'The Deep's' gentoo penguins and their Gritviken backdrop. ''REAL PENGUINS FAKE BACKGROUND'. Image: 'Hull live'
When I was first invited to write a proposal for this project I was given a tour of 'The Deep'. It contains a water tank the height of the building with a glass lift passing through the middle of it. The tank contains various species of fish including some very large sharks. Another display also includes captive bred gentoo penguins. One of the reasons I was thought of for this commission was for my Antarctic connection. A few years before I had done an artist's residency with the British Antarctic survey. The penguin aquarium had been dressed with rusty corrugated iron and on the back wall was a mural that faithfully copied the redundant whaling station at Gritviken South Georgia in the sub Antarctic. I recognised it as today it's a British Antarctic Survey base and I had actually been there and seen gentoo penguins in the wild.
An image I took in Gritviken, 2008, South Georgia of a plastic penguin with real king penguins. 'FAKE PENGUIN REAL BACKGROUND'.
With my Antarctic work I had taken lots of 'pretend' Antarctic objects (anything from plastic penguins to the Polar explorer Action man) to the real Antarctica to play with the notion of 'real' and 'unreal'. At 'The Deep' the first thing that I was struck by was the enormous gift shop in the lobby filled with all manner of plastic sea creatures shipped all the way across the world from China.
In the 21 st century there is an inevitability that a public attraction even with an environmental remit has to have a gift shop filled with plastic imported from China. However, for me I also felt there was an interesting poetry. 'The Deep' is essentially a 'pretend' sea filled with 'real' fish that has a gift shop full of 'pretend' fish that have been shipped here across the 'real' sea. I also found a certain irony in the fact that plastic and mans over dependence on it is a major contributor to sea pollution
Real dead fish in a fish shop
Pretend plastic fish in 'the Deep' gift shop that come come all the way accross the real sea ...from China
The not so glamorous car park of 'the Deep'
the It was a very impressive building and working with such a high profile partner would inevitably carry a certain amount of kudos.
After the tour we walked outside and I was reminded that the remit for Hull 2017 stipulated that everything had to be free to the public. The commissioners stressed that the entrance fee for 'The Deep' contravened this and explained that therefore whatever I did I couldn't do it in there. I was led to the exit and as we stepped outside the organisers said - We were wondering if you could do something in the car park?
People sometimes refer to this sense of being brought back down to earth as a 'reality check'.
Rear of screen made from stretched out plastic fish. (Car Y194 LPP)
The projection screen for each film was either the back of a reproduction painting or, in the case of one of the cars (Y194LPP), a surface made from sliced and stretched plastic toy animals. The film in each car was triggered by a movement sensor connected to a media player.
The films did not play on a loop they always started from the beginning triggered by a person looking in through the back window. Until the film was set playing each screen displayed a still image of a detail from a classical painting. The still images were all of Triton, son of Poseidon. He is always depicted heralding Poseidon's arrival blowing on a conch shell.
The projection in the car at night. (Car Y194 LPP)
Triton heralds the arrival of Posieden by blowing on a conch shell
Plastic fish wash ashore in a plastic toy 'China Shipping' container
There were three different beaches- a different one for each film/car. They were all within the locale of the river Humber and two were even on the horizon visible from 'The Deep' car park which is situated next to the river. Sand or pebbles from each beach was dug up, brought to 'The Deep' and used in the appropriate car. In each film the relevant car also makes an appearance almost like a cameo role.
The narrative of each film playing in the cars essentially showed plastic animals from the gift shop arriving on the beach. These arrivals were fanciful and overblown set to grandiose classical music by Carl Orff.
(Car VK02 GFK)
Carl Orff music coming from a conch shell on the beach inside one of the cars. (Car EK52 UDP) (17 secs.)
The film is projected via small mirrors from the toy hatchback door. The sound cables come from the toy's windows to the sea shell and out of the real windows of the car. (Car EK52 UDP )
photo Priscila Buschinelli
The music for each film came from speakers hidden inside two conch shells on the artificial beach inside the car. The shells were positioned on each side of the car adjacent to the car wing mirrors. The shells were in fact reflected outside the car in these mirrors and, in a sense, the shells, metaphorically, reflected the wing mirrors inside the car. To transmit the sound to the outside, the door window in front of each shell had holes drilled in it. A lead from the hidden speaker inside the shell exited via a hole drilled in the pointy end of the shell. Following this as it was laid out across the beach the viewer would see it disappear again into the driver’s door of a small toy car, the same make and colour of the real car.
The cars were all hatchbacks and on each pretend beach the model of the same car was positioned with its hatchback open. From the small open hatchback of the model car a film was projected. The sound also originates from the toy car as the wire carrying the sound came from the toys open windows.
The title of each piece is the cars number plate.
The cars were given a good clean... (12 secs.)
...the sand and pebbles were returned to the beach... (6 secs.)