Edith Dekyndt

They Shoot Horses

The title of the exhibition refers to Horace McCoy’s novel They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? from 1935, made famous by Sydney Pollack’s film adaptation in 1969 with Jane Fonda in the leading role.

The novel is about a dance marathon during the Great Depression in America. The prize goes to the couple who can stay on their feet on the dance floor the longest. Hungry and desperate, participants push themselves to their physical and psychological limits in order to win. Like Roman gladiator fights, the marathons are an inhumane and cynical attempt to divert people’s attention from their everyday problems. Entertainment is everything, even when people get hurt or even die in the process. They Shoot Horses...

Edith Dekyndt’s installation They Shoot Horses consists of a velvet curtain pierced at regular intervals with steel nails. The curtain runs through half the ground floor exhibition space of the Gallery of Contemporary Art at the Kunsthalle, continuing straight through the walls of the room. With its undulating forms, it creates an element of movement and dynamism within the strict square grid of O. M. Ungers’s architecture. A video shows archival footage of 1920s dance marathons. The heavy curtain summons images of opulently furnished rooms or sophisticated theatre performances. But the nails puncturing it at regular intervals contrast with the softly falling velvet to turn the fabric into an »Iron Curtain.«

Edith Dekyndt (b. 1960 in Ypres, Belgium) lives and works in Tournai and Berlin. Her works have been shown at venues including the BOZAR and the Wiels in Brussels, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Witte de With in Rotterdam. Dekyndt was awarded the Kunstpreis 2019. The exhibition was organised in cooperation with the Kunsthaus Hamburg.