Professor Jean Wainwright presents at The Association for Art History 2021 Conference
Wednesday 14 – Saturday 17 April 2021
Sea Trading, in the Age of Simulacra
Jean Wainwright (University for the Creative Arts)
In our age of simulacra, the physical power of the sea to inspire artists remains undiminished; its trade routes, edges and invisible geographical boundaries exciting myriad artistic responses in many different media. This paper juxtaposes the voices of artists interviewed by Jean Wainwright linking disparate contemporary art practices together in a hybrid dialogue of sea ‘trading’.
Isaac Julian speaks about his film The Leopard (Western Union: small boats) (2007) and his images evoking the journey of migrants traversing the Mediterranean Sea from Libya, to escape war and famine. His voice is juxtaposed with Langlands & Bell discussing their multi-channel digital animation, Into the Blue (2014), with its focus on the structures that we inhabit and the networks that permeate and connect them. They reflect on how ships and their registered names become encoded as social, political and economic phenomena, and how these become entwined in their installation with the complex networks that link liners, cargo ships and trade routes. Finally, I discuss Forensic Architecture’s Liquid Traces – The Left-To-Die Boat Case (2014) and its hybrid mapping. Seventy-two migrants were left to drift for 14 days in NATO’s maritime surveillance area in 2011 during the war on Libya, resulting in the evasion of responsibility, allowed by complex and overlapping jurisdictions.
As the words and images unfold, my paper reminds us how the sea is a vast territory, that both has the power to entice us and destroy us with its seductive vitality.
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