Sea journeys, island hopping and trans-oceanic concepts

My piece
My piece
My piece viewed from the entrance
My piece viewed from the entrance
Talk at the opening
Talk at the opening
My piece with Gunnar Jonsson's video at the end of the corridor
My piece with Gunnar Jonsson’s video at the end of the corridor
Ditty boxes, by John Cumming
Ditty boxes, by John Cumming
Device for disappearing (at sea), by Andrew Friend
Device for disappearing (at sea), by Andrew Friend
Adrift, by Simon le Ruez
Adrift, by Simon Le Ruez

Last month I was in Dortmund, Germany, installing my piece ‘Wake’ in the exhibition Voyage: Sea journeys, island hopping and trans-oceanic concepts at the Kuenstlerhaus. I’ve posted a few pics of my piece in the show and some of the rest of the show. It was a really great show – all of the pieces really spoke well to each other and each had just the right space. The curators, Imi Maufe and Rona Rangsch did a good job of putting together a coherent and interesting show.

One of the themes which surprisingly emerged from the show was that of death. My piece plays on three meanings of the word ‘wake’ (ship’s wake, waking up and a wake for the dead). Other pieces also picked up the theme of death: Sally Waterman’s video February recorded a journey by sea to the funeral of a friend, Jeff Talman’s sound piece, together in the same room as Aslak Ronsen’s small altered postcard showing a sinking ship, had an elegiac, haunting feel; and Gunnar Jonsson’s video of a circling fishing boat turned out to have unexpected connotations of death. (He conceived of it as a ship making a drawing in the sea, but was later told of a fisherman who fell overboard – his unmanned boat continued to circle round the spot where he fell in).

I pasted my short submission text below:

 

The piece ‘Wake’ takes the sea journey as a metaphor for the journey of life. It was inspired by the experience of being in the middle of the ocean at night, particularly a strong memory I have of an overnight ferry journey I took as a teenager, when I remember standing by the ship’s railings staring into the impenetrable blackness, while my fellow teenage travellers preferred the brightness of the on-board video game arcade. The profound darkness and absence of any signs of human presence, except for the lights of a distant ship, take on an existential dimension as they recall the existential loneliness and darkness of our journey through life.

‘Wake’ plays on the three meanings of the English word ‘wake’: as the wake of a ship, as a call to wake up and as a vigil for the dead. The wake of a ship is the ephemeral mark of its passing across the sea and could stand for art as the record of life. Waking up and a wake for the dead both point to the need for a spiritual awakening, or realisation of the nature of life as a journey with a destination (death). In the Christian tradition, which much of my work draws from, death also has the potential to lead to life.