all the maritime museums…

So now that the year has ended, I wanted to do a bit of a recap on all the museums, collections and libraries with maritime collections that I have been to over the last 12 months. Before Curio•sea•ty launched officially in June – actually, since 2013, when I was artist-in-residency in Hull, I have been interested in maritime museums not just for their contents but for themselves, their space, the atmosphere in which we experience them. It started with the whale skeletons at Hull Maritime Museum. I started taking footage of the bones, suspended from the ceiling with chains, while a projected blue light simulates the ocean reflections on the dark carpet and humpback whale song can be heard when the museum is quiet. I started thinking of museums as a second natural habitat for these bones, artificially arranged in full shape.

I have been taken footage and photographs of whale skeletons in all the other museums we have visited. But also of the different ways each museum displays their contents. Some in a very theatrical, constructed way, like the fantastic dioramas of the American Museum of Natural History. The Ocean wing has a single life-size model of a blue hanging form the ceiling, presiding the darkened room majestically, miniaturising the surrounding dioramas of oceanic life. The model at London’s Natural History Museum sadly seems a bit underwhelming after that; as it stands in a crowded room, rammed against many hanging skeletons and other animal models.

Amsterdam Maritime Museum
National Maritime Museum (Amsterdam)

After over a dozen maritime museums, I feel I’ve got a reasonable idea of what I am going to find. And is I mentioned in a previous post I am particularly fascinated by the differences between research centres and public facing collections. Still, each new museum always manages to surprise me with a slightly different feeling. Some have an audio-visually immersive and high-tech (yet minimalistic) atmosphere, like the recently renovated National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam. With astrolabes and other instruments floating on invisible glass cabinets in rooms that remind you more of science fiction film set than of times long gone. In others, you can think yourself walking inside a victorian cabinet of curiosities, mismatch of beautiful old wooden cabinets filled with objects in slightly discordant order. Old dollhouses and miniatures are next to fossils and harpoons, in the wonderful Whitby Museum.

Whitby Museum
Whitby Museum

Either with futuristic style or a ‘frozen in-time’ approach, each museum’s own idiosyncrasies are inseparable from the cities that hosts them. Each museum presents the particular relationship between its city/country and the sea. I think in a way, they reflect the conversations and the contradictions between the past of the objects they are home to and the ever changing ‘now’ they themselves inhabit.

Complete list of museums visited this year (with a maritime connection):
Hull Maritime Museum (UK)
Bilbao Maritime Museum (Spain)
National Maritime Museum (Netherlands)
Rijksmuseum Amsterdam (Netherlands)
Whitby Museum (UK)
Rotterdam Maritime Museum (Netherlands)
Museu Marítim de Barcelona (Spain)
Mystic Seaport The Collections Research Center (USA)
Mystic Seaport The Museum of America and the Sea (USA)
American Museum of Natural History (USA)
American Folk Art Museum (USA)
New Bedford Whaling Museum and Library (USA)
Natural History Museum (London, UK)
National Maritime Museum (UK)
Cantabrian Maritime Museum (Spain)

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Opening Night at pocagallery

So the first exhibition of From Sea To You/ Del Mar para Ti at pocagallery opened last night and it went very well! Thank you to all the visitors and participants, specially those who made it to the gallery last night!

here are a few shots from last night. The gallery is open today and tomorrow (5-8pm)

From Sea To You – Del Mar Para Ti

We did an open call for artists to contribute one or more images that expressed their relationship with the sea. We had an overwhelming respond with 134 artists in total! We wanted this exhibition to showcase the eclectic and kaleidoscopic relationships artists have with the sea so we are delighted to have included everyone that responded!

The first exhibition will take place at pocagallery on the 19, 20 and 21 of December. Opening night on the 19th from 7pm.

We want to send our most sincere thanks to all the artists who have contributed and shared their work. Also special thanks to art historian Lorena Benéitez who has written a piece about the relationship between man and the sea exclusively for this exhibition.

Here are all the images that will be part of the show:

Salted ideas

‘Salt: a world history – Mark Kurlansky’

Salt has become a real area of interest for me throughout Curioseaty – from it’s form, it’s function and it’s history – I have been fascinated! It has given me lots of inspiration as to several pieces I want to produce and explore further. Mark Kurlansky’s book ‘Salt: a world history’ has been of great help and a brilliant source of fact, history and legend which I have throughly enjoyed reading;

Here are but a few of nuggets of information I have taken on board, which have sparked my salted pieces of work!

‘Salt is a potent and sometimes dangerous substance that has to be handled with care. Medieval European etiquette paid a great deal of attention to how slat was touched at the table – with the tip of a knife and never by hand.’

‘Romans boiled sea salt in pottery, which they broke after a solid salt block had formed inside.’

‘Salt was served at the table, in a simple seashell at a plebeian’s table or in an ornate silver saltcellar to a patrician’s feast. In fact since salt symbolised the binding of an agreement, the absence of a saltcellar on a banquet table would have been interpreted as a unfriendly act and reason for suspicion.’

‘From the Black Sea to the Strait of Gibraltar, salt production was usually placed near fishing areas, creating industrial zones that produced a range of salt-based products, including various types of salt fish, fish sauces, and purple dye.’

‘Wilfredo the Hairy rebuilt an abandoned eighth-century castle on a mountain fifty miles inland from Barcelona. Alone on what was then a distant mountain top, the highest peak in a rugged , sparsely populated area, he could peer from the thick stone ramparts at his prize possession, the source of his wealth, the next mountain.
This next mountain was striped in pattern and colours so lively, it was almost dizzying to look at it – salmon pink rock with white, taupe, and blooded stripes. It was all salt.’

From Sea to You – Calling all Artists!

An exhibition of artists postcards.
Calling all artists for contributions!

Deadline: 30th November 2014

We are inviting artists to share* one (or more) digital works that express their relationship with the sea or what the sea means to them. All the works will be exhibited at pocagallery in Spain in December 2014 and in Patrick Studios Project Space as part of Curio•sea•ty’s culminating exhibition in March 2015.

The works must be submitted as digital files that we will print ourselves in postcard size, and each work will be for sale at €10/£8, all sale proceeds will go towards funding the final stage of Curio•sea•ty. (If your image is sold in the first exhibition, we will produce a second edition for the second exhibition in 2015, all postcards will be labelled with the artist details).

You can submit as many digital works as you like and we guarantee to include at least one image per artist, please send files in JPEG format, at least 148 x 105 mm and 300 ppi.

Send the files accompanied by a short statement (100 words) to pocagallery@gmail.com

*the works can be reproductions of existing works or new work created for this project, in any medium that can then be reproduced digitally. By ‘share’ we mean to give us permission to print and sale the image submitted without receiving any remuneration. The authors will retain all rights and ownership of their original works.

Gathering thoughts and Open Studios

It feels like a very long time ago since we came back from New York, and although we have gone a little quiet here, we haven’t been idle.

Over the last couple of months we have been gathering our images and thoughts from the USA trip, and some concrete ideas for works have started to take shape and it is getting really exciting to plan for the exhibition and the artist publication to go alongside it next year.

At the end of October we took part in East Street Arts Open Studios and we used this opportunity to show the gathering process in the form of walls filled up with notes, photos, sketches and nautical ephemera that it’s inspiring us. We had many interesting conversations over the course of the weekend, and met interesting people with whom to have follow up conversations, in particular we are very excited to have met Sarah Jones who forms part of The Ocean Loiners, a Leeds-based sea shanty group, and we will hopefully attend their next meeting to hear some lovely sea shanty singing! We can’t wait.

Also, thanks to the sustained support of East Street Arts who allowed us to use their newly acquired badge machine to produce a bit of Curio•sea•ty merchandise to help our ongoing fundraising… We made some badges and rosettes for sale (if you are interested in getting some, simply use the donate Paypal button on the right column).

So what is next for us? Next week we are down to London for another mini Curio•sea•ty trip, this time to visit the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, the Natural History, the V&A and the British Library at least. We only have a couple of days down there so we have a lot to pack in.

After that we will start getting more hands-on with making the works and narrowing the details for the show and the book. But not before having another public event in the meantime! In December we will present an exhibition of artists’ postcards responding to the sea in pocagallery in Portugalete in Spain. An open call for artists about this will follow promptly.

Curio•sea•ty in USA (part III)

After visiting various maritime museums and centres, I have been thinking a lot about the limbo of objects.

There is an interesting balance between representation and remains at Mystic Seaport, The Museum of America and the Sea. A sense of ‘reproduction’ soaked the village, somewhere in the blurred line between quaint and kitsch. But this is of course a real place, exposing the maritime activities it once lived from, it is now an open air museum for the public. The research centre is all about preservation away from public eyes. Anyone can book an appointment and have limited access to their massive collection of objects, from whale eyeballs to compasses, ship models to uniforms.

Carefully arranged in drawers and shelves, these objects have now only one more function: to exist as they are, to not deteriorate any further. To remain. Their original function, whatever it was, it has now become obsolete or outperformed by new technologies and new objects. They are signposts to the past, with their primary user changed from the whaler to the researcher.

Some of these objects will go for long or short periods on display in the public rooms of a museum. The loose bones that rest on the shelves in the research centre will be orderly put back together to form the full skeleton of a blue, a sperm or a humpback whale, and hang from the ceiling to welcome visitors from their new artificial ‘natural habitat’.

New Bedford is a sea city, ‘the whaling city’ to be precise, that’s its nickname. It is now the number one commercial fishing port in America. Signs of its whaling past are not just everywhere, but also celebrated. Street names, shops, monuments and of course buildings. The Whaling Museum is the biggest in the world. It is fantastic. By the time you get to their enormous scrimshaw collection you may be in the brink of being whaled out. There is just that much. Besides the whaling, I really enjoyed the temporary exhibition ‘Arctic Visions’, an exhibition based around one single artifact: a beautiful, giant leather bound book with the same title, by William Bradford. The gorgeously embossed elephant folio recounts a three-month journey along the Western coast of Greenland aboard the Panther; a 325-ton sealing ship and it was published in 1873. Departing from St. John’s Newfoundland on July 3, 1869, the voyage was organized by Fairhaven artist William Bradford (1823-1892) solely for “purposes of art.” The book is filled with great photographs of arctic local people and landscapes, specially icebergs, which are becoming an increasingly interesting objects for Lorna and me. I felt quite privileged that our project has allowed us to visit these very important exhibits. I felt my intrigue with and attraction to whales reaffirmed and renewed and I can foresee that whales will be yet reappearing in my work.

I still don’t know how I feel about objects in museums. There is something precious and sad about this limbo of ‘preservation’ between their functional past and their contemplative future. I also don’t know what draws Lorna and myself towards past relationships with the sea, towards the archive, towards the safety of the museum. Perhaps as artists we feel more connected to the realities of the researchers than to that of the whalers or fishermen. Personally, perhaps the sea in its vastness is just too scary, too ever-changing, and too-present for me to even attempt to explore it in my work. The sea acts as a screen in which I see no past of future. Looking at the sea from objects and museums seems like a more manageable place to start…

These are a few images from New Bedford Whaling Museum:

Review and artist talk at Wayfarers

We are very excited this morning because our exhibition at Wayfarers, Brooklyn, “The Whales of August” hosting our work has received a lovely review in the Bushwick Daily, by the hand of Candace Moeller.

Here is a link to the article: http://bushwickdaily.com/2014/08/summer-seafaring-get-your-sea-legs-at-wayfarers-ocean-themed-exhibition-the-whales-of-august/

Lorna, myself and David (Scout) McQueen will be at the gallery this coming Sunday (17th August) at 3pm for an informal discussion about our works. If you are around, please join us!

Wayfarers - The Whales of August

The Whales of August” is on until August 31. Wayfarers is open on Sundays from 1-5pm and by appointment.
Wayfarers
1109 Dekalb Ave NY 11221
http://brooklynwayfarers.org

Curioseaty leaves New York and says hello to the open road!

Mystic Seaport Aquarium – was our first port of call on entering Mystic Seaport was of course visiting the Aquarium. With the promise of some beluga whales Ms. Fraga was at the front of the queue to have a moment with with these lovely creatures and she was not to be disappointed! The whales were truly beautiful and enchanting. Other highlights of the visit were all the different species of jellyfish, the amazing corals and trying to spot frogs in the massive lily-paded pond – a lot of fun!

Mystic Seaport Research Library – kindly gave us a several hours of their time and knowledge and showed us round their vaults filled with all things maritime! From Harpoons to small carved finds both myself and Hondartza found items to spark our creative juices and want to crack on and get making! Many thanks to Maribeth, Paul and Louisa who showed us around the vaults and carefully and thoughtfully pulled some great documents and books for us to the read and reference during our visit – many thanks again for all your help.

Mystic Seaport – Mystic, Connecticut – is a fantastic recreated 19th century seafaring village as it would have appeared when in working use. With more than 60 restored historic buildings on show and a great in harbour ship, we were not disappointed!

The buildings in which many of these industries were housed were fantastic in themselves, the coppers over looking the harbour, complete with its ramp to roll its barrels straight out. The rope making building, long enough to make the ropes in house and walk the rope. I like the idea that the space itself becomes part of the production process, the ritual of production and the very human daily relationship that these makers had with the space they inhabited.

Padanaram Village – Dartmouth, Massachusetts – SALT – My new obsession! We were lucky enough to be staying just down the road from this small village, which was once a major salts works. My mind thought on salt is currently taking the form as this:

icebergs – ice – salt – salt structures – ice/salt once/still providing the same function

I feel many an object (and possibly a drawing/collage or two!) will be made around this thought process tapping into the salt industry, salt superstitions / traditions, salt & ice uses, iceberg structures, iceberg classification, different types of ice and salt. All in all, a lot to go at!

Photos of all of the above are to follow shortly! 

Curio•sea•ty in USA (part II)

So to catch up a whistle stop tour of what we have seen and been up to!

Opening night of ‘The Whales of August’ at Wayfarers – was fab to see all the work together, a strong four man/lady show, our work was presented alongside David (Scout) McQueen and Joy Drury Cox. Together with some watermelon mojitos we welcomed the public throughout the Wayfarers doors – brooklynwayfarers.org

It was great to see the Fanciful Coquilles responding to the space, in a completely different way from their previous showing. This is something I want them to continue do; change, adapt and engage within the space they are placed.

The American Folk Museum – is a lovely intimate space showing some fantastic examples of American folk art – from quilting to artists books, it showcases a variety of mediums and topics and also boasts a lovely gift shop. Gift-shopping and Curioseaty are definitely going hand in hand on this research trip!

For me the range of materials used was the most interesting aspect of the collection – Folk and the domestic/the found object being part and parcel of the same family line; everything and anything being used to create something – the precious and non-precious, having no distinction.