Curator Julia Rodrigues on Birk Horst’s “Headstones Undead Engines”

“You walk among the headstones in the cemetery, suddenly, you hear a faint sound. It is the sound of an Engine. You take a look around, but there are no cars to be seen. You have been Re-Animated.” *

‘You learn how much grief is about language, the failure of language and the grasping for language’ writes Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her essay Notes on Grief. Mourning is usually perceived as an individual experience, yet grief is an undeniably universal human emotion. Headstones Undead Engines, Birk Horst’s solo show at Kunsthal 44Møen, acknowledges the difficulty of finding, in our physical realm, a language that can aptly elaborate the loss of a dear friend. At the same time, the exhibition is a commentary on the idea of memorials, rituals and contemporary anxieties around the theme of death.

In the Kunsthal ’s storage room Horst has created a dark, cold and uncanny parallel world inspired by the digital universe of video games and computer simulations. In this world a headstone is observing the world of the living, reflecting on how everything about life on Earth was and is now becoming. This headstone is undead, balancing between the worlds of the living and the dead. The concept of the undead is taking from zombie, vampire or cyborg universe, where most commonly refers to corporeal forms of formerly-alive humans, such as vampires, and zombies or cyborgs, who have been reanimated by supernatural means, disease or technology.

The installation is composed by a projection, sound, color lights, soil and a sculpture with multiple parts done by an accumulation of fragments, repetitive shapes that can look like leftovers from an assembly-line factory, yet also resemble dismembered body parts. At the sculpture´s core, a video in LCD screen displays an animated version of the headstone’s life story. Recalling its life’s different phases, what it seems to be its birth, collapses and perhaps rebirths.

Some of the shapes from the video can also be recognized scattered around the installation in their 3D sculptural forms. The artist has created physical sculptures that resemble the digital forms.  Things here are on the edge of being something else. These sculptural forms are made as theatre props, consisting primarily of surface and texture, emphasizing the artist´s interest in act/simulation on the search to find a way to deal with the bewildering messiness of grief.

Here multiplicities, typically from the technological realm, appear to provide a suitable perspective to deal with death and its memorial forms. Horst´choice of representation, through the digital culture, is supported by reconfiguring bodily experience.

Headstone Undead Engines is an attempt to conciliate practice of remembering and memorials with new technologies. All information created in the digital world is turned into a body of data and algorithms. These bodies are in a perpetual flux like rivers, and parts are entering into them and passing out of them continuously. Once the data is not in use of a specific program, it dies but it does not stop existing. It becomes available for reconfigurations and rebirthing anew.

* Passage extracted from Headstones Undead Engines.

Birk Horst (DK, 1989) graduated from Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 2021, and “Headstones Undead Engines” is part of PS44, a series of newly commissioned works by emerging artists recently graduated from one of the Danish Art Academies. PS44 is generously supported by Det Obelske Familie Fond and the Danish Arts Council. Curated by Julia Rodrigues.


By curator Julia Rodrigues