Oh dear. An artist “in residency” on board the German-registered, 278.82m long container vessel Hanjin Geneva
is stuck “several hundred kilometres off the shores of Japan” (it’s actually about 50, according to Marine Traffic, but that doesn’t sound anywhere near as dramatic…) after the ship’s owners went bust.
Now, the 150-strong fleet of the Hanjin Shipping Company find themselves barred from entering ports worldwide after the company filed for bankruptcy. There’s the double edged sword of the company not being able to pay for berthing fees, together with the worry that the vessels may be seized by creditors.
And poor artist Rebecca Moss is caught in the middle of it all.
As her Canadian sponsors Access Gallery point out:
The immensity of this news, as devastating as it is for the hundreds of workers affected, emphasizes many of the residency’s core concerns, indicating both the precarity of globalized capitalism and our dependence upon systems that we neither see nor understand. It also underscores the considerable role that contemporary artists may play in bringing such situations to our attention in provocative and transformative ways.
Sure. We’d probably never have known about the bankruptcy (Hanjin owe $5, 400, 000,000) if it wasn’t for Rebecca. And all the articles on news sites around the world. Apparently, a press release saying that an artist is stuck on a boat is what passes for a “provocative and transformative way” of bringing the financial woes of a shipping behemoth to our attention.
Mind you, they did title the press release
The Precarity of Artmaking in a Globalized World
Those familiar with Rebecca’s performative and video-based practice will know that it draws on Henri Bergson’s theories of the comedic, wherein comedy is understood to arise in moments of friction between a mechanical system and the nature into which it is inserted.
Like her work High Tide (Sausage) – a 32 second video in which a balloon attached to a stick becomes detached from the stick and blows out of view.
Or Jelly – a 97 second video in which the artist walks down a road, pushing a jelly in a shopping trolley, with predictably catastrophic results (for the jelly).
And who could forget Power Ballad – a 101 second video featuring lumps of concrete rotating on a record turntable which is placed on various beaches in Essex while Elton Johns I’m Still Standing plays in the background.
Indeed, I can think of no-one better to inform us of the financial collapse of a shipping company with the loss of over 5,000 jobs worldwide (and the financial implications for their families) than a woman who once rolled up some clay on a Southend Pier.
If only there was some worthwhile function that these sort of people could perform.