Painter's enemy

installation with drawings, video, sound, flowers, audio guides, 2010

In a short story from 1956, JG Ballard describes a future era where human beings are able to hear melodies that plants spread around.
In 1990, Joël Sternheimer, physicist by training, PhD in theoretical physics and professor at the European University of Research has found that a specific melody can stimulate or inhibit the synthesis of a protein within a living organism. He highlighted that the essential steps of the life of plants’ cells such as growth, germination and flowering, are associated with « molecular melodies » that he called « proteodies »
When different amino acids fix themselves around a ribosome to form a proteine, the stabilisation causes a specific wave behavior resulting in a wave of a separate scale. This can be implemented in a frequency audible by human beings.
The amino acids of a protein receptor of ethylene rosacea rosa (rose) were asked a to biologist.
A composer then transcribed the airwaves, the molar masses of each amino acid of the protein into a partition. He finally played the score with a Theremin, an instrument that has the distinction of producing sound without being touched by the play
Cut roses are arranged in bouquet and put in a clear glass vase in the exhibition. The bouquet has one single variety of flowers, white roses. The flowers are replaced every 5 days.
 

Named after the Heuchera plant, which is also known in French as L’ennemi du peintre, or alternatively, le desespoir du peintre by virtue of its difficult to depict abundance and small blossoms, The Painter’s Enemy is the byproduct of a desire to create a still life. A conventional enough artistic impulse, especially for a northern European, one might say,  but this is not just any still life. For akin to the eponymous plant from which the project borrows its name, it represents an unrepresentable abundance of material. Not only is it formed and informed by various strains of scientific and musical research, it seeks to register sonically, as opposed to visually. The elaborate, multi-faceted mechanism behind this still life is perhaps best descried by curator Anthony Kiendl, who originally commissioned the work for Contour 2011:

[In The Painter’s Enemy] Edith Dekyndt explores the notion of music as a sound inherently attached to biological forms, including flowers, and by extension human beings. In a short story from 1956, J.G. Ballard describes a future time, where humans have learned to hear melodies that plants spread around them. In 1990, physicist Joel Sternheimer found that a specific melody can stimulate or inhibit the synthesis of a protein within a living organism. When the patterns of plant molecules are transposed to a frequency audible to humans, plants can ‘make music’. Dekyndt has, working with a composer and arranger, transposed these ‘radio waves’ from certain flowers to a score for the theremin, the radio-frequency instrument made famous in Hollywood science fiction films.

 

Painter's enemy