Edith Dekyndt Summons Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” for a Brussels Solo Show
Edith Dekyndt uses alchemic, methodical processes to explore the relationship between the body and the natural world. Her installations, video work, and sculptural experiments have been likened to the tinkerings of a laboratory scientist. Appropriately, then, her most recent solo show, “Strange Fruits,” brings together works she created during the art-making processes for two recent exhibitions—essentially the laboratory tools and test cases for her previous experiments.
Dekyndt’s practice often draws on organic and biochemical reactions to weather and forge her materials. For one of those recent shows, in a former brewing house near Belgium, the artist used material specific to the exhibition space: water from the Senne, yeast, and bacteria used in the brewing of Brussels’ popular gueuze-style beer.
For “Strange Fruits” at Galerie Greta Meert in Brussels, the collected works are similarly context-oriented, though their context takes a more violent, sorrowful timbre, as alluded to in the show’s title, itself a reference to the famous Billie Holiday song. Based on a poem written by Abel Meeropol, Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” marked an historic moment in which a popular African-American artist confronted white audiences with violence against blacks. The spellbinding song has since been interpreted by artists as stylistically and generationally diverse as Kanye West and Nina Simone.
Borrowing such heavy symbolism gives Dekyndt’s material—hair, blood, burnt flowers—a tinge of solemnity. However, for the Berlin-based artist, the callback to Holiday’s song is used more so in the service of framing her interpretive, iterative practice rather than as an examination of racial discord.
An array of artworks hang above the floor in the multistory gallery, including several pieces mistily glazed in sugar or speckled with blood, giving them a slightly sinister tone. In The Deodants 01 (2015), wine tartrates drip down the wall as gravity pulls them to the floor. These works are joined by a series of boldly colored helium-filled balloons; their strange, rubbery presence is oddly heavy as they dangle in the air like bulbous blue fruit.
“Edith Dekyndt: Strange Fruits” is on view at Galerie Greta Meert, Brussels, Apr. 21–Jul. 9, 2016.