With Sighs Too Deep For Words

Dürst Britt and Mayhew, The Hague (NL)

Sunset. 2021. C-print on wood, wax and paper on glass in artist frame. 160 x 95 cm
Installation view
Untitled. 2021. Engraved XPS. 32 x 36 cm.
Astromelancholia (detail)
Astromelancholia. 2020-2021. Stainless steel, brass, drive shaft, master clock and C-print on dibond. 200 x 85 x 40 cm.
Installation view
Astromelancholia - manual and documentation
Dial V - with Sighs too deep for words. 2022. C-print on dibond in aluminium frame. 100 x 75 cm
Dial VII - ASLSP / As slow as possible. 2022. C-print on dibond in aluminium frame. 100 x 75 cm
Installation view

An even greater slowness characterizes the composition Organ²/ASLSP (As Slow as Possible) by John Cage, the score of which is depicted on Dial number 7 and that can be mounted on Lahuis' astronomical timepiece. This composition is being performed at St. Burchardi Church in Halberstadt, Germany, as the slowest and longest-lasting organ piece in the world, with a total length of 639 years. The current tone has been sounding since February 5, 2022; the next change of tone will occur in February 2024. Cage’s composition has its own tempo, one that does not take into account the human perception of time. The same applies to the timepiece Astromelancholia in this exhibition. Lahuis calls this work of art “time-specific,” by which he means that the viewer will see a different part of the work at each moment. But ultimately, just like the steam machines, the clock will return to its original state. In the case of the machines, this takes only a few seconds; in the case of Lahuis’s clock, it will take 18.6 years. When the image on the dial is seen again in its initial position, the air on Earth will be on average 1.5 degrees warmer than before the dawn of the Industrial Age. - Tim Roerig in Steam Engine Time

Dial VI - Rubin Observatory, LSST Camera. 2022. C-print on dibond in aluminium frame. 100 x 75 cm.
Image credit SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

In 2020 an article was published, titled Sensors of World’s largest digital camera snap first 3,200-megapixel images at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. This article was, as the title suggests, about the completion of the world’s largest imaging sensor, which had recently been completed and is to be integrated into the yet-to-be-built Vera C. Rubin Telescope in Chile.

The images that are depicted in Dial I, II, III and VI show (parts of) this most recent achievement in digital imaging technology, which is used for astronomical purposes. A mechanical astronomical clock, on the other hand, is a centuries-old technology to represent astronomical information. Within the project Astromelancholia, these two types of technology are juxtaposed.

The legibility of the images on these dials will, when mounted on the mechanism, be slowly torn apart in order to connect them to the actual speed of the planets in our solar system. The image, therefore, changes with the passing of time, which is a contrast to the fixed images of the universe that the equipment is designed to produce.

When mounted on the clock, the four rings that make up the dial slowly turn around. Astronomical information such as solar time, the lunar calendar and the zodiac signs can be read from each individual ring with the help of a manual. Each ring turns at an independent speed and thus abstracts the image. This process will only make the image on the dial readable in its ‘original’ state every 18,6 years, by which time the technology that is depicted will most likely be outdated.

Astromelancholia (detail)
Installation view
When is it that we feel change in the air 1/4. 2021. Water, water boiler, pneumatic system and image transfers on transport case.

The way information is erased by time is a recurring theme in Lahuis's work. With his steam machines, the artist searches for the limits of the medium. Words appear and disappear without taking on a fixed form, as fleeting as thoughts. With this work, Lahuis takes a new step toward the dematerialization of the written word. In earlier works he wrote texts with water which he allowed to dry in the air so that they slowly became unreadable. In his latest work, the text actually becomes legible through the process of evaporation, even if only for a few seconds. “WHEN IS IT - THAT WE - FEEL CHANGE - IN THE AIR”: Once the words dissolve, the question is left hanging. - Tim Roerig in Steam Engine Time

Installation view
When is it that we feel change in the air 2/4, detail.
When is it that we feel change in the air 3/4. 2021. Water, trash can, pneumatic system and image transfers on transport case.
When is it that we feel change in the air 4/4. 2021. Water, vessel, pneumatic system and image transfers on transport case.
February. 2021. C-print on wood, wax and paper on glass in artist frame. 106 x 136 cm.
Installation view
Installation view

Lennart Lahuis’ third solo exhibition at Dürst Britt and Mayhew brings together three distinct bodies of works, in which present, past, and future appear to be collapsing into each other and different technological eras converge.

Firstly there is ‘Astromelancholia’, an astronomical clock that connects various contemporary images with the course of the planets in our solar system. The 7 photographic images that are shown in relation to this clock are cut in four concentric circles and contain marks that make it possible to use them as functional dials from which astronomical information can be read when mounted on the mechanism. When attached to the clock the image will only return to its original starting position in 18,6 years. The clock is accompanied by a comprehensive manual prepared by graphic design studio Our Polite Society.

In the middle of the exhibition space the viewer encounters an installation consisting of a water boiler, a vessel, a trashbin and a barrel. These various ‘containers’ produce words from water vapour that form the sentence “when is it / that we / feel change / in the air”. The words are only legible for a short time and then evaporate, after which the words are produced again. It conveys a feeling of writing with clouds, as well as reflecting on sudden or opaque, larger or smaller shifts that occur within our societies.

Additionally Lahuis realised various new ‘wax-works’, made with found photographic material from frames, printing equipment and/or calendars. These generic images are printed on the backboard of the frame and are subsequently covered with a layer of wax and paper on glass that is placed in front of the image. This specific material gesture suspends the immediate intelligibility of the images on view. They are frozen in a moment between appearance and disappearance, between absence and presence.

Through a wide variety of materials and techniques Lennart Lahuis subjects texts and photographic imagery to natural phenomena such as melting, combustion, evaporation and erosion. In recent series of works Lahuis combines material processes that are used in graphic reproduction techniques with scientific disciplines such as earth sciences, astronomy and restoration. These disciplines are traditionally employed to produce or preserve knowledge, but in Lahuis' practice they become part of objects and installations that explore the boundaries of intelligibility, the material conditions for legibility and the potential of disappearance through material decay and fragmentation.