David de Beyter


03 November 24 December 2023

The atmosphere is dense and clay-like. Behind an ochre-red haze, you can barely make out a rocky landscape. Arranged in polyptychs, the images follow one another, searing or vanishing in an incandescent flash. Across the sky, an unknown object traces its path. Its fall seems continuous, unending. It’s as if this meteorite-object will never reach the ground: all it leaves in its wake is a smoky trail that invites speculation. David De Beyter’s exhibition The Skeptics takes us to the geological site of Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, where ancient beliefs and rituals intertwine. Using photographs, archive images, and an immersive video installation with a drone music soundtrack, the artist reimagines the tale of a contemporary mythology, that of UFOs, the better to deconstruct it.

His artistic approach resembles documentary art or a photographic form of re-enactment, as he bases his exploration on an existing amateur discipline: scientific ufology. This quasi-scientific field devoted to the study of UFOs brings together the community of ‘skeptics’. These enthusiasts scrutinize the photographic medium, which inevitably falls victim to glitches, and sometimes perceive it as proof of extraterrestrial existence. 

When working with images, whether in the darkroom or digitally, David De Beyter engages in a dialogue with the ufological archive. He re-enacts the mishaps and takes up the motifs typical of scientific ufologists’ research: a blinding blotch, a luminous streak, or a flying form of indistinct shape. Each gesture here is a performative interrogation of the reality that has been captured and of the notion of ‘truth’ as the interpretation we project onto it.

Text by Luce Cocquerelle-Giorgi, independent art critic and curator, member of the Jeunes Critiques d’Art collective

Curated by Anne Lacoste, Director of the Institut pour la photographie