Mer sans rivages
Charting and reporting on the process of creating an art project rather than showing ready-made pieces is the aim of this publication. We are familiar with the core issues of the working process, random research and quirky findings, all hallmarks of the work of Edith Dekyndt. Yet it is difficult for a publication to anticipate when everything is not ready, endorsed by the artist. So, in conjunction with Félix Taulelle, her assistant, and Mytil Ducomet, graphic designer at the studio Muesli, they have chosen to chart the route of a work-in-progress — fraught with the particular fact that Edith Dekyndt spent summer 2016 in Brazil. Félix Taulelle and Mytil Ducomet, meanwhile, were detained in Europe. Charting and reporting, with an ocean between them, from one shore to another.
In the project “Mer sans rivages” (literally, “Shoreless Sea”) at Les Sables d’Olonne, Edith Dekyndt first keeps in mind the underlying idea that the Atlantic Ocean, traversed by the skippers of the Vendée Globe yacht race that skirts the coasts of Africa on its outward leg and the waters off Brazil on the homeward leg, was for over two centuries the route of a triangular trade that pillaged the African continent of its indigenous peoples in order to exile the “ebony” to lands extorted from the Indians. The grim market of human trafficking. She keeps in sight too the compelling idea for the imagination that the Atlantic is host to a “shoreless sea”. Indeed, the Sargasso Sea is adrift there, with its constant clockwise swirling and whirling, and at its core an enigmatic triangle whose vortex sometimes harbours reports of disappearance.
This logbook of work-in-progress flows over three sections. Of course, it all begins with research and investigation in the form of reading, picture collecting, targeting sources in everything there is to see, observe, understand and enjoy…
This is how Edith Dekyndt began to explore syncretic Afro-Brazilian practices, including the Candomblé, a remarkable religious tradition in that its followers come from almost all social strata of the Brazilian population. In it several deities, the orishas (orixà in Portuguese) govern the universe, sharing the various forces of nature, space, the four elements, even stones and metals, and the animal and plant kingdoms. Of African origin, the tradition has it that at birth each human being is chosen by an orixà, embodied by a Candomblé priest, a babalorixa. Two orixàs in particular enthralled Dekyndt: Omulu, covered in straw from head to toe, who personifies sickness and death. And, all dressed in white, light blue and pale pink, Yemanja, the sea goddess who protects families, children and fishing. Forming a syncretic religious cult, most orixàs are related to a figure in the Book of Saints of the Catholic Church. In this case, Saint Lazarus and Our Lady of the Rosary.
In terms of iconography, artisanal practices and maritime traditions, including the making of fishing nets, and by analogy, lace, caught Dekyndt’s attention. Both disciplines use similar skilful knotting techniques. Incidentally, the traditional headdresses of the inhabitants of Les Sables-d’Olonne are remarkable historical evidence of this.
After this research stage, the second part of the publication describes the objects, sites, materials, photographic tests undertaken by both Félix Taulelle1 at Les Sables d’Olonne, and by Edith Dekyndt during her stay in the state of São Paulo. The prolific circular correspondence between the two of them and the graphic designer Mytil Ducomet give some idea of how the project evolved. Here, in the salt marshes of Les Sables d’Olonne, Félix Taulelle began creating a series of pieces with a resin used in shipyards. In Brazil, when exploring the tropicalist architecture of Lida Bo Bardi and Oscar Niemeyer, Edith Dekyndt looked at the influence of azulejo tiles and chequered weavings imported from Portugal. In keeping with this syncretic paradigm — tropicalism, Portugal, folklore — she met followers of Candomblé and, in a sense, applied this to her own art, obtaining remnants of fabrics intended for offerings and coverings. Inspired by the masks of Omulu and Yemanja, she unravelled strips of blue and white. In Paris, Mytil Ducomet, for his part, sifted through and selected, expanding on the documentary sources and the images he received.
Louis Everaert, août 2016