Boats. There is something about boats. From children playing in the bath with them, sailing them over ponds, boats frustratingly lost from being becalmed or capsizing. Then there are more grown up connotations; travel, exploration, trade, slaves, war and invasion. And the vulnerability of mass migration in less-than-seaworthy vessels. At the Folkestone Triennial 2011, HOT’s Lauris Morgan-Griffiths walked into a church and was entranced by Hew Locke’s motley fleet of boats sailing in the knave above her. Magical and thought provoking.
Some of the SoCo Artists had also seen and been inspired by Locke’s installation, For Those in Peril on the Sea. With his blessing they have created their own experimental installation in response to the call out for lateral-thinking submissions for the ROOT 1066 Festival; the boats aptly illustrate the themes of movement of people and the plight of refugees.
A fleet of vulnerable boats, suspended in space and time, are captured in the act of sailing through the gallery, towards their future, an unknown destination. These are fragile boats, made from paper, wood, plastic, textiles, found materials and objects, each taking a metaphorical and perilous journey to cross the sea.
How many boats there will be making up the fleet is uncertain. At the time of writing, the boats had not arrived at the Electro Gallery but they are anticipating about 100 vessels. Peter Quinnell gave a stimulating workshop to twelve of the artists. And then suggested that some of the youngsters from his children’s workshop could contribute to the project. The boats will be, mostly, hand made and all shapes and sizes, sailing above the audience in the semi darkness. I am sure there will be some creative, tangential offerings and I hope amongst them all will be some fragile, paper boats.
If it is anything to judge from my experience of the Locke’s work at the Folkestone church, it will be a surprising and moving experience.
Thinking of paper boats, serendipity led me to some others. I met Bern O’Donoghue who has instigated the making and distribution of literally thousands of little paper boats in a project called Refugees Crossing.
It is an interactive art project which invites members of the public to raise awareness of the real issues refugees face by placing fact-filled paper boats in public places. It was started in August 2015. The messages have been translated into six languages and over 7,000 boats have been posted in towns and villages across the world. Since September 2015, the project has been developing collaborative work with schools and colleges to encourage children and young adults to consider the plight of refugees and engage in an open discussion about migration. To get involved contact the Facebook community site.
Sea Crossing will be showing for one weekend only: 1 and 2 October, 11am-5pm. Electro Studios Project Space, Seaside Road, St Leonards, TN38 0AL
Another Crossing is also part of ROOT 1066 at Murmurations Gallery, 17a Parkhurst Rd, Bexhill-on-Sea. TN40 1DE until October 2 10.30am-4.30pm.
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