The title of Joëlle Tuerlinckx’ solo exhibition at the CIAP (the International Centre of Art and Landscape) in Vassivière, summer 2018, is as enigmatic as it is contemplative: la constellation du peut-être [The Constellation of Maybe]. The “maybe” is what may happen; it is a space for potential indetermination. It is this or perhaps that. The short publication that accompanies the exhibition describes it well: this work is called NOR or Neither, that one is Jet-de-lac [Lake-Water Jet] or Rêve de fontaine [The Dream of Being a Fountain], while yet another is called La masse [Mass] or Edda. The works have all been created specifically for the exhibition and ample time must be allocated to fully understand them. Indeed, it will take time to see them all because they are spread out well beyond the art centre building. You will need to adventure out across the island searching for them, with or without binoculars, looking out into the distance or glancing down at your feet.
The constellation imagined by Joëlle Tuerlinckx distinctly recalls those Nancy Holt placed within many of her in situ works in the American landscape during the 1970s: in particular, the imposing cylinders of her famous Sun Tunnels (1973–1976), pierced with holes representing constellations, or the concrete tubes fulls of water in the more discreet Hydra’s Head (1974). The motif of the circle or disc that reflects, reverberates, or simply allows light to pass through can be found in this project (created by Tuerlinckx, a Belgian visual artist, in the Limousin region), for example, in NOR, a polished stainless steel structure placed on the ground among moss and fallen leaves, or in Modernité, a round concrete element that can be found on the slope behind the art centre, or even WORDHOLE, an immaculate disc made of glazed sandstone that faces the lake. This latter work reflects the sun’s rays to such an extent that it resembles a luminous cavity set in the grass, while the cement base in Modernité stands out like a kind of unevenly cratered moon. The metal in NOR has been polished so as to make a shadowly whorl appear.
Maybe there is nothing to see within the art centre walls or perhaps there are just discreet reminders of all that is afoot outside – inside, you have to be careful not to collide with the invisible, to circumvent the huge installation of transparent discs arranged in a mysterious design in the Nef, before coming face to face with other works of variously sized metallic discs. A photograph is placed at the entrance to the art centre that shows three men – the two architects Aldo Rossi and Xavier Fabre alongside Dominique Marchès, the centre’s first director – but does not say anything else: Aldo Rossi is pointing out the future positions of the art centre and the tower. Joëlle Tuerlinckx has made a small luminous halo emerge from the centre of the image, transforming the archive photo into a homage to what is not immediately visible, making it seem more like an apparition.
Certainly, mirages can be found in la constellation du peut-être: an impressive bronze ingot hidden in the grass like something precious washed up out of the lake (La masse), or a plastic marker covered with metallic car paint that appears in the water like a vision from a treasure island (Iso Silver). Everything is imbued with a sense of disquiet: such is the case for Maincy, a slight gurgling that randomly ripples across the surface of the lake like a underwater geyser that is short of breath.
What is especially striking about Joëlle Tuerlinckx’s works is their anti-spectacular nature: even when they employ materials associated in the history of art with impressive forms – bronze, stainless steel, concrete, etc. – they cannot help but be discreet, metaphorical almost. More importantly, they refuse to compete against the surrounding landscape. Even Jet-de-lac, the fountain that the artist developed especially for the park, proves more hesitant than triumphant. For Aldo Rossi’s imposing tower, she dreamed up the delicate Pulsator-Landscape, small sheets of flexible plastic driven by a motor. From far away, it sounds like the elytra of a chafer beetle. From closer up, the circle of light vibrates like a phosphene. If you decide to climb up the lighthouse stairs, you can activate one of the exhibition’s final works; Moment d’exposition [Exhibition Moment] is just a very modest paper disc that the spectator is invited to set in motion. The details are written underneath: “watch it fall”. We can confirm: it turns slowly in the air. Just another marvel to be admired, it would seem.