The Argonauts (2014)

The Italian government declared Friday a national day of mourning as rescue workers continued to search the seas off the Sicilian island in a desperate attempt to find any more survivors. Initial rescue attempts managed to save 159 people but the 20-metre-long boat was believed to have been carrying between 450 and 500 passengers.  (The Guardian, Thursday 3 October 2013)

The bodies of 92 people, almost all women and children, have been found in the Sahara desert. Rescuers said the people had died of thirst after their vehicle broke down during their attempt to reach Algeria from Niger.  (The Guardian, Thursday 31 October 2013)

 

Théodore Géricault’s famous painting The Raft of the Medusa (1818-1819) depicts the aftermath of the sinking of the French naval frigate Méduse, which ran aground off present-day Mauritania in 1816. At least 147 people were set adrift on a hurriedly-constructed raft. All but 15 died in the 13 days before their rescue. In his analysis of the painting, Jake Hirsh Allen states that the political opponents of France’s monarchy used ‘shipwreck imagery’ as an “illustration of the danger to which France was exposed by a regime which put dynastic over national interests, gave the command of ships to political favourites and allowed aristocratic officers to abandon their men in times of crisis.”

In a body of work entitled “The Argonauts” I consider the migration of economic refugees from the sociogeographical margins to the cities of the industrialised world. The usual paraphernalia of the life boat – orange life buoys, life jackets, whistles, eyeglasses and bullhorns – stand in as visual metonyms for an escape from a hostile environment to the perception of a safe haven, whether it be over desert landscape or open sea.

Un-peopled landscapes scored with tyre tracks speak to the after-traces of those who have moved through them. Lengths of lead tape measure out the over-land distances from far-flung African cities to the perceived El Dorado of Johannesburg. And the sculptural work Wife’s Lot, makes reference to notions of forced flight, itinerancy and xenophobia in that the pose consciously echoes that of Mozambican Ernesto Alfabeto Nhamuave, burnt alive in an orgy of xenophobic violence in Ramaphosa squatter camp on Johannesburg’s East Rand on 18th May 2008.

Now in the Louvre, the caption to The Raft of the Medusa reads: “The only hero in this poignant story is humanity”. But in a contemporary world governed by grotesquely disproportionate flows of power, influence and capital, the caption could just as easily read: “The only villain in this poignant story is humanity”.

 

 

Title: How long is a piece of string? (Going South)

Date: 2014

Medium: Lead tape, canvas, Perspex

Dimensions: 90 x 100cm

Title: How long is a piece of string? (Flight Path)

Date: 2014

Medium: Lead tape, canvas, Perspex

Dimensions: 80 x 80cm

Title: Leap

Date: 2013

Medium: Tyre soot and oil on paper

Dimensions: 72 x 119cm

Title: A Drop in the Ocean

Date: 2014

Medium: Annealed aluminium mesh

Dimensions: 84 x 122cm

Title: Wave Length I

Date: 2013

Medium: Digital print on archival matte paper

Dimensions: 31 x 47cm

Title: The Argonauts: Completely at Sea

Date: 2014

Medium: Steel cable, Fabriano paper

Dimensions: 25 x 70cm

Title: The Argonauts: Dead in the Water

Date: 2014

Medium: Steel cable, Fabriano paper

Dimensions: 25 x 40cm

Title: The Argonauts: Out of their Depth

Date: 2014

Medium: Steel cable, Fabriano paper

Dimensions: 25 x 39cm

Title: Cities of the Plain (Working drawing II)

Date: 2014

Medium: Tyre soot and oil on paper

Dimensions: 52 x 52cm

Title: Wife’s Lot

Date: 2013-2014

Medium: Salt, M1 acrylic resin

Dimensions: 46(h) x 110 X 60cm