Bachelard to understand the content of Dekyndt’s work, for the philosopher is one of the major figures from the realms of science to have investigated and inspired the artistic mind.  Bachelard produced an atypical body of knowledge, analysing successively the natural elements of fire, water, air and earth, during an age of great scientific upheavals, including the discovery of electromagnetic waves (Hertz, 1886), X-rays (Röntgen, 1895), radium (Pierre and Marie Curie, 1898), the special theory of relativity (Einstein, 1905), the disintegration of the atom (Rutherford, 1918) and quantum mechanics (Heisenberg, 1924). Furthermore, in The Formation of the Scientific Mind, Bachelard described his understanding of reality as “a light that always casts a shadow in some nook or cranny.” He goes on to note that when confronted with it, “what we think we know very well casts its shadow over what we ought to know.”4 Dekyndt’s work is becoming the timeless repertoire of physical effects, which although captured empirically and without having tampered with reality, opens onto illusion and strangeness. Being both ghostly and material, it appeals to that which constructs and drives us. Without stepping into the realms of imagination, she does her utmost to blur our bearings and create confusion, which opens the door to the desire for dream (Insomniac Dream), speaks of states of perception or altered awareness (Dreamachine) and leads the gaze to consider colour, air and space. Through her desire for experimentation, Dekyndt formulates objects5 that capture the intuition of the instant. Certain of them appear to defy the laws of gravity (Ground Control) by bringing about a perceptible shift in an umpteenth dimension, which she presents before our very eyes, provoking the desire to step into it. She invented the instrument for poetic measurement, which only functions in the fantasyland of a distorted everyday life (Slow Object 05); the work opens up a fabulous dimension, where inanimate objects come to life (Slow Object 01, Wallpaper). Astonishingly, Dekyndt’s work continues to defy any theoretical materialisation. Not that it puts up any classical form of resistance but rather it bends and writhes, slipping like a snake of light through each attempt at critique. It is an object of temptation, escaping and illuminating the world, offering itself in a visual generosity. Nothing is hidden. Everything remains accessible—we are thinking particularly of the device for capturing cathode light in Alone at Home. Beyond the artistic experience of the work, we are reminded of the psychological state in which we found ourselves when we discovered it. The irritation, tiredness and state of sadness or conversely of excitement are replaced by an interior calm. It is a musical silence. When in contact with it, the work renders any sense of anxiety superfluous; it soothes. It cuts short any confusion or uneasiness, opening into an impression of certain serenity, which ensures its comprehension, through the body more than the mind, creating an all pervading sensation of trust. Contemplating the work is like the beginning of a dream. It is the instance of a shift, when reality begins to dysfunction whilst remaining sufficiently meaningful so as not to clash too greatly with the frame of reference that structures what we call reality. Everything occurs in the interval between things, half way to becoming, which is both liaison and empty spuriousness. This thing is difficult to define, not because it is hard to identify but because its essence is so fleeting that the ways of understanding it vary substantially from one person to the next. Thus the work is a spontaneous reflection of ourselves. However, the individuation of its perception does not take place by means of exclusion, but suggests a formula which we could summarise as ‘One: All’. This underlying conviviality found within many pieces is a banner of celestial unity, the circular design of the soul which inhabits it. Whilst the quick sketching of Soul Collector offers an ontological summary, One Second of Silence reveals the sky through a transparent skylight and suggests metaphorically the identity of a planetary nation. Transparency appeals for an identity that is not invested with colours and symbols, but operates in the manner of a veduta, window or vanishing point, drawing our attention to what is beyond. Likewise in the video Alpha-Zulu, the frenetic succession of 201 flags effaces their respective identity. The shapes and colours replace one another so quickly that the eye absorbs the passing coloured rectangles without actually remembering them. Beyond distinctive identities, the works appear to trace an ideal, projecting humankind towards its undifferentiated state. With no addition of artifice but simply by observing it closely, Dekyndt heightens reality by a tone. She thereby succeeds in bringing about that intellectual and emotional catharsis of which Bachelard spoke in relation to knowledge.